Have you been guilty of spending time on your device rather than interacting with someone in person? I have. Usually I have a good reason. When I am with my husband – we have a question and I try to find the answer on the Internet. Sometimes when we are in the car I use the time to get business done so it won’t be so overwhelming when we get home (no I don’t email or text while I drive!)
However, if I had young children at home I would have to reevaluate my digital life.
There is a great deal of talk about creativity, thinking skills, reading and writing skills. I believe as the educators of the next generation, we need to prepare our children with the ability to think independently and be creative. When they are young, we need to give them the building blocks to be thinkers. I believe that those blocks are literal. We need to give both boys and girls alike the opportunity to build with blocks, clay or Legos; work with tangrams; make music and sing songs (folk songs, or their own creations); color, create their own pictures and stores; dress dolls; create hideouts; play inside and outside with others and by themselves.
How is this affecting their future? It is giving them real time opportunities to become independent and also collaborative workers. Play is the work of a child. By giving them technology at an early age we are already limiting and defining the scope of their thinking. Children need to use their bodies to develop both gross motor and fine motor skills. As they get older they will be able to put those real life, physical experiences to work and technology will become their servant.
One example I share with you is of a former piano student. Nathan studied music as a very young child (4 or 5). At about 6 he began in a piano class and, much to the chagrin of both me and his parents, he didn’t like many of the activities (playing games and dancing) and refused to participate. After some disciplinary procedures by his parents, he reluctantly participated. Now Nathan, 19, when asked what his favorite recreation is, says playing the piano! If he had not had the early physical experience he might still like creating music on the computer which he does very well, but there wouldn’t be the depth of understanding that he now has. Although engineering is his major in college I have no doubt that he will pursue a music history or theory class – maybe even both- and will, apply it to his music. All because he had a real life experience with music at an early age!
Here are a few steps to creating an environment to grow creative and independent thinkers –
- Limit screen time (computer, TV, video games, etc)
- Encourage outside play time every dayProvide blocks, Legos, musical instruments, paper, pencils, crayons, paints, sewing materials (age appropriate of course), clay, and more.
- Provide items such as pots and pans, cardboard boxes, straws, paper cups,
- Provide music, art, dance, gymnastic, swim lessons
- Ask open ended questions about the child’s creations
- Most of all talk to your child
I encourage you to revel in the development of creative, independent thinkers. They may be the next YoYo Ma, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Hemingway, Baryshnikov, Renoir, Steve Jobs, or Albert Einstein. I urge you to treasure the human potential you hold in your hands not the digital device.
If this has stimulated your thinking, you might find http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/ways-screens-are-ruining-your-familys-life_n_3860927.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ir=Education