I came across a meme the other day that read, “Sure, I could parent without screen time. I could also churn my own butter, but let’s not get crazy here.” It seemed like an odd comparison, given that kids in the 1980s grew up with “screen time” in the form of television. Although we had remote controls, we certainly didn’t have the level of control over a TV that most toddlers have over a tablet or smartphone, that’s for sure. Perhaps that’s a key difference for ’80s kids who are now parenting kids of our own. Often our ability to draw the line on technology stems from what we experienced growing up. Take, for example, this parenting decision from two infamous ’80s babies, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge:
The two children are not spoiled either, from the sounds of the report. iPads are banned from the home, as a source explains, “They’re very much seen as Mummy and Daddy’s toys, not for children . . . As two people who grew up without gadgets for entertainment themselves, William and Kate are firm believers in toys, outdoor play, and encouraging an active imagination. They’re very much a normal family.”
I know, I know what you’re thinking. But they have nannies and maids and housekeepers and a cadre of staff on call to keep their kids busy. No doubt that’s true, but you don’t have to be royalty to resist relying on an iPad to keep your kid occupied. There are some tried and true ’80s methods for keeping your kid out of your hair. Most even go beyond television and all of them are fairly easy to implement. Here are a few of my favorites.
Sprinklers. Forget pools. You want preschoolers and toddlers running around as much as possible, which they’re guaranteed to be good at as opposed to swimming.
Sandboxes. Hit the dollar store, buy some pails and shovels, and let the magic happen.
Bubbles. Go for the simple container and wand or get deluxe with the Thomas the Tank Engine push-bubble maker. Either way, you’re killing an hour at least.
Crayons. Do you know you can find Daniel Tiger coloring books at the dollar store? Crayons, too. Simple coloring with crayons not only builds motor skills, it strengthens muscles that will eventually be used when your child learns how to write. (Hitting buttons on a screen does not work any of these muscle groups.)
The Walking Dog Toy. Pull the leash and listen as the puppy rolls along the floor and yaps. Can’t hear him? That’s probably because your child is squealing in delight as she pulls the dog along or runs from you as you chase her with the puppy.
Hide and Seek. Pick a favorite toy. Hide it around the house in a familiar, somewhat visible spot. Ask your child where the toy is. Feed him clues: “I think the Count wants to stomp up the stairs!” Watch him execute basic critical thinking as he processes vocabulary words, reaches and acts upon logical conclusions. See! You don’t need an app to create a “brain building moment” after all!
That’s only a few of the many things I do on a fairly regular basis with my 2-year-old. Another apparently shocking thing I do is interact with him while we run errands together. For instance, at the deli counter in the supermarket, we make up games to play together while we wait. We even (gasp) dare to say hello to the other people waiting in line.
There are billions of ways to keep your young child busy during the day that are more engaging and energizing than “churning butter.” And, as the Duke and Duchess would have it, these games and toys aren’t antiquated; they’re timeless. What isn’t timeless is your baby’s childhood. He or she only gets one and it’s our job to make sure we enjoy it, too.