With a global pandemic on the rise, we are going to be spending more time than ever at home in the coming months. If you’re a parent, this means you’ll probably be spending a lot of this time keeping your kids entertained. While it’s tempting to let them play on their devices all day, overuse of screens can negatively affect their eye health in the long-term. As a parent of two toddlers I know how hard it can be to keep your kids busy all day, so I’ve put together a list of some easy activities you can do with your kids at home that won’t involve screens and also won’t break the bank!
Why do they need to spend time off their smartphones?
While smartphones can be wonderfully useful tools to keep your kids entertained for hours on end- like most good things; they have some negative side-effects.
Our eyes are built to be able to see things near and far. But when we spend all day on our phones; focusing on things close to us, they are put under a lot of pressure and this causes them to stretch. This elongation causes light rays to focus on an area just in front of the retina (rather than on the retina itself), making objects far away appear blurry; a process that can lead to myopia or short-sightedness. While myopia doesn’t affect everyone, it is becoming more and more prevalent with the emergence of technology and smart devices. Worldwide, almost a quarter (23%) of us are short-sighted, while in Singapore it affects 80% of young adults (1).
While there is a chance your kids may not develop myopia, they may still suffer from other side-effects of screen-use, such as Digital Eye Strain. Putting too much strain on your eyes can cause them to become itchy, dry and tired and can sometimes induce headaches. Kids can often get so involved in whichever game they are playing or movie they are watching to notice the painful side-effects, therefore it’s important to keep an eye on them.
Finally, overuse of smartphones can also impact your kids’ mental health. Social media and virtual gaming apps are designed to trigger the rewards centres in your brain. Getting a message or a “like” on a post can trigger the release of the feel-good hormone, dopamine. This can, over time, become highly addictive, especially with kids whose sense of self-control might not have developed yet. In extreme cases, smartphone addiction can induce symptoms of anxiety and depression as they become overly reliant on their smartphones for this dopamine kick.
After reading all of this, you may be tempted to take your kids’ smartphones away completely. However, in this ever-evolving world, they are going to be surrounded by technology at every stage of their lives, so it’s important to instil good behaviours in them while they are young. Instead of stopping them from using their screens, simply swap it for different, device-free activities.
3 fun and easy device-free activities to do at home!
1. Arts and crafts
While arts and crafts can often involve buying a variety of different supplies, there are lots of activities that don’t involve a trip to an art supplies store. You can use old newspapers and magazines to do scrapbooking or to make papier-mâché sculptures. Extra sheets of paper can also be used to do origami- try these instructions on how to make a paper crane!
2. Board games
Board games like Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit are great because they involve the whole family and can be stretched out over a couple of days. Don’t have your own? No problem, you can DIY your own version using these templates.
Pass on some of the domestic responsibilities to your kids and maybe even teach them a thing or two along the way! Start simple by getting them to find ingredients in the cupboards and mix them together, just think- one day they’ll be making meals on their own!
Rest assured that you’re not alone!
With lots to worry about right now, it’s important to view this not as a burden, but simply as an opportunity for your child to try new things. It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone!
As a parent, I know how easy it is to get caught in a spiral of negative thinking during these trying times- we’ve all got a lot on our plates! But by focusing your attention on the things that you can do rather than what you can’t, can help you break out of this negative spiral. From one parent to another, I hope these suggestions help!