With early milestones passing by in a blur, many parents wonder how to prepare their children for all they will encounter in kindergarten. Finding that happy medium between the child who thinks paste is a food group and the prodigy that can recite countless facts about dinosaurs from the Mesozoic Era can be much easier when you head down the educational path with the right mindset. One key factor to ensuring success is true no matter which avenue you travel; a trip to the app store is not the answer. If your child's first word is "apple", it should be in reference to his/her favorite snack!
Countless research studies corroborate the negative effects of too much screen time for young Pre-k learners and, in fact, find that it can contribute to childhood obesity and sleep issues while undermining the overall learning process. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has put together an eye-opening breakdown1 of information that supports the American Academy of Pediatrics discouragement of screen time for youngsters. Fond childhood memories won't involve recounting time spent on electronic devices, but rather time spent with a parent or teacher engaged in meaningful activities that unequivocally contribute to learning. Electronics may be a part of our everyday lives, but we need to keep an educational spin on the content and the clock when it comes to screen time for our kids. By reducing their time spent with electronics, we can increase their potential for a healthy future.
In our electronically dominated society, we can't devalue the importance of quality time spent interacting with our children. No app or program will give a child as much satisfaction and self-worth as feeling worthy of your time. It's time to set aside the electronic devices and engage our little ones with alternative activities. Although time can be in short supply most days, there are ways to get creative and add some educational fun into the mix (oftentimes unbeknownst to your little learner).
Rather than popping a in a dvd every time you head out of the house, sing the ABCs with your little one, point out the colors of buildings and signs, try to spot five red cars, choose a letter and see how many times you can find it on signs or buildings, or count the number of traffic lights between errand stops.
Bath time is another necessary part of the schedule that offers a great opportunity to sing songs and use toys to practice counting and color identification. When you're packing up snacks, work together to count out pretzels as you put them in a baggie. Sure, it may take a couple of extra minutes, but how amazing and accomplished will your child feel when he/she can be the pretzel packer? With a few tweaks and changes, educational time at home or on the go can happen within the busiest of schedules and help to create a lifelong love of learning.
Let's face it: life is hectic. Don't let interacting with your child be the thing that gets pushed to the wayside or replaced with a digital voice. A canned praise phrase from an electronic device will not invoke the same excitement and reinforcement as your personalized accolades and approval, so reduce screen time and reap the benefits. Investing in a little learning time with your child can become the most rewarding part of the day for both of you!
Additional Resources & Works Cited
1. Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood (PDF)