One of the challenges of being a parent or a grandparent in 2015 is keeping children from becoming couch vegetables. With all of the electronic gadgets available now, this task has become even more difficult. I watch children all the time whose only interest is playing on electronic toys. Having said that, I don’t want to give the impression that electronics are all bad. Technology may be the future for some of our children and their occupations. What I worry about, however, is that children will lose all passion for anything else in the world. Technology has a tendency to pull children in so that they don’t engage with the rest of the world. This is one of my fears and a challenge I see when parents try to get their children interested in something else. The key is to begin early.
Early childhood developmental stages in children are the perfect opportunity to allow the child to explore many different things. Parents and grandparents should not be consumed with "no messes" or "no time" excuses when children can participate (within reason) in activities to develop their interest or skills. I do understand there are many constraints, but they should be limited to real constraints like lack of money or too much distance to the activity. During my many years of working with children, I have observed children who are uninterested in getting off the couch. Much of the time, those children are the children who haven’t experienced anything else. Summer may be an ideal time to allow exploration since the child may not be in school. Here are a few inexpensive suggestions that encourage children to expand their horizons:
- Pick up a set of watercolors or other painting medium. I’ve heard many parents over the years saying, “Ugh. I don’t want the mess.” My suggestion is to get over it! Messes can be cleaned. The process a child goes through during painting encourages not only creativity, but also critical thinking skills.
- Encourage your child to create projects using discarded home materials such as egg cartons, food boxes, bottle caps, empty paper towel rolls, etc. Glue, tape and scissors will probably be required for this activity.
- Visit the library for books and other activities that are usually scheduled at that facility.
- If there is a farmer’s market close by, take your child there and have him help choose food for meals. There are often other activities and displays at the market, such as art, jewelry, services, etc.
- If affordable for your family, take your child to local festivals and holiday activities. Many festivals offer your child a different cultural experience than she might have at home and in the neighborhood.
- If affordable, allow your child to participate in community sports organizations such as baseball, soccer, gymnastics, basketball, etc. This will give your child an opportunity to see if sports are something that she would like to participate in and continue.
- If it is within you budget, allow your child to take lessons in an area of interest, such piano, gymnastics, karate, art, singing, drama, etc.
Children rarely make make good choices when they have limited experiences. Providing opportunities for trying new things will also help your child develop thinking skills and become willing to try new activities and develop new talents.