Alternatives to Screen Time for Children

Parents handing over their mobile devices to their children to keep them quiet or occupied is a common sight these days. However, excessive use of this method for short-term peace [...]

Parents handing over their mobile devices to their children to keep them quiet or occupied is a common sight these days. However, excessive use of this method for short-term peace and quiet may have long-term adverse effects on children. SPD@Tampines senior occupational therapist Pow Weiting shares other ways to keep children occupied, sans the use of modern technology.

Electronic devices are frequently used as a source of entertainment for both children and adults. Letting a child play on a tablet or smartphone may be educational while giving parents a few minutes of peace and quiet, but one should be mindful of the adverse effects of excessive screen time and use of such devices as a babysitting tool.

Having difficulties keeping children occupied in public places? Here are some alternative activities to consider in place of screen time:

For babies
– Play with touchy-feely/cloth/sound-making books in place of baby apps on the tablet.
– Engage in interactive play like peek-a-boo, gentle bouncing and rocking to nursery rhymes.
– Initiate clapping and dancing games and play with sound-making toys.
– Have babies open and dump toys that are put into different containers, and put them back.
– Play with shaker bottles which can be made using recyclable materials, eg. filling a bottle with grains or beans. Ensure that the bottle cap is child-proof and tightly sealed.

For toddlers
– Doodle and scribble. Bring along a notebook and explore different writing tools like big crayons or large felt-tip colour-changing markers.
– Interest the toddler in a personalised photo album you can make that includes his favourite people, places, etc.
– Play with wind-up toys, hand fidgets (ie. tangle toys, bendy toys), sensory bottles (ie. tightly-sealed bottle filled with bright, glittery objects like pom-poms, coloured stones, buttons, etc).

For pre-schoolers
– Interest the child in collecting stickers in an album.
– Paint or write in re-useable paint-with-water or write-and-wipe books.
– Embark on a maze or photo/letter hunt in activity books.
– Engage in colouring perhaps the child’s favourite cartoon characters in a colouring book.
– Play simple games like “I-Spy”.
– Play magnetic games like magnetic tic-tac-toe, dress up doll.

With further thought and some creativity, you’ll find that there are many interesting ways to keep children meaningfully engaged.

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