In today’s age of electronic everything, it’s rare to have a truly quiet moment.
A child’s ‘down time’ is frequently spent with the television on or playing video games. Even many of the toys we give our youngest children involve lights and music. All of this stimulation leaves little room for self reflection, critical thinking, imagination, and problem solving.
Certainly, too many distractions prevent children from focusing on one task at a time and sticking with it until completion. Yet, these are the skills that are highly valued in classroom settings. Promotion of these ways of thinking needs to start early and require turning off the television or computer and allowing your child to simply be with his or her thoughts and imagination.
Here are some ways to reduce the constant distractions in your child’s environment:
- Limit your child’s television watching to about an hour a day, if at all. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO television for children under two.
- Offer toys that don’t require batteries and encourage imagination, creativity, problem solving, and space awareness such as wooden blocks, simple dolls, stacking/nesting cups, inset puzzles, etc.
- Turn the television OFF when nobody is actively watching. Train yourself to get used to not having it on in the background. Instead, if you must, keep gentle music playing quietly in the background.
- Balance out media based games with simple turn taking or solitary games. If your child plays 15 minutes of a computer game, then spend at least 15 minutes engaging in non-media activities.
- Create a ‘quiet spot’ in your home where your child can go to rest, look at books, color, or just think. For school age children, it’s important to have a spot that is free of too many visual or auditory distractions where they can complete school work, read, and do craft projects.
- Model ‘quiet time’ behavior for your child. Let your children see you sitting quietly reading a book, listening to music, or just thinking.
Let’s face it, distractions are a part of modern life and there’s no way to completely eliminate all of them. Unless you plan to move to a deserted island, your kids will be exposed to an almost constant stream of sounds, sights, smells, textures, and tastes.
You can, however, find simple ways every day to encourage your child to spend time with only his or her thoughts and ideas…after all, it’s the thoughts and ideas ‘ not the games they play or television shows that they watch ‘ that truly make up the ‘who’ of our children. Let’s let them figure out that ‘who’ without so many distractions!