Before my daughter was born (and was affectionately known as The Blob), there were several things I swore I would never do as a parent:
Despite placing my hand on her upmarket baby carrier and making these solemn oaths, safe to say, I failed at every one (also, she hated the baby carrier).
My daughter was skolling babyccinos like no one’s business by the age of two. Pink is now her “fabourite” colour. My voice has reached octaves I never thought possible. And any shred of sanity I have left is entirely due to the sheer brilliance that is the ABC KIDS Play app.
So, yes, I now understand digital technology does have its place. Not only for a parent’s emotional wellbeing, but for a child’s development. In fact, Dr Denise Chapman, Monash University lecturer and early childhood specialist, says that in our increasingly digital world, technology such as tablets “just happen to be a part of, and compatible with, children’s play”.
However, screen time is just one part of children’s play. While we can’t – and shouldn’t – shield our kids from tablets, mobile phones and apps, it’s important that we also give them a break. That we switch off the screens and let them interact with the world through outdoor play. Nature is a wonderful teacher, and outdoor play offers so many benefits.
Best of all, children often have the most fun – and get the best learning outcomes – from playing in their own backyard. Outdoor play can be unstructured and spontaneous. Take a step back and let your children be their own guide. It’s amazing how long children’s imaginary games can last for when given the time and space. Of course, you can help them get started by keeping plenty of materials in the backyard, such as:
The challenge for us, as parents, is to accept the dirt, the messy clothes and the scraped knees. It’s so important for children to learn how to navigate a world of varying textures, uneven surfaces and different kinds of weather. Jumping in muddy puddles, climbing trees and rolling around on the grass are all part and parcel of outdoor play.
Unfortunately for us parents, if we want to enjoy a meal at a restaurant in relative peace and quiet, we can’t bring along a wheelbarrow of dirt to entertain our littlies. That’s a big no-no. So there is no shame whatsoever in letting your child play with the tablet while you’re eating out. Or while you’re catching up on work. Or preparing dinner. Or reading a book. Or talking on the phone. Or daydreaming about a child-free weekend on a remote island paradise with servants, cocktails and magical calorie-free chocolate.
Just remember to give the kids a gentle nudge outside when you’re done.
Now that we are well and truly back into the school year and daily grind, it’s easy for parental guilt to sink in.We’re so busy with work, life and endless to-do lists, we’re exhausted, and playing with our kids is not always our top priority. And it shouldn’t always be,
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