Our little ones spend too much time in front of screens; our toddlers don’t move around enough during the day; some children aged under four are surfing the net unsupervised; and childhood obesity is at an all-time high. That’s just a small sample of some of the recent news headlines from the past few weeks.
Children are influenced by their parents so we have to lead by example and from a very early age. Many children watch their parents spending a lot of time looking at screens, whether it’s a mobile phone, laptop or tablet, so we need to be aware of how much time we are spending in cyber space.
Getting kids more active also seems to centre on school-aged children, but what about infants?
Getting kids more active also seems to centre on school-aged children, but what about infants? Surely that’s where the ground rules are set? Educating your child on the importance of developing personal interests and hobbies and to lead an active life starts from a very young age.
Screen time is necessary but shouldn’t stifle
It’s no great surprise that children are spending a lot of time looking at screens, although interestingly it’s less about sitting in front of the TV these days. Even toddlers as young as 12 months are no stranger to swiping and scrolling apps on an iPad. But is that wrong?
Technology is amazing and offers our children lots of opportunities, but it can also be stifling
Our children must be tech savvy; much of their school homework requires the use of a computer so they need to understand how to operate devices from a young age. Technology is amazing and offers our children lots of opportunities, but it can also be stifling. Young toddlers need exposure to a vast array of different experiences to develop and grow both physically and socially. As with most things in life, it’s about balance and moderation.
Encouraging activity from birth
We all know that the best learning for children comes from play. So it stands to reason that encouraging an array of fun, playful activities and new experiences early on is a good thing.
Of course, encouraging hobbies and personal interests from birth is not about developing talent and making life-long decisions. You baby doesn’t need to decide at the age of two what they want to be when they grow up (a ballet dancer, a singer, a footballer…). It’s about trying absolutely everything possible until something naturally clicks. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t.
Developing interests and trying new things is also about inclusion, acceptance and support
Developing interests and trying new things is also about inclusion, acceptance and support. It’s human nature to form relationships, to enjoy being part of a community where you feel a sense of belonging. This is also important to children in terms of their wellbeing and social development.
What can you do?
While many parents are keen to enroll their little one in the nearest dance academy or swim school, engaging in active interests doesn’t have to cost money.
Walking is a great activity. Simply getting your baby out into the fresh air to hear the birds, listen to the leaves rustling on the ground or to visit a local duck pond is perfect. Treasure hunts are great fun and you can do those in your own back garden. Puddle splashing is a favourite for toddlers too. But even encouraging your baby to experience new tastes and textures i.e. feeling the roughness of a coconut, some jelly or a fur cone stimulates the senses.
We can all do more to get our children out and about experiencing different things, but the key is to be realistic about it. Parents are busy people, sometimes putting your child in front of the TV for 10 minutes while you prepare dinner is the only way forward – and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. As long as you have balance and you do make the effort to expose your little one to new experiences, you’ll find what works best for you.
Traditional interests and hobbies are part of human nature and regardless of the draw of the digital age, I don’t believe as people, that we’ll ever completely walk away from those things – we just need to remind ourselves, and our children about them, from time to time.
Written by Karen Bach at KalliKids (www.kallikids.com)
KalliKids is the online resource that currently connects over 90,000 parents with quality-checked, children’s activities and services across the UK. Membership is free; users can simply search for activities of interest in their local area to discover a selection of accredited children's activities and services, all checked upfront and with ratings and reviews from like-minded parents.