Recent polls have revealed that children are spending an average of 23 hours a week on smartphones and other gadgets - twice as much time as they spend conversing with their parents. The survey of 2,000 families with children below the age of 14 found that on average they were spending 3 hours 18 minutes a day on personal devices.
The polling follows new advice from the chief medical officer which urges parents to take more control over their children’s digital habits and ban smartphones from family meals, from bedrooms and not allow children to spend more than two hours at a time on smartphones and other gadgets per day.
But is banning or limiting screen time simply the answer? What alternatives are out there?
The Children’s Gifts and Toy Sector at this year’s Spring Fair was bursting with imaginative toys and games sure to tempt the most screen loving child – many not even battery operated.
Jaqueline Taylor- Foo, manager for Europe’s Melissa & Doug – (an American manufacturer that makes wooden puzzles, arts & crafts products and other educational toys founded by Melissa and Doug Bernstein) spoke passionately about a care giver’s responsibility to play, engage and interact with their child/children – “It is indicative that Silicon Valley parents are raising their children tech-free – they clearly know the dangers.” And reinforcing the popular notion that children need to be bored, “It’s all about igniting the imagination with creative play,” stated Taylor-Foo.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a clinical report titled “Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children in the Digital Era.” The report recommended that high-quality toys can facilitate caregiver-child interactions, peer play and the growth of imagination. With their pledge to ‘Provide a launch pad to ignite imagination and a sense of wonder in all children so they can discover themselves, their passions, and their purpose, the Melissa & Doug toys hit the mark and include arts, crafts, educational, developmental, role-play, musical and the list goes on. The new water wow products – ostensibly a colouring book with four reusable pages and a refillable water pen is a superb product as, not only is it imaginative, but also portable and equally perfect for parties or quiet time.
Melissa credits her creativity to a childhood of boredom, relying on only her imagination to fill the blank canvas. Concerned this generation of children is missing out on the kind of unstructured downtime that enables them to find their passions and purpose through exploration, Melissa is leading a movement to Take Back Childhood. She dreams of a day when kids are free from over-scheduling, undue pressure, and digital distractions so they may discover themselves, develop into free thinkers, and realize their full potential. To find out more log on to: www.melissaanddoug.com
Other stand out companies promoting imaginative play included: The Puppet Company, House of Marbles, Big Jigs, The Knitty Critters, Pretend to Be, The Green Board Game Co, and new to the market, ‘My Little World’ – a selection of imaginative, portable craft kits including 12 colour and cut out cards for ages 4-10: www.mylittleworldcraft.co.uk
Playtime has never been so much fun!