It's A Balancing Act!

by Mary Johnson,  Children's Ministries

I have long been a proponent of the importance of play for children. I will have this discussion with anyone who cares to hear my impassioned plea. The staff of All Things Bright and Beautiful had the opportunity recently to hear an additional perspective on this topic at the annual Alliance for Early Childhood Networking Dinner in January. The dinner sponsored by the Alliance was held in the Great Hall at Holy Comforter. In attendance were 182 Early Childhood professionals: teachers, administrators and care providers. The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Diane Levin, who presented the informative program "Beyond Remote Control Teaching and Learning."

After a few opening remarks, Dr. Levin asked the audience what the definition of "Remote Control Teaching and Leaning" could be. Some of the answers were: distant, lack of connection, expectation of instant results, impersonal. The Remote Control reference led to the discussion of screen technology, hand-held devices and those distractions that take away our time to physically interact with one another. Screen time is here to stay, and there is no turning back the clock on its place in the lives of these students. But the availability and use of screens is a discussion we can and should be having. Ask anyone who has been out to dinner with me, when I have seen a family at the next table pull out their iPads, iPhone, iTouch and dive into the screens without so much as an acknowledgment that anyone else is at the table. It has almost come to physical restraint by my family and friends to keep me from making a comment.

As my daughter Molly shared with me recently, it is also having a discussion with your children as to why you are eliminating the screens. In a conversation with one of her business associates, the father of young children said he has the rule of "no screens" at the table. Molly asked him if he was explaining to his children that it is because he wants to hear about their day, and because he really cares about them so he wants to talk with them. I think that is sound advice.

There are so many studies that validate the importance of play in early childhood, and recent studies now include the impact that technology has on the component of play in children's lives. At the end of the evening with Dr. Levin, she shared with me the links for websites that address screen time and young children. They include examples of quality play, what types of toys support healthy play, household objects that allow infants and toddlers to play creatively, and more. I have shared these links here in the fervent hope that you will benefit from this information. More significantly - your children and grandchildren will benefit!

The conclusion of the booklet that Dr. Levin gave me says this: "We hope you will continue to provide children with what they need most - active and hands-on creative play, time in nature, and lots of quality, screen-free time with caring adults."
With gratitude to Dr. Diane Levin for sharing her insight and wisdom, here are the recommended links:

Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment: www.truceteachers.org
 
The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood: www.commercialfreechildhood.org

The Alliance for Childhood: www.allianceforchildhood.org