How to Engage Children Without TV or Other Screens.
“Kids don’t remember their best day of television”. When you look back on your childhood, TV is not the first thing you will reminisce about. It’s all the fun and games you had!
The Covid-19 has taken a massive hit on the most exciting part of a child, the outdoor play. Many are stuck at homes and the best option for the parent is to have them engage to watch television or play online games. In this blog, we aim to share benefits of physical activity and how to convert each ROOM of your home into spaces that are ENGAGING and EXCITING for your child(ren). Let’s start by understanding the benefits of physical play and movement.
Physical activity is important for children to receive their daily dose of proprioceptive input to keep them regulated, receptive and alert. With lack of opportunities available for our children to enjoy outdoor activities during the pandemic, receiving adequate proprioceptive input for the day can be difficult or close to impossible. As a result, you may see your child dysregulated, irritable, and disinterested in their environment. Here are a few TIPS on how you can convert all rooms in your home into lucrative spaces, to help your children receive their daily dose of proprioception and enable them process and connect with their environment OPTIMALLY.
Living Room: Convert your living room into a playground. Here is how you can do it. Move all the furniture such as sofa, book shelves, coffee table, chairs, etc. to other rooms or to the corners. Now, your indoor playground ready! Games you can play in your indoor playground are as below:
1) Pond and land: a big circle can be drawn with chalk on the floor. One family member will give instructions - ‘pond’ or ‘land’.
Instruction: “if you hear the word ‘pond’, jump inside the circle and if you hear ‘land’, jump outside the circle”. Points can be awarded accordingly and the one with the maximum points is the winner. This is a great activity to improve listening skills and learning rules of a game, apart from proprioceptive and vestibular inputs.
2) Frog Leap: a minimum of two to three family members are required for this game. Have a ‘start’ and ‘finish’ point. Start leaping like a frog from the start to the finish croaking while like a frog. The one who reaches the finish point first is the winner. This activity can help improve gross motor movements and offers adequate proprioceptive and vestibular stimuli. Other games with similar benefits are: hop and catch, hop scotch, hide and seek, lock & key and animal walks (bear walk, duck walk etc.).
Kitchen: Cooking together with your child can help them perceive that they are an important contributor at home. When children are offered chores and responsibilities you are providing them with opportunities to contribute into the welfare of their home, thereby, making them feel important and responsible. As a result, you can expect them to be less complaining and if they are in the habit of throwing tantrums - you will see those tantrums gradually disappear! Cutting with a toy knife, opening pea pods, breaking capsicum, washing rice, kneading doh are a few suggested activities in the kitchen, which can help improve the tone and coordination of smaller muscle groups of the hand (fine motor). Note: Consider your child’s age and choose age-appropriate chores as you engage them. Caution: Be extremely careful to keep your children safe and avoid leaving sharp tools such as knives or scissors at child’s reach. Avoid children working with fire or play with the stove on.
Dining Room: Setting the table before every meal and clearing off the table is one of our most recommended chore for children especially picky eaters. When children are engaged in setting up or clearing the table, they are able to transition from their screen time or play time and get ready to participate in a mealtime. Furthermore, carrying a pot of curry (ensure it is not hot and safe) or plates can offer children the proprioceptive, tactile and vestibular input to help them stay calm through a meal. After a good meal you can sit across the table and play board or card games. A few favourites are LUDO, Snake and Ladder, Chess, Chinese Checkers, Carrom Board, UNO, and Solitaire. Choose board games depending on your child’s age and what deeply motivates them.
Bedrooms: With availability of all the pillows and blankets around in your bedroom; you could make a tent house or pillow fort and have your child play inside. Staying inside a tent can make them feel safe and the novelty can have them engage in their preferred play much longer. Add to their fun by joining in. An interesting activity without the use of toys in your bedroom is pillow fights. The pressure used to fight with pillows can help children overcome any underlying stressors. Furthermore, looking at you or aiming to whack you with their pillows can increase the fun and help build a closer bonding with you. Caution: Be careful to keep your children safe during these games and avoid play near the walls. Another best-loved is taking turns to tickle and Laughing-out-loud (LOL). It is a scientifically proven method to busting any stress or anxiety in children.
Other activities in a bedroom would be somersaulting, wresting and roughhousing games. If you notice, we have not suggested a set of activities without the use of toys in this room. The aim is to help you ‘being’ with your child rather than ‘doing’ activities with them.
Caution: be cautious when roughhousing with your children so they don’t fall off your bed or get hurt.
Balcony: Bird watching, spotting an animal, gardening and watering plants are a few interesting things you could engage your child with even in a small balcony. These activities can help children grow up to be nature lovers or even environmentalists. Add to the fun by getting excited about a new bird or a nest you spotted! Ask them to count the number of butterflies or crows from your balcony or watch a neighbour feed a pet. During the process have your hands around them, give a hug or a kiss. Such warm gestures can help children stay in their optimal range of regulation and keep them calm for hours.
We hope this blog is useful in helping your child stay happy despite the lockdown and lack of opportunities to go outdoors. When children are meaningfully engaged, they are less prone to be drawn to screen time. Now that you are without excuses, share with us which games keep your family busy? And if you are worried about your child not participating in the games suggested, talk to us and we will be happy to help you.
Compiled by: Ms. Jismy Varghese (SLP), Chitra Thadathil (SLP)
Picture Courtesy: https://www.housebeautiful.com/uk/renovate/diy/a1415/pillow-fort/