A child’s brain development is phenomenal in the first few years of their lives. Literally our children are like sponges, soaking up every bit of information they see, hear and touch. Categorising and memorising.
Consider the following:
The most formative years of a child are PRIOR to the entry of the child into the primary school (Pioneer House, 2011). This period can be regarded as a period of a remarkable brain development which lays an amazing platform for subsequent learning.
John Santrock (2005) affirms that while the brain continues to grow in early childhood, it does not grow as rapidly as in infancy. By the time children have reached three years of age, the brain is three-quarters of its adult size. By age five, the brain has reached about nine-tenths of its adult size.
Research has shown that half of a person’s intelligence potential is developed by age four Click To Tweet and early childhood interventions can have a lasting effect on intellectual capacity, personality, and social behavior (Young 1996)
When we think about how we teach our children tactile skills, as parents we are there every step of the way. We play with them, we paint with them, do craft with them, read to them. We hand them kitchen objects to touch and feel and let them watch and join in when we cook and clean.
So why is it that one of the most common things that is said to me when I’m talking with parents is “I don’t have to worry about this stuff yet, my child is only a toddler“?
Your toddler is taking in everything you do and say. When you constantly check your phone they are quickly learning that having a device is something important, and something for which they have to compete for attention. When you get excited about how many likes the picture of your puppy received on Facebook, or how many people loved your new shoes on Instagram they are watching and laughing and excited with you. When they see you get angry at that post your sister wrote on Facebook, or annoyed that no one liked your photo of cookies, they are watching that too.
When we take the time to consider our devices and technology just in the same way as we do when teaching them other skills, we are doing our children a great favour. When we demonstrate restraint with our devices and good social media etiquette, we are engraining those habits into our children. This is the beginning of risk minimisation. And it starts from the moment you have your device near your child taking their photo.
So how can you get involved? Doesn’t it seem to be another parental burden, or a chore?
We say no. It is a challenge and a big responsibility but hello parenting!
It’s really not that hard to be involved. But it’s easier when you start early.
Here’s how you can start:
When you are about to use your phone, be polite to your child as you would an adult and say “excuse me” Daddy just has to take this call. If you are in the middle of a game with your toddler and the phone rings, if it’s not urgent don’t take it. By all means glance at it in case it’s someone on your urgent list (a sick relative or the school for example), but then continue on an finish the game. Make sure your child is engaged in another task or having their nap before you return the call.
We need to take the urgency out of our immediate response reflex Click To Tweet which we are all developing with the advent of mobile devices and social media and instant messaging. I believe this is something good for all of us, not just the children. Miminising stress in our days is important for our own health and wellbeing.
Speak to your friends and family and let them know that you are prioritising your infant/toddler over the phone and that to please not get upset if you don’t text back immediately (unless of course it’s urgent).
Play online games or games on your devices with your child. Engage with them and set a timer. By monitoring the time you are putting in place a rule that will become second nature to your child, and it helps you with your day too. Use a super cute timer so that adds to the fun. “When the timer goes off its time for your snack/go to the park/”.
Try and organise your day so that what comes after using technology is something good Click To Tweet
Try and organise your day so that what comes after using technology is something good. For this reason we don’t recommend using devices at bedtime (particularly if bedtime can be an issue) as in our experience it can create further problems around sleep time when children don’t want to turn off the device and see bedtime almost as a punishment.
With school aged children,set rules too. For example when they first come home from school, rather than immediately sitting down in front of a game, tv, video or device, set a routine for them. When they come home they could have their afternoon snack and perhaps go outside to play for half an hour or do their homework. Then bring out the timer and the device so they can have their online time.
Invest in some time in learning about the games and apps that your child is interested in. Look up reviews (here in our free members forum) or check out detailed reviews on sites such as Common Sense media – click here to go to their app site and have meaningful conversations about them. Find out what your child likes and get them to analyse what they are doing.
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