Issues and Challenges

Engaging Children Beyond Screens

The digital world of today, marked by rapid technological developments, it is becoming extremely challenging to keep young children away from screens. Excessive screen time can severely hinder a child’s development and creativity. Children who are habitual of abnormal screen time not only become lazy over time but also encounter numerous health and mental problems, e.g., visual impairments, obesity, poor stamina, low concentration, lack of confidence, weak learning abilities, etc. Smart technology offers unprecedented convenience, access to information, entertainment, and more, but despite all the benefits, we must realize the negative effects of excessive technology use, especially among children. Recent studies have linked excessive screen time to developmental issues, particularly among children and adolescents. It is disappointing to see young children eating their meals only if their favorite cartoons are airing on television screens. Such habits are not genetic but develop over time. Children need to be more productive during their developmental years; otherwise, they will grow up as dull and depressed adults. 
Parents should realize the demerits of excessive use of technology and should not spoil their children with electronic gadgets, especially during their learning and developmental stages. Engaging children in other physical and creative activities not only limits their screen exposure but also nurtures their social skills, imagination, critical thinking and boosts their self confidence. It is vital to establish a supportive environment where kids feel motivated to explore alternatives to screen time. Since everything is interconnected, it is pertinent to consider that when your child spends their entire day sitting around and watching YouTube, they may not feel like eating their meals and would not be able to maintain a healthy sleep cycle. The reason for this is that they are not physically tired, but mentally exhausted, resulting in only 1 or 2 hours of sleep and waking up feeling cranky. The point here is that parents should engage their children in physical activities during the day so that they are tired by the end of the day, allowing them to have a good, sound sleep and wake up feeling happy and refreshed. It is crucial to realize that children need to try new activities every day to stay healthy and active. Raise your child in a manner that they do not need iPhones/iPads as birthday presents, but instead they get excited about receiving a set of coloring books or a bicycle on their special occasions. 
In this article, I will be discussing a range of activities with their benefits that parents can introduce and inculcate in their lives to help children avoid excessive screen time.
Outdoor Adventures 
Parents should encourage their children to explore outdoor activities, like biking, gardening, hiking, or simply playing in the park. Children are said to be born scientists, so when they explore their surroundings, they tend to discover new things every day. Outdoor activities stimulate their senses and foster physical fitness, which is much better than just watching cartoons all day long. 
Reading and Storytelling
Another activity for kids is reading books, which are windows to new worlds. Reading and storytelling will not only improve their speech but will also encourage them to be more expressive. Therefore, parents should provide them with a wide range of books that cater to their interests and help them develop reading habit. 
Imaginative Play
Children possess remarkable imaginative abilities. Parents can enhance their creativity by providing them with various props, costumes and a creative environment where they can play different characters and create their own stories in their own little world.
Simple Science Experiments
Simple science experiments can be both entertaining and educational. Whether it is creating a volcano eruption or making slime, small transitional experiments can be fascinating too. For example, educating them about the color change of litmus paper by dipping in different liquids, etc.
Sports and Physical Activities
Sports not only promote physical fitness, but also imbibe discipline and team spirit. Physical activities can help in increasing stamina and strength. Physically active children tend to perform better in their studies. Physical activities have been linked to improved concentration and attention span. It is super beneficial for children to take part in co-curricular activities such as swimming, football, basketball, etc. These activities will not only improve their physical health but will also boost their communication and social skills.  
Puzzles and Board Games
Puzzles and board games have long been recognized as more than just pastime  as they encourage critical thinking and are also a great source of entertainment. As children grasp and fit pieces together, they improve their hand-eye coordination and dexterity. Establish regular game nights with your child for quality family time and a healthy relationship with them. 
Creative Arts
Activities like drawing, painting, and crafting allow children to be more expressive and eloquent. Colors, lines, movements and melodies can help children communicate their feelings in a better way. Providing them with a variety of art supplies and allowing them to experiment can lead to wonderful creations. Completing a piece of art can help in boosting self confidence. Nonetheless, positive feedback for their creative activities can contribute to a healthy and positive self image.
Cooking and Baking
Engaging children in activities such as cooking and baking can help them learn practical skills, as well as basic science and math concepts. It is indeed a great opportunity for parents and children to spend quality time together while making one or two products. Such habits also foster a spirit of teamwork and the ability to appreciate collective efforts. 
Volunteering and Helping Others
Parents should encourage their children to actively take part in community service or small acts of kindness. Such acts will cultivate a sense of empathy and responsibility. Meeting people and listening to their life struggles will make them count their blessings. This will foster gratitude in them, and they will try to be more appreciative and not take anything for granted. Moreover, volunteer tasks boost children’s self esteem, confidence and self-worth.    
Connecting with Nature
Parents should regularly take their children to parks where they can connect with nature. Nature is a playground of limitless possibilities that sparks imagination. Teach your children about different plants, herbs and their benefits. Interacting with nature by touching leaves, smelling flowers and listening to bird songs will enhance their sensory perception and spatial awareness.
Building and Construction
Activities and games involving building blocks, Lego sets and other construction toys encourage problem solving and keen mental discernment. Keeping children busy building their small houses and sometimes small offices that they dream of with building sets is much more beneficial and productive than just lounging on the sofa and watching cartoons all day long. HH

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