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With the increasing exposure of children to screens, engaging them positively has become an everyday challenge. Being a mother of two kids, I was facing the same problem. I wanted to keep them away from the TV, smart phones, and all the other gadgets that they saw me using, but were keen to explore. I observed that many times, my children were spending more than three hours a day in front of one screen or the other. Being aware of the negative effects of extensive screen exposure, I desperately wanted to change the way they entertained themselves. I am sharing my story to help other mothers facing the same problem.
1. Practice what you preach.
Kids imitate parents. If we want our kids to spend less time watching TV or smart phone use, and engage in reading or another hobby, then we have to lead them by example. I took a conscious effort to reduce my time with my phone, TV, iPad, etc. I engage them in reading more, go for a walks with the kids, and play indoor and outdoor games. It has had a great impact. This also placed me at a better bargaining position with them.
2. Involve them in household chores.
I discovered that routine housework can be more fun when the kids are involved in them. They're not only are entertained doing them, but they also find innovative ways to do stuff and learn from it. My kids help me in many household work like washing dishes, arranging them, folding laundry, and keeping them in cupboards. This also makes them more organised and more disciplined.
3. Creative Crafts
Paper crafts like sticking, cutting, drawing, painting, or origami can be so much fun with kids. I consciously make an effort to teach them something new using paper. My daughter loves it to such an extent now that she asks me to make things out of paper and uses them for pretend play. Nothing is more satisfying than to see her learn new skills. We have an Art Corner at home now and we decorate it with all the crafts she makes.
4. Shake a leg.
Dance can be so refreshing with kids. It acts as a stress-buster for me as well. We started beginning our day with a small dance session. Mostly, it is a nursery rhyme tune they love or a song they are learning in school. It really kickstarts the day. We all feel energetic after the exercise and are charged up for the entire day.
5. Allow screen time with limits.
Watching their favorite cartoon together is a must. This shouldn't be taken off the list. The catch is to limit it on their demand. I gave my kids a choice. They could watch TV every day, and we listed out our favourite shows on TV and we watched them together, but we decided that we wouldn't watch for more than two hours a day. My kids could decide how they wanted to break the time up based on the days or times of the shows they wanted to watch. It made them feel responsible and also didn't make me look like a bossy mom. Besides, they had started enjoying to play more than watching TV. That was more rewarding to me.
6. Just listen.
Listening to kids is the most important part of our communication with them. Allow them to speak whatever they want to without interrupting them or correcting them. Just let their thoughts flow. This builds so much trust in them. It also encourages them to be confident, imaginative, and outgoing. I ask my kids to give me vivid descriptions of whatever happens in their school or about their friends. They sometimes tell me a bedtime story, including all their favourite family members or cartoon characters in it. It is fun!
7. Allow them to decide.
Choosing their socks, stories for bedtime, or game to play can be very useful ways to teach children to be decisive and confident. My daughter is now even able to understand which of her leggings would match the dress she would wear to school, or which shoes to select if she has an outdoor activity. I let her decide most of the things that she does in a day. I try to be an influencer rather than the decision maker. She likes that and this helps avoid me from being authoritative.
I have experienced positive changes in the way my family feels now. It is more of smiles, more of fun, more of joy, and more of lovely memories we make each day.