It wasn't too long ago that you would find children in the streets, yards, and sidewalks of neighborhoods pretending to be famous athletes, princesses, dinosaur hunters, moms playing house, or soldiers at war. Why is this not the case any longer? Unfortunately, the reality is that:
- There is an increased emphasis on early academics
- Physical and sexual predators have become far too common place
- People generally have become less social and neighborly
- After school programs consume too much of our children's time
- TV, cell phones, internet, and video games certainly don't help
- And there is an increased amount of constant supervision of children in urban environments
It is widely known among Child Development professionals that 'creative play' is necessary to form the foundation of intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and creative abilities necessary as children grow and develop. While is it obvious that the mediums of TV, movies, and the internet can certainly be a source of much good and education, the reality is most people use them simply as 'baby-sitters' rather than constructive tools. And yet, despite the (limited) pros of such mediums, the 'creative play' element is still missing due to the fact that the majority of time spent in front of a TV, computer, or video game is idle, materialistic, uneducational, unproductive, non-interactive, and certainly immorally influencing.
Thus, the question is - what can we as parents proactively do about this? Let me suggest a few helpful tips that if implemented and consistently acted upon over time, will result in the emotional, intellectual, physical, and social health of your child.
- Resist the temptation to just turn on the TV when the children are acting up or full of energy. Learn how to appropriately convert the child's natural energy into 'creative play' rather than allowing the idle entertainment from the world to 'baby-sit.'
- Participate in and be involved in your child's imaginative and creative play. If that means that you need to be the bad guy who gets caught, the prince who marries the princess, or the horse running in the field (living room), than do it.
- Take them outside! Leave the room with the TV or video games and just go outside - children instinctively have an ability to use their imaginations to have fun - and it is usually outdoors that this ability is heightened.
- Read to your children - and do it often! A child who learns to read and who is read to will not only be intellectually far better off, but will develop their creative abilities and not be as dependent upon the TV or video games to be entertained.
- Play Games together as a family and with your children. Rather than turning on a movie or playing a video game - play games together. Learn to interact. Use the time to talk, laugh, and just have fun together. Ideally, play games that help a child develop their ability to use their imagination and be creative.
- Be the example! It is important to have rules for how much/little a child can watch TV, but if Daddy/Mommy don't lead by example, it is extremely difficult to implement those rules. Translation - this may mean that Daddy/Mommy need to develop their ability of 'creative play' so that when they (or their kids) want to just turn on the TV, they all can work together on using their imagination, playing games, and having fun together.
Being a good parent requires effort, sacrifice, patience, creativity, and even using your imagination and being immature at times. Providing food and shelter, education and entertainment, and clothing and toys... it isn't enough. What children desire and need most is attention, love, interaction, laughter, and time with parents who love them. Unfortunately, the majority of parents spend a huge portion of that time with children in front of the TV watching a show or a movie. Turning off the TV a little more should not only be done to increase the imaginations of our children, but more importantly, to strengthen relationships and bring families together to participate in fun and wholesome entertainment.
Matt is the founder of http://www.Tips4Families.com/ - a website full of helpful parenting advice, fun games and activities, traditions and holiday ideas, and tips and articles for families everywhere. Matt is also the author of: "Great Games! 175 Games & Activities for Families, Groups, & Children." To view the book and learn more, visit: http://www.GreatGamesBook.com/
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