Have you heard the term ‘rink rat’ before? At our local hockey rink it refers to the younger siblings that are always scurrying around the bleachers, outer rink, and concession stands while waiting for older brothers and sisters to finish hockey games. Since my daughters have two older brothers that play hockey, they are probably at the rink more than they want to be. Learning to exert patience with waiting for siblings to finish activities can be difficult but after observing the behavior of my own little ‘rink rats’ over the years, I have insight to share on avoiding the electronics trap to keep kids entertained.
My girls are naturally shy. They do not have the personalities to introduce themselves when other children are already playing. I watch them gaze wistfully at groups of children that are playing and my natural reaction is to distract them from the possible discomfort they feel watching from the outside. But lately, they have started to inch towards the kids and will leave the bleachers to interact and I’m so glad I didn’t give them electronics to distract them from boredom. I see it time and time again…you’ve got the child sitting alone, probably shy, getting bored and they reach for mom or dad’s iphone to keep themselves entertained. It’s easy and sometimes we as parents, don’t stop and think why we shouldn’t just hand over the electronics. As a mom of many kids that would love my iphone – here are the reasons they don’t get it:
Shy or quiet kids sometimes need some encouragement with socializing. I am completely happy with having my girls sit on my lap to watch the game but I’ll keep asking them “are you sure you don’t want to go play with the kids?” And it’s almost taken the entire hockey season, but they are starting to join the group of girls and I can tell they are thrilled to be close to the action. But like most things with my daughters, it’s on their own terms and they just need time to feel comfortable.
I really think not letting kids sit idle occasionally is a mistake. My kids are all very busy…some might call it over scheduled but with four we are constantly on the go. And most children these days are busy with sports, music, or art after school, so play dates are non-existent. If kids are left to their own devices while older siblings or parents are busy, they re-discover the fine art of playing. And without toys or ‘stuff’ surrounding them, sometimes they get back to the purest form of play like hide-and-go-seek or climbing to escape burning hot lava or sharks on the floor.
My personal biggie with removing my iphone from the kids is not knowing radiation levels. It’s something I haven’t researched so I’m not comfortable handing it over without knowing acceptable levels. Green Child Magazine wrote a great article about radiation - the link is here. Another trigger for me with telling my kids they would no longer be allowed to touch or hold my phone was after reading the article about phones being used as ‘shut up toys’. I wrote about this topic and still think a lot of times we are rolling over with excessive electronics just to keep our kids quiet or babysat.
If you want to keep kids close to you and entertained without electronics there are 3 great tools to have in your purse: notepad, deck of cards, all natural nail polish. I realize the nail polish might not work for all boys, but I use it when I’m desperate to keep my girls happy. They only get to apply Piggy Paint occasionally so it’s a treat and they can apply it perfectly by the age of 6. Using the nail polish is a great way for the girls to make friends because usually if another child sees the nail polish appear, they come over and ask if they can use it too. And since the ingredient list is pretty clean on this brand, parents always seem happy with it.
I mentioned keeping cards in my basket. If I know there will be longer periods of boredom I try to keep a deck of Gamewright cards on me. I’ve written about this brand of cards before and can’t say enough about our favourites Sleeping Queens, Too Many Monkey, Rat-A-Tat-Cat, and Zip Zap. Any of these will keep my girls happy for long stretches of time! If you are local to Vancouver, Dilly Dally Kids carries this line of card games or they are available online via Gamewright.
And isn’t there just magic with a new pad of paper and pen? My kids all love a new sketchpad or writing journal and look so cute sitting concentrated with their pen to paper. Kids can doodle, draw, play XOs, or Hangman. It sounds so simple but veteran parents know it’s the basics that kids love – and a notepad is no exception. All of the pictures in this post have been taken on different days at the hockey rink and you can see in the below picture, one of my girls was practicing her ‘handwriting’.
We’ve been lucky this year that most of the siblings that bounce around the rink have left electronics at home. All it takes is one kid to pull out an ipod and you’ve got 10 kids all hanging over their shoulder trying to get a peek at the app they are playing. We’ve seen this before and it makes the free play aspect more challenging. But they are mimicking adults and if you look around, you’ll find people of all ages no longer able to just sit. If they have a quiet moment (and I’m guilty of this) the phone comes out and we get plugged in. We are building a society that just can’t be or focus. This isn’t to sound preachy because with using my phone for a camera I have it with me constantly and I know the kids see that. But limiting their technology is important because although parents swear by learning apps on ipads/ipods, face-to-face social skills are also important for children’s self confidence and growth.