Do you wonder how a one-year-old kid can easily navigate a touchscreen smartphone even before actually knowing how to read?
Some parents find it harmless to have the TV or an electronic gadget as an alternative source of entertainment for their young children. However, recent studies show that over-usage of electronic gadgets, especially without parental supervision, has negative effects on the health and development of children.
Toddlers And How Electronic Gadgets Affect Them
Younger children, toddlers in particular, have a very active brain activity. This is the time they explore new things, interact with other people and learn a lot about themselves and their environment. If they are engrossed with gadgets, it could have detrimental effects on their development.
Here are some of the possible negative effects:
1. Lack of physical activity and socialization
In the old days, toddlers are often seen at nearby parks, playing around, laughing and creating happy memories with other kids. When you compare it today, a two-year-old may spend most of her days indoors watching online videos, playing downloaded applications or streaming the whole episode of her favorite cartoon show.
2. Promotes passive learning
By the age of three, toddlers are often introduced to preschool activities like scribbling shapes and lines, and recognizing letters, sounds, and colors. Nowadays, there are a lot of educational apps created to help children learn them too, which is good. However, the difference is that toddlers simply swipe and press things on the smartphone/tablet rather than use their hand muscles to grasp an actual pen and practice writing. The voice prompts from the educational apps often tend to promote passive learning, meaning, toddlers may just wait for the commands coming from the gadget rather than actively think of what they could create by themselves.
3. Affects language development
A toddler’s favorite evening show or YouTube video may directly affect her way of communicating with other people, including her parents. Are you worried about how your three-year-old talks back to you or how he/she speaks with other kids? Try streaming the show or video that he/she often watches and you’ll find the answer.
Starting at one year of age, children already develop linguistic abilities and at this stage, parental supervision is very crucial. What they learn during the early years will be reflected in the way they communicate in the future.
10 Effective Ways To Wean Your Toddler From Electronic Devices
Though TV, smartphone or tablet can be good sources of entertainment, the traditional books and toys are often much better. If you are a parent who wants to minimize your toddler’s screen time and help them shift to books and toys instead, here are some of the most effective ways to start with:
1. Invest In Miniature Furniture
Your toddler will love to have his/her own space in your home. A mini table and chair which is just his/her size are definitely a good investment because these mini furniture pieces would increase his/her interest in the other forms of entertainment like reading and scribbling notes.
2. Arrange His/Her Space With Learning Materials
To complement with the mini furniture idea, add some eye-catching storybooks, colorful pens, coloring books and paper. Arrange them neatly on the table or in an area adjacent to it. Well, it wouldn’t end up neat after your little child uses it, however, he/she is sure to become more interested in these reading and writing materials if they are readily available in his/her table.
3. Introduce Arts And Crafts
Parents of toddlers would agree that these little kids love to explore and create new things. So to take his/her attention away from the electronic devices, you can try tapping into his/her artistic side.
Colorful play dough can be a good way to start. Play dough will definitely catch a toddler’s attention since it has vibrant colors with a soft, easy to mold texture. It will enhance a toddler’s imaginative and creative skills, too!
For an older toddler, three years old and up, you may also introduce the use of craft scissors. Just make sure that the scissors are safe for young kids and the size is small and handy enough for those cute little fingers.
Non-toxic, colorful poster paints are great for older toddlers as well! Just make sure that an adult is supervising them while they do their arts and crafts project. You can also join them! It would be fun, and at the same time, a great way to bond with your little one.
4. Share Some Bedtime Stories
Admit it. With today’s busy schedule, you may not have an extra hour to spend reading bedtime stories to your kids. However, if you wish to have a good reader, you must first have a good listener. Listening to bedtime stories instills the idea of reading books to the minds of younger kids. When you read to them, you develop their imagination and their interest in books starts kicking in. If you are a busy parent, spending a couple of minutes reading to them during your days off wouldn’t do you any harm.
It is also important to note that reading a storybook is different from offering them a storybook on a tablet or the TV. Bedtime stories are interactive and much better since children can readily ask you questions and give their insights about the story line. Whereas when they use electronic media, they are stuck with what is available, and worse, if left unsupervised, they may click on a video that is not suitable for their age.
5. Give Easy Access To Their Treasure Chest
Almost all parents can relate to problems with scattered toys. Sometimes, to get rid of the mess, you may have the tendency to hide the toys rather than allow your little child to play with them. It is understandable, however, how will the child shift to playing toys when they aren’t even available in the first place?
Keeping toys in an area accessible to your little child will promote his/her interest in them. An easy-to-open toy container or an open toy basket made of durable plastic would come in handy. If you’re too tired of the mess, gradually introduce the idea of cleaning up. Toddlers love to mimic adults so if they see you shooting those toys in the basket, they will be encouraged to follow suit.
6. Creative Toys Vs. Battery-Operated Ones
Creative toys are encouraged rather than the battery-operated options. Why?
Try to observe your little one. If you give him pieces of blocks, he would start grasping, sorting and building things out of them. On the other hand, if you offer him a battery-operated dancing robot, he will just sit around and watch the robot move all by itself. He may also want to take and have a closer look at the robot, but admit it, we are guilty of preventing a child from doing so since it will damage the robot.
Can you see the difference? The former promotes more interaction and active participation whereas the latter promotes passive entertainment. Creative toys would encourage your son/daughter to become more involved in playing and this will enhance their critical thinking and imaginative skills.
7. Promote Self-Directed Play
As much as we want to give a hand to our little one, resisting it could play a major role in the child’s learning. Toddlers are at a stage when they are learning their autonomy and this is an essential developmental milestone for them to accomplish. Too much help would result in too much dependency and we wouldn’t want that for our kids. So what shall we do?
Allow your toddler to have some self-directed play – let him/her handle stuff and explore their capabilities. If your son can’t open the toy box but you can see him trying, let him handle it. If your child doesn’t ask for your assistance, he is more likely to be confident that he could accomplish the task by himself. This would promote autonomy as well as boost the confidence of your child in performing more complicated tasks later on.
8. Allow Ample Playtime
Sometimes, the problem with us parents is that we tend to disrupt our kid’s playtime. It is important for parents to learn that play isn’t just a pleasurable activity for children. They are actually creating a very important project and their brain activity is at its best. Without our knowing, interrupting them often would affect the way they perceive the idea of the play itself and think of it as unimportant.
Sparing a couple of hours just for play is a mindful idea. Give your child ample time to discover new things out of his toys and offer him time to play with other kids in the neighborhood. Also ensure that your toddler is well fed and hydrated before playing so as to avoid interrupting the play schedule.
9. Avoid Overwhelming Your Toddler With Toys
Upon reading this article, you might become too excited to offer your child several toys all at once. Yes, you may have a lot of resources for a wide variety of toys, however, offering them too much may exhaust them. Toddlers often tend to focus on one toy at a time, so let them be. Their attention span is very short and you can let them shift to another toy when they already want to.
10. Trust Your Toddler
Lastly, an important factor to encourage play in your toddler is to trust him/her. Allow your child to choose and decide which toys and what type of play he/she is more interested in. If your child is fond of cars, let him play with toy cars. If your daughter is more interested in cooking, allow her to play with a kitchenette.
As long as you ensure they have healthy options, trusting your toddlers with their choice is good and will help them have good decision–making skills in the future.
While electronics are alright in moderation, it’s best to avoid overusing them and substitute them with traditional books and toys.
Do you have any of your own tips to share? What has worked for you and your family? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas below!