A friend of mine recently started letting a property to tourists and asked me to help out making the place safer for kids. The main risks were – as far as we could establish – a crumbling barn with easy access and a limited number of rotten floorboards. Back in the day, we both agreed, this building would have been too tempting for either of us to ignore, regardless of warnings about broken limbs and tetanus jabs. A few hours later, tired and sweaty, we surveyed the newly blocked-up building confident that it was more or less kid-proof.
Some weeks later I called round to fix a problem for the resident tourists but unable to raise an answer I called round the back, to try and get their attention. Unfortunately, the kids, though clearly visible through a window were too busy to notice my presence! One was mesmerized by a TV, the next by an iPad whilst the the third was so entranced by her phone that she resembled a diminutive zombie. Risky, dangerous fascinating barn? What barn. The kids of today, it seems, don’t need to risk life, limb or a nasty cut or two to enjoy themselves.
Risk Free Childhood?
OK, so, maybe that’s a good thing? But what really struck me about this particular happy family was just how much the screen and our gadgets rule our life – and particularly the lives of younger generations. This is good – those generations will almost certainly spend their lives working with technology. However, is it all good and what, if anything, can you do to lure the kids from the screen?
Well, in age where childhood obesity and health levels in general are of increasing concern to many health professionals and parents alike, the screen addiction that our kids (and many of us) seem to be developing must be at least in part a contributing factor. Today kids associate down-time more and more with screen-time, rather than with active or non-screen based activities. Getting outdoors, active and fit are important at any time of life but those who learn to do so early in life are more likely to focus on healthy ways of living as they grow older. In addition, activities that involve a more hands on approach than your average touch screen are also important; arts or crafts activities engage a side of our brain that controls intuitive thinking, emotional perception, hand-eye coordination and creative problem solving. Hobbies of any creative nature can offer not only a lot of developmental benefits to kids but can be extremely effective at encouraging them to spend a little less time on their screen of choice.
Tips for Encouraging Creative Crafts
Starting at an early age is the best way to encourage kids to enjoy screen-alternatives. Whether that’s a bit of healthy exercise or an artistic hobby or two. The earlier you start with art or craft activities the more likely you will establish where your kids personal interest lies.
- Early exposure to arts, crafts and creative subjects is also useful. Galleries – big or small – sculpture parks and libraries should be all part of your regular itinerary with the kids. Follow trips up with home-based activities of the craft or creative kind.
- Ensure you have a ready supply of craft materials. Pens, crayons and paper should be part of the basic stash but other craft supplies should also be readily available at home.
- As kids grow older and more skilled encourage them to get involved in clubs or groups of the creative variety. Creative skills are often best learned in groups and this kind of activity also improves your kids communication and social skills, building their self-confidence along the way.
It’s fair to say that computers and gadgets rule our lives and this is likely to continue to be the case. However, not every life skill can be learned while tapping away at a screen (though that may be a good way to stock up on papercraft supplies. Arts, crafts and other traditional hobbies are a very good way to lure the kids off the laptop. Whichever art, craft or creative area you encourage your kids to participate in, ensure that at least one is part of their lives.