We’ve written regularly about the importance of screen-free play and setting screen time limits. These posts, of course, echo the chorus of child development experts warning about the risks associated with too much or age-inappropriate screen time.
But there is less guidance for parents about how to use technology to enhance child development. We have to continue to push open the space between “lock down” and “hands off” and share strategies and activities that help our kids learn how to unleash the transformative power of technology.
This becomes even more important when we consider the degree to which kids absorb our messages about technology. If we consistently refer to tech as a “mindless waste of time,” the likelihood is that our kids will turn to screens for entertainment alone.
We’d be better off if this next generation of children sees technology as learning tools, building tools, communication and problem solving tools. So in that spirit - here are 5 quick activities to do with your little ones when tech gets turned on:
- Creativity: Technology does not necessarily kill creativity ; it can unleash it. Consider asking, “What kinds of pictures could you take that represent our family?” Make an art project out of it.
- Perspective taking: “Take a picture from the perspective of your baby brother. What does this lego tower look like for him?” Or, “Take a video walking through the grass from your perspective. Now repeat it from an ant’s point of view. What is different?”
- Language and sound: Record sound effects for different parts of your child’s favorite story. Imagine making the car zoom or the cow moo and playing your created sound effects as you say the story out loud together.
- Inquiry: If your six year old looks out the window and asks, “Why are leaves green?” You might respond, “How might we find out?” Brainstorm some options together and pursue a few of them. For example, you could ask someone else, look in a book, or look online. If you look together online you can ask your child, “How might I find the answer?” Share with your child why you click on the link that you choose. In other words, how did you decide the link was credible?
- Context: Paste a photo in the middle of a piece of paper. Ask your child to draw what was happening around it. What isn't included in the frame? Next time you see a photo in a magazine you can ask similar questions like, “What didn’t the photographer include here? Why?”
For educators looking for more resources, check out the book Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tips for Teachers, edited by Chip Donahue.