Youthful innocence, blissful ignorance and sweet naivety – these are the makings of a good childhood, but yet, in the present day it isn’t uncommon to find children growing up faster and faster. For example, when we were 10, our biggest issue was colouring in between the lines whereas, now, there are some 10-year-olds with their own social media accounts. At 10 I was getting home from school and running across to the green opposite my home to climb trees with my best friend.
It might just be a recipe for disaster and I guess we won’t know the full effects until our children are grown up. We’re always an experiment for the new technology of our generation. Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of worrying about how classmates evaluated their lives, children were allowed to be just that – children? Away with the high-tech gadgets we could only dream of at their age, forget about responsibilities and just be children again.
Obviously technology has a part to play as my children are going to live in a much more digital age than even I have. I didn’t even have the internet until I was 21 years old! Now my daughter has had homework that requires the use of apps since starting school at age four. It makes me feel old, but it’s definitely a different world already! I do embrace technology and I now rely on it for my income, but I do think kids still need to be kids as much as possible. Bella is now six and has already been asking for her own mobile phone. We’ll let her have one the year before she starts senior school, but I really don’t see the need for a six year old to have a mobile telephone!
Get them outside
As parents, you have a duty to your child to ensure they do not spend all day, every day, stuck in front of the television and/or computer. Nowadays, children have access to so much more media than we could ever imagine. With the emergence of on-demand streaming services (like Netflix and Amazon Prime) and online gaming, children are never more than a few moments away from immersing themselves in a virtual reality.
In the real world, however, that has a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. Less time outside running around and socialising with friends is substituted for sitting inside, burning less and consuming more calories. That’s just part of the reason why parents must encourage kids to get and keep active.
A decade or so ago, it would have been unthinkable that children would actually prefer to stay in, but for many that is definitely the case. Make the effort to take the kids outside to play in a local playground or park – this will also be valuable bonding time with the children.
Whilst Bella has to do work on the computer each day for school - both maths and reading on special school apps and websites – I’d rather she was outside exploring and playing for this time! It’s a shame she gets back from school and has her head stuck on a computer so often. At the moment we realised she’s very behind on some of the work, so is catching up and so is on it more. It’s not that she’s behind in school, far from it, but the teacher read aloud to the class the other day just how many activities each child had done on these apps and Bella hadn’t done as many as other children so wants to catch up on the apps. Sometimes I wish old fashioned homework with pen and paper would come home! I guess it’s easier and saves money doing it all online.
I won’t lie and we’re not perfect – my children do go on the iPad, Netflix and sometimes play games on my husband’s phone. It’s a lifesaver when travelling and out and I’m not totally anti-technology, but I do think they should also have plenty of off-screen time to play, use their imaginations and explore nature. This definitely happens less in the winter, especially when freezing, dark and raining after school, but we still put the remote control and iPads out of reach so we can control when the children have them and it’s not a free-for-all. This means we are sure our children get to play and do crafts and other activities without having their heads stuck in screens all the time. Even if we’re busy doing housework or cooking meals, we know that they are not on screens as they are out of reach.
There are two times that any child looks forward to the most when at school – home-time and break-time. During breaks, children are usually very eager to get out of the classroom and into the playground where they can play games with their friends.
Schools understand that play is good for the child’s attention (source: https://www.kompan.co.uk/schools/) allowing them to express themselves in ways not possible in the classroom. Active children with bundles of energy often find it difficult to pay attention for long periods of time without being able to burn it off. The younger the child, the less the attention span – therefore, breaking the school day up only helps the children.
A lot has been said about the number of tests that children take at schools but, without getting into that debate, the right outlet aids the child’s performance in the classroom. Sometimes, all the child needs is the time to be a child, rather than worrying about grades and other responsibilities. My children are still young and my daughter has her first set of SATs this year. The school she goes too is a great school and I know the children don’t even realise they are taking the tests. They are well prepared for them, but without even knowing! They think it’s all just part of the normal school day and therefore don’t have any pressure or worry building up beforehand. If only school continued like that!
Encourage them to try new things
Young children should never be pigeon-holed into one or two categories. For example, just because they show an interest in football doesn’t mean they should never try another sport as interests change all the time. They might even find a new passion that they can continue for many years to come.
Children that are encouraged to try new things become more well-rounded individuals and develop new skills quickly and easily. It also teaches them valuable lessons such as they can’t be good at everything, but with practice and focus they can become very good at some things.
The most important thing for a child’s development is that they have fun and are as active as possible. It is also important the children do not grow up too quickly and worry about how others perceive them as this can lead to other issues. Let them have fun and let them be kids, because they only get to be kids for a short time, especially in this increasingly digital age.