Have you already realised that Netflix and YouTube have become the newest babysitter in town? No shame. You are not alone in the predicament of using these new technologies to make your child busy.
Many parents feel guilty whenever they intentionally let their children watch TV or use smartphones. That feeling of guilt is natural because they think they should be bonding and looking out for them. That kind of thinking is natural and valid, but they should not be too guiltyif they use this strategy to keep their children busy.
It is not a crime to let your children watch TV or use smartphones and iPad, especially when you allow it because you have many things to do and accomplish or when you need to get things done. As a parent, you sometimes need to clean the house, cook food, do other home stuff, work (at home), and it is just hard to juggle these things. So, it is normal and common to think of these things to keep them busy and distracted long enough for you to do everything.
However, prolonged screentime is not suitable for kids, especially if it is too often. Screentime is not bad per se, it has its benefits, and some shows and games are really educational but, it should not always be the norm. While watching TV, playing on a smartphone or computer, and using the iPad can make your child busy, thus giving you ample time to accomplish the things you need to do, it might not be that great if it became too much.
Prolonged screentime affects the physical, emotional, social, and psychological development of children. It might cause blurry visions, neck pain, and etc. Thus, it might be great to put some variations in children’s activities instead of using the same tv, smartphone, and iPad strategy. Some alternative activities might cause extra planning and thinking, but they are worth the effort. The children are the ones positioned to benefit from more constructive, engaging, and fun activities.
The TV, smartphone, and iPad strategy is not bad, but if you are using it too often, it becomes bad for the children. So here, we prepare 12 alternative activities and ways that you could utilize to keep your child busy other than watching TV or using smartphones.
Why parents should use alternative activities instead of using screen-related activities repeatedly?
Keeping the children busy or distracted for a long time is understandable, especially if the guardian or parent has many things to do. However, repeated screen-related activities during these instances are not healthy nor beneficial. Children might experience negative side-effects that could affect their overall development, such as sleeping, energy, attention span, and social behavior problems.
They said that anything too much is bad, and it is valid with screentime. Hence, as a parent, a good mix of screen-related activities and others will be more beneficial for the children as they can experience new things because of the two. Both have strengths and weaknesses, and by utilizing them both, each could cover for the other.
Finding the balance between the two is beneficial for the children. So, if you plan on keeping your child busy, do not immediately go for screen-related activities. If you have time to prepare, or if they have already engaged with it for the past few days, then maybe you could let them try something new.
Children are naturally curious and playful. By using activities that satisfy their curiosity and playfulness, you are keeping them busy and helping them learn and develop.
12 Alternative Activities and Ways to keep your child busy
1. Make an Activity Box.
An activity box is a box that contains activities that a child can do alone. Hence, you can fill a box and put activities such as coloring books, drawing books, jigsaw puzzles, and card games inside of it. These activities are easy, but they take a lot of time. Your child, upon realizing this, might resist, but you must persevere because, after a bit of push, they will soon accept it as something that is a part of their routine. In addition, these things require a long time, like drawing and coloring their favorite cartoon or superhero. You can also let them paint using watercolor.
2. Make a Toy Box.
This is a classic way to make and keep your children occupied. Fill a box with the toys they love and give it to them, and they will do the rest. Children’s imagination is boundless, and they can make a lot of things with the toys you provide.
3. Make an Idea Box.
Not all are familiar with this, but it is self-explanatory. There is nothing much about it; it is really just a box full of ideas. But when making it, make sure that the activity ideas are from the children (just make sure that the ideas you’ll include are safe). So, when you are busy, give the box, let your child or your children pick the activity, and let them do it. If they are hesitant to do the activity, remind them that it is their idea.
4. Make a Creative and Spatial Box.
This box is like the activity box, but the difference is that it is confined to activities that develop children’s skills, specifically spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and creativity. Toys like jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, Play-Dough are some of the things that you can include. But remember that when you are giving them these activities, make sure that it fits their age and skill level. Do not give too easy or too tricky tasks, especially on puzzles.
5. Give them a task.
Assign a task to your children and tell them that it is very important. If they know that it is a big deal, they would think that what they are doing is something really important, so they must do good.
6. Let them do treasure hunting.
This might be one of the opposites of screen-related activities in the sense that it requires body movement. Unlike screen-related activities where children are just sitting, they will be walking, running, and becoming totally activehere. You just have to hide something like a coin and then give clues to them to figure it out. To spice things up, you can include the prospect of a reward if they ever find it. Whether there is a reward or none, this activity can build children’s resilience and problem-solving skill.
7. Let them play outside.
Nothing beats the classic. If you remember the old ways of how your parents made you busy while they were doing their works, then you can copy it. Give them a ball, a stick, or you can teach them some of the games you played outside when you were young. If you are worried that something terrible might happen, you can let them play somewhere you can see them.
8. Let them play in a friend’s house.
This is another classic strategy to keep children distracted. Playing with someone of their age can help them develop their social skills. You can ask a friend or a neighbor to allow your child to be in their home and play with their kids while you are doing your work. But it is “give and take”; thus when that other parent needs time to finish things, and you are free, you should allow their kid to stay in your place too.
9. Let them do pretend play.
Pretend play is a typical play that children do. Based on numerous studies, this kind of play allows children to develop their creativity and imagination. It is also a great activity to keep them busy. There are lots of pretend play activities that children can do. For instance, you can let them become the person they want to become (e.g., doctor, policeman, teacher, superhero, chef, etc.).
10. Let them listen to an audiobook.
If your child is not yet capable of reading or cannot read independently, you can opt for audiobooks. Identify their favorite book and download its audiobook version of it. In addition, give them a physical copy of it with pictures. Let them listen to the audiobook while holding and looking at the pictures. If you cannot find an audiobook version of their favorite story, you can use your phone to record one.
11. Let them build a fort.
A time-tested activity that most children (if not all) love. Who would turn down the opportunity to build their own base? Give your child some pillows, blankets, and boxes and challenge them to build their fort. They would be busy making it,and once it is finished and they get inside, they would likely play more.
12. Assign house chores that they can do.
This would not be the favorite alternative activity of some children, but it is a great thing that can keep them busy. In addition, some kids really want to help and learn house chores. Through this, parents could teach them the importance of cleanliness.
Tips when planning or thinking of alternative activities to keep your child busy
1. Think of your child’s interest and incorporate it into the activity.
2. Always take into consideration the age and skill level of your child.
3. Allow them to mess things up. If they are heavily watched and instructed, there would beno room for creativity and exploration since they would feel constrained and guarded. And that defeats the purpose of letting them enjoy and learn while keeping them busy.
4. Do not disturb them once they are absorbed in the activity.