Dear Dr. Renaud: My kids don’t know how to play – they play with their tech toys but if they don’t have those then they don’t know what to do with themselves. They just say they are bored and with summer break here I don’t know what to do with them. I hate the idea that they will just sit with their faces in their gadgets. At Wit’s End Mom
Dear Wit’s End Mom: Your complaint is one I hear frequently from parents. Kids are not taught how to use their imaginations for play any longer. All of their activities are very structured and organized – and they don’t have to think. They can follow instructions but they can’t imagine. So, put away the tech toys for a short period of time and just play. It will be very hard for them to do at first. Try to think of some games – low or no tech ones. Remember the game I Spy? We played games as kids that should be played again. Just go outside with balls and skipping ropes and make up games, or set up an obstacle course with bikes. Have they ever climbed a tree and built a fort? Start with a short period of time and then try to gradually lengthen the period of time that the tech is turned off. They may actually start to like it. Designate a “no tech time” each day for real play. Ask them to pretend – a concept that may be foreign to them outside of an alternate universe game. There are actually several stages of play that children should develop through and if they don’t have the opportunity to engage in real play then they won’t develop these skills. Have FUN.
This is VERY important for child development. Children need to learn how to think, to problem solve, to plan, to and execute ideas. Imaginative play helps them with all of those things. As I keep saying, turn off the tech and let them play. After they stop complaining, they will begin to create and will surprise themselves with how much fun they can have. Start with one day a week. It will seem like an eternity at first but then they will start to look forward to it.