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Pre-schoolers, just like children from other age-groups come up with their own challenges during play and learning. In a digital world where adults and children accept gadgets and gizmos more readily as compared to toys and people, it is hardly surprising to see poor levels of physical activity in kids these days. With concerted efforts and genuine interest in physical activity, parents can overcome obstacles like screen time.
Does your child prefer the couch over the playground? Are his eyes glued to the television set instead of waiting for his play time, looking outside the window? Is the computer screen or tablet more attractive to him than playing a physical sport? If you answered yes to any one of these questions, you are definitely grappling with screen time and similar obstacles to physical activity in your child.
What is Screen Time?
Screen time is the time your child spends on looking at or using electronic screens. Electronic screens include the television, smart phones, tablets, computer screens and video games.
Is it Good or Bad?
While screen time can be a source of information and entertainment, too much of it is certainly not good. The damaging effect of screen time is that it keeps children seated for longer periods of time. As a result, they are not physically active and can end up with health issues like childhood obesity and other related problems.
Holistic child development requires a child to play, learn things hands-on, relate to and interact with people. Physical activity and sports gives children ample scope for this. The verdict on screen time is that too much of it is not good. When Should You Start Curtailing Screen Time? The answer is, as early as possible. To inculcate the habit you should start them off at a young age.
How Much Screen Time Should You Allow?
Absolutely no screen time is what one should go with for children below the age of two. Since babies and toddlers are naturally attracted to colourful pictures, sounds and music coming from the TV, it is fine to allow them to sit with you while you are watching the TV, though for a very short time. They have the attention span of a goldfish anyway, and they wouldn’t want to stick around for long. Preschoolers between the ages of 2-5 should not indulge in screen time beyond one hour per day. This includes the time spent on watching TV and on gadgets.
How to Involve Kids in Physical Activity
Children learn from the examples you set. It is why the first step to managing screen time is that you limit your own share of screen time. Try to stay away from the Television set, and your kids will learn to do so as well.
The next thing to do is to help your kids find activities they like. It could be swimming, horse riding, flying kites, playing ball, running, skipping, cycling and walking. If you help them discover what they like, they will enjoy being physically active. Introduce your kids to a variety of physical activities to help them find the things that interests them. Add gymnastics or skating to their regular schedule to get them engaged and interested. But, you don’t have to force your kids to ride a bike, play ball, or go running. By physical activity, we also mean that you get them off that couch and get active.To make them look away from screens, help them develop a liking for arts and craft activities. For that, get hands on the activity boxes like Intellikit designed for kids. And here’s a secret – some of the activities in these boxes involve kids to go outdoors, watch the night sky, plant a seed and water it regularly, identify the calls of different birds, collect shells from the beach, etc. So, ultimately these activities will get them up and moving, while exposing them to a variety of environments like a park, beach, lake, etc.
Exposing your preschooler to physical activity will not only help in their physical development, but also impact their social development. Children learn to negotiate, navigate, solve problems, set goals and compete during play times. They also learn about team work and leadership. Perhaps their first brush with fighting and conflict resolution will come from the playground, and away from the couch. As a parent you cannot start early enough to manage screen time and other obstacles to the holistic growth of your pre-schooler.