It can be kind of cute when you see a small child beavering away with a smart device but is this activity doing them any good? It is tempting to see the onward march of technology as progress in every aspect of our lives but this is almost certainly not so in the case of play. Whilst using the most up to date technology will be a useful skill as they grow older, young children need traditional play in order to develop well and sometimes that is forgotten in the clamour to acquire the latest must have gadgets.
Gadgets represent a bit of a get out of jail free card for parents. If you are busy and want to occupy your child then give them an iPad and it will keep them quiet for a while whilst you can get on with your chores. The trouble is that the gadget is keeping them occupied alone and without social interaction and that is never going to be a good thing. Whilst they are fiddling with a tablet kids are not sharing their experiences or learning from those around them. They are operating in splendid isolation when they need relationships in order to develop. Kids learn to do things and to interact with others by playing with people and not machines. Learning to share, to work together and to appreciate others are all fundamental elements of personal development but today many children are in danger of developing better relationships with a mobile phone than their friends and family.
Play is also crucial for developing visual, language and manual skills. By interacting with conventional toys children learn spatial awareness, shape, form and dexterity. You cannot beat old favourites like jigsaws and wooden bricks for developing shape recognition, manual dexterity, colour perception and motor skills. The simple act of completing a puzzle or building a house from bricks can teach a child a thousand things and the vital abilities they develop are the precursors of writing skills and learning to play a musical instrument.
Research has shown that in addition to traditional play being vital to a child’s personal development most youngsters much prefer playing with others to sitting alone with a gadget. They particularly revel in fun time with their parents and so leaving them alone with a DVD player really is not the solution. Children need attention and interaction in order to ready themselves for taking on the real world but the art of entertaining children seems to be getting lost under the onslaught of technology.
This Christmas it would be great to see a return to popularity for traditional toys and games. It should be wooden toys, jigsaws and interactive board games under the tree. It would be even better to see families spending the time to play together over the festive period. The kids will love it and parents may well end up recognising what they have been missing. All the signs are that parents as well as their children are being seriously affected by the use of technology. Many are losing their ability to play with their children and some are even afraid that they are inadequate. It is time for change!
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Sally Stacey is a keen writer and business owner who divides her time between writing and running her bridal shop.