I hear so many negative things from people about children being 'stuck' in front of screens and how they should be out getting fresh air. I totally agree with the fresh air part and we are out the house and active every single day. We go to the park, museums, playgroups and so much more. We live in Lincoln and love visiting the castle and exploring all the amazing historic hot spots. We love the countryside too, nature, bug hunts and our favourite ever activity in the world is rock pooling! I love the seaside more than anything.
On the flip side, we also have a passion for screens and technology in our household. As two graduates in New Media, with a love for film and gadgets - this is hardly surprising. I would never 'stick' my child in front of a screen all day for my own amusement, I do however use them regularly and had better explain why.
I thought I would share the ways in which I believe screen use can be a highly positive thing in your child's life and why it isn't a negative, but instead an amazingly efficient and effective learning tool. This is merely my own waffly view and I know there are so many sides to this debate, this is just mine.
So why exactly do we love screens for our children?
Like it or not, everything nowadays can be found on line. Good and bad, but so so much good and so many programmes, documentaries, nursery rhymes and Vlogs/reviews to keep your children entertained. My son loves watching his favourite programmes like Peppa Pig on YouTube and at three years old he is able to search for it, select his video etc all by himself. Although we sing at home and visit playgroups and nursery, A has learnt so many nursery rhymes on line and he absolutely loves singing along, finding songs in different languages and laughing away at talking and dancing cats. There are videos on there that obviously aren't too desirable and with the suggestion lists they can only be a matter of clicks away, so it is important to keep an eye on content. Generally, this isn't a problem and they can be a great distraction when you have jobs to do, or in my case when I was heavily pregnant with his sister and needed five minutes rest! Absolute godsend. For some reason (and I know it is not just my son) kids love watching videos of other kids playing with toys and opening surprise eggs, have you heard of those? Obsessed! A likes to watch documentaries and find out how things are made, why things are what they are and his favourite programme is an American series called 'Mighty Machines', if you have a kid obsessed with diggers, trains, cranes, bin trucks then this is for you!
And do you know what? Sometimes, I do just sit my son in front of the TV to get a few things done, to get him to chill out for a while or to stop the ever evolving mess for five minutes and I don't regret it for a second. This IS normal - sorry.
Art & Photography
Of course I love real painting and drawing and the fact that real art can be kept and cherished, knowing it was made by those tiny hands in these special years is lovely. Yadayadayada. I do also love apps that allow your child to paint and draw. These are great for no mess fun, they allow stickers, spray paint, splatting, writing etc etc at the touch of their fingertips without a single scrap of mess to clear up. This is great for busy days as a gap filler or on the go entertainment. Images can usually be saved too, so it's a good way to store their creative expressions without having hoards of boxes and paper. A loves taking pictures and has a real passion for it. I love that not only will I have a million more pictures than my parents had of us (those pesky film rolls!) but also photographs from their perspective. OK so I may delete the ones of me sat all chins in my dressing gown, but others are real treasures for me and I love that he has a fascination like this so early.
A's current obsession is to press the Google microphone icon and ask it questions. At first it didn't understand his little baby voice but now (much to his delight) it understands him and responds to his search bringing up pictures and videos. He can ask it a question such as 'is the moon really made of cheese?' which will bring up several funny pictures and maybe a video or two. This has been a great way of him learning and sometimes I don't always have the answer to his questions, but good old Google always does. Again it's worth keeping an eye on search results as it does sometimes confuse 'Grandpa in my pocket' with 'pole dancing badgers' or something like that.
I will do a full post of all our favourite apps shortly, but for now here are our favourite and best of all free apps right now.
- CBeebies Playtime - Amazing app with multiple games, brilliant for spelling and problem solving. A can sit now and spell all the three letter words on one game and it makes me so proud.
- CBeebies Storytime - Again this is a brilliantly thought out, fun learning app that allows kids to take books out like a library, open them and follow a story either reading themselves or read by a narrator that also gives them instructions to help the story along. This is a lovely looking app design wise too and Sarah & Duck is just the best
- Lego Juniors - Cars. This app allows the child to build Lego cars on screen, drive them to collect coins which opens up more costume, characters and vehicle parts. It's a really cute game and totally addictive. There are so many Duplo and Lego Junior games for all ages. They are all free and so well thought out, well worth a download.
- Finger paint - I downloaded this for baby S but A loves it too. Basically its a simple full screen game with different colour paints to choose from. When selected, each colour also creates a buzzing, whirring, boinging sound as it paints on the paper. This is a really therapeutic game, great for fine motor skills and good for all ages it seems.
|Baby S - aged 13 months.|
Above all, the use of screens and in particular tablets, gets children interested in technology which is a huge part of our world today and features in education even from the nursery/pre school stage with the use of iPads and PC/mouse work. A shows an interest in technology and seems to have a good understanding now of electricity, things needing batteries or to be charged (everything always needs batteries or charging!) And already has good skill at using touch screens, the computer mouse and also the built in mouse on our laptop - even his Nanna can't do that.
This learning and understanding of technology at such a young age can't be a bad thing. With the right mix of outdoors fun, exercise, fresh air, mixing with peers, travelling and technology - our children will have a really good balanced head start in the modern world. Screens are a great part of the modern child's life and as long as the right things are on them and they are used in the right way, then they can be an extremely positive tool in their development. The Internet and our technologies are not out to replace the humble book or walk in the woods, but instead to enhance those experiences, capture moments and help develop our children and assist them in their learning of the world.
I find it brilliant that at three my son understands how to find out anything in the world that he has a question about. He doesn't have to be able to read properly but actually it's propelling his reading and writing skills more than anything we do off screen. Sometimes I think they also just need a good old fashioned chill out and having the Independence and personal space of a tablet, TV or PC to watch a programme or two is great. They won't be sat there all day (don't worry), they won't be part of the 'obesity epidemic' because of screens, but they will learn lots and be happy from an early age.