Ok, so I have a theory. No, I don’t have a doctorate in Child Psychology or Child Development. I do have an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education and about 15 years experience in the Early Childhood field, but take my opinion for what it’s worth. Anyway, my theory.
I believe that when kids are introduced to video games, computer games, etc. they forget how to play.
It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens very slowly (in most cases) and over time. As they get better at playing these games, they slowly become addicted, in a way, to playing them, reaching new levels and progressing through the games. Then, when well meaning parents suddenly realize their kid is spending untold hours a day staring at various screens, they immediately attempt to limit said games. The thing is, the child has spent so much time doing mindless activities, they have forgotten how to play.
Now, I know some people may think I’m crazy but I’m not! Contrary to what many believe, playing doesn’t just happen. A child learns how to play. It begins with mimicking what they see in life and slowly their creativity and imagination grows and they begin to play. As a child gets older, their play grows with them and involved games of make believe begin to happen. It’s truly an amazing thing to watch and I’ve had the privilege of seeing many children learn to play over the years.
Unfortunately, I’ve now seen the opposite happen many times and it breaks my heart! Now, I’m not talking about the older elementary age child slowly growing out of the ‘play’ age. I’m talking about the child who could sit and play for HOURS independetly, suddenly only wanting to play their 3DS, iPad, Kindle, etc. When they’re not allowed to do so, they just sit. Or opt for the, I’m going to run around like a fool who’s been sitting on my behind for however long and suddenly need to get every last bit of pent up energy out all at once.
Uhem, not in my house sir.
We’ve always limited the use of any form of technology in our home. We’re not video game people and didn’t have tablets, it was easy.
Well, then I got a tablet to use for school and I downloaded a few ‘educational’ apps. “It will help them learn.”
Then, the kids got Leappads. “They’re educational.”
Then, the kids found the Wii that had been packed away for months. “They have to move to play the games, it’s exercise.”
Then, we slowly started discovering the family shows on the Disney Channel (Girl Meets World, hello Cory and Topanga!!!).
Well, soon enough the ‘educational’ apps gave way to more Netflix than I’d like to admit. The ‘educational’ Leappads became episodes of Ninja Turtles. The kids discovered they can play the Wii games just fine sitting on their bottoms…
Yeah, yeah… I know. Pot or Kettle?
I had allowed the technology to take on a life of it’s own. Honestly? There were times it was nice. At the end of a 10 hour day of breaking up fights, fielding more tattling than any human should be forced to endure, and handling multiple meltdowns, it was nice that my kids would sit and play quietly. Ok, silently.
The thing is, kids aren’t supposed to be silent. They’re supposed to play, and explore, and argue, and learn about life. None of those things are to be done silently.
Sidenote: If you have very young children or older children who have not yet been introduced to the things listed above do not, I repeat DO NOT, open Pandora’s box. I was as well meaning as the next parent and it still got out of hand. It’s a slippery slope. If you feel it’s inevitable, introduce with caution. Have a plan, and stick to it!
Anyway, I guess it was nice while it lasted, but it all came back to bite me one weekend in July.
For an entire weekend, my 3 1/2 year old REFUSED to play with his toys. ALL WEEKEND.
It was horrifying. I must have told him to play with his toys 50 times in two days. We offered to play with him. Got out some toys that had been put away for a while. Nothing worked! All he did was walk around, irritate his sisters, and ask for the iPad (which isn’t an iPad, it’s a Galaxy Tab but he doesn’t know that).
I looked at the husband and said it was done. Told him my theory about kids and play (which I’m sure he’s heard many times before but I treated him to it again) and said it wasn’t happening in our home and the electronics were done.
The next day was bad. There was much crying and gnashing of teeth.
Fits were thrown. Toys were thrown. A little boy spent some time in his room, alone. Mommy may have cried…
It. Was. Bad.
But the next day wasn’t, the day after that wasn’t either, or the next day.
We went ‘cold turkey’ for about 4 days and when he was, once again, presented with the ‘iPad’ it was after all the daycare kidos had left for the day while I made dinner. To this day, that is what we do. When the last kid leaves for the day, he appears and asks for the tablet. He plays until dinner is ready and he’s done for the day.
The best part? He started playing with his toys again!!! It took a day or two but slowly, the imaginative play started again. I’m happy to report he is back to playing independently for a good 20-30 minutes uninterrupted. Thank goodness!
To guard against the tech ‘habit’ from creeping in again (or claiming another victim), we have set up ‘technology time’ for each of the kids. TV, computer, ‘iPad’, Wii… it’s an all inclusive rule. The kids get an hour a day. They choose how it is used, but it’s one hour and done. For the little guy, it’s while I’m cooking dinner. The girls (6 & 8) have theirs from 7-8pm after baths and before they get into bed for 20-30 minutes of reading time. It’s been working wonderfully for us. Yay for little wins!!!
So, do you have a technology junkie in your house? Have you had to break one like I did? I’d love to hear about it, leave me a comment!