If your children spend all their time playing out in the garden or the park, pulling out mind-bending board games and reading books until they are told to go to bed then they’re easier children to please than mine.
I haven’t met a parent yet that wouldn’t want their children spending less time in front of the TV, computer or smartphone and more time doing the things that we used to do when we were young. The screen has, in a way, given playtime a bad name.
But change is a natural part of life and the change that technology has created is more seismic than I could ever have imagined, especially for our children. I’ve had 6-year-olds explain to me how to do things on a smartphone. The ability of the human brain to adapt is a constant source of fascination for me.
Exposing our children to physically and socially interactive experiences such and playing outside or with more traditional games is something I’m quite passionate about – I wouldn’t be doing my job properly if I wasn’t. But it’s also something that came back to my family by chance after an event I don’t wish on anyone.
At the age of 11 my son Josh suffered a severe spinal injury (C2 dislocation) that led to him spend an extended period in hospital and recovery. Josh spent two weeks in hospital and three months in a body cast. Thankfully he is now well recovered with only some limited neck mobility issues.
While there was a TV in the hospital that Josh could watch during his stay, we started bringing in a range of board games and traditional toys to keep him entertained; the type of toys and games I used to play when I was his age.
Josh absolutely loved this. They were games that kept him mentally stimulated and thinking about other things than his injury. What’s more, it brought our family together and gave us a reason to all be in the same room at the same time enjoying the same activity.
When was the last time your family did this?
Obviously I would have preferred that we discover this without Josh being injured, but while we can’t fight the obvious change in trends and the effect of technology on our lives, we can change our routines, our patterns, and bring the family socially back together. We can get involved in what our children find interesting, and bring back family bonding.
Everyone still loves the tactile and social experiences we get from toys and games with our families. It does require a little bit more effort on our part as we can’t just set and forget, but as soon as we create these opportunities for our kids, they will understand and enjoy the fun and sharing they bring.
A large part of it lies on our doorstep as parents. It is our responsibility to play with our children and introduce them to new things. Yes, it does take time and effort, but it is well worth it. I much prefer traditional toys and games, but even if your children are that keen on videogames, ask yourself, have you ever joined in and played with them?
It’s not only me who believes getting more involved in your children’s lives through toys and games is a good idea.
According to clinical psychologist Lynn Jenkins: “Young children have considerable needs when it comes to the way we parent and teach them about the family unit and the role it will play in their lives and in forming their sense of self. They have a fundamental emotional need to feel secure and supported by their parents and their siblings.
Lynn adds: "For this reason, family building, fun activities like playing together with board games or cars or dolls, are essential as they give our kids opportunities to feel included and accepted unconditionally.”
I believe technological trends have changed the patterns around how we perceive child play and our role within this play space.
It is super important that as parents, we take the time out to play and learn with our children, and the best way of doing that is through toys and games that they can enjoy with us.