In this age of digital devices, our children are bombarded with high-tech entertainment options. There is no doubt that these offer a welcome distraction for many parents trying to keep their little one occupied. There is a lot to praise about the convenience (and benefits) of technology. But, even with the best educational app or stimulating game, we need to steer children in other directions, too. Just as we wouldn’t want kids to spend all their free time reading, drawing, or roller skating, neither should we allow them to be so immersed in the digital world that they miss out on the real one.
While getting children to unplug and reconnect with their family and friends can be a challenge, it’s essential to their healthy development. Here are a few suggestions to help raise well-rounded individuals.
1. Enjoy the great outdoors.
Take kids on a hike, camping trip, or a visit to a national park. If you’re not overly fond of the big woods yourself, opt for an overnight camp out in the backyard. Count the stars, listen to the night sounds, and help children appreciate the wonders of their world. Additionally, introduce your kids to sports and outdoor games like baseball and soccer. They don’t need to become an Allstar — just get them used to throwing a ball around in the yard. These age-old skills will help not only your child, but you as well, with physicality, leadership/team skills, and getting a daily dose of fresh air.
2. Go dark (just for a while).
Pull the plug and pretend the power’s out. Play board games by candlelight, gather the crew around the fireplace and roast marshmallows, read aloud, or just talk to each other. It’s amazing what we can learn about ourselves and our loved ones without the distraction of a buzzing TV in the background (and it’s also amazing to find the many ways we can entertain ourselves without the use of electronics). An unexpected power failure can be a nuisance, but attempt to make it fun for both you and the kids to build quality family time.
3. Focus on social skills.
Thanks to email and text, many of kids today are lacking in basic communication skills. Do your kids a favor and teach them the art of polite conversation, the importance of making eye contact, and one-on-one problem solving and negotiating skills. It will serve them well. Many of life’s challenges are too complex to be solved with an impersonal text message. Start kids with a simple task like knocking on a friend’s door and asking them to play, then work up from there. Some good ideas are to have them politely say “hello” and “goodbye” to the checkout cashier, teach them to put the electronics away when someone is talking to them, and practice more complex pleasantries such as “how are you?”
Having children who are well-versed in technology is critical for their future. But those who are adept at connecting with people in this big, beautiful world as well will likely grow to be adults who enjoy greater success, measured by happiness, in the long run.