May 31, 2013


Way back in the day, before wi-fi, tablets and smart phones, kids spent most of their free time playing outdoors, collecting worms, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, batman, princess, baseball, etc. It is a whole new world now. Kids still do these things, but now there’s the added dimension of electronic devices to fill their spare time. In fact, it is said, that if you want help with your computer, go ask a 9 year old.

As the digital age is upon us, it requires that we respectfully learn from the children: not only how to operate these devices, but (respectfully) understand that these digital gadgets are very important in their daily lives. It is also important for the great-grandchildren to respectfully teach us how to use the devices the way they use them, so that we’re all on the same page. Now is the time that they can be our teachers.

When we care for our great-grandchildren, we find ways to keep the children occupied, but also often need some time for ourselves, just to re-group. We plan age appropriate activities based on the number of children in our care (one is very different than more than one).When the child are busy playing and satisfied, it can seem like Nirvana. But, when they get bored and in the case of more than one, start to argue, other plans are needed. How many times do we reach for the smart phone or the tablet so they can play Angry Birds, turn on the TV, etc. just so that we can catch our breath?

Should we feel guilty about this? We don’t think so, after all, life is about moderation. So, as in life, boundaries need to be set and followed, and supervision is imperative.

We often see adults using digital devices to pacify children while waiting for service at a restaurant, in line for a movie, or just sitting at the park. While we sympathize with using a digital device to keep the children occupied, there may be other ways to engage children while they wait: books, crayons, hangman, tic-tac-toe, hidden word search, etc.

In Order to Make Life Easier, Plan Ahead- At Home and Away

• Have some age appropriate programs saved on your TV for the children to watch. Monitor the amount of time in front of the TV. If it’s a long movie, break it up into smaller time increments.

• Be prepared to watch TV with your great-grandchild, especially if they are young.

• Ask the parents to suggest 4-5 computer games that they allow their children to use. Also ask them to suggest 4-5 “game apps” that they feel are ok, and not violent.

• Negotiate with the children, the amount of time they should be able to use these devices in your home and your car. Remember this is your space, and you are the final decision maker for these rules. The allotted time can be spaced out over the afternoon, the weekend or the time the children will be with you.

• If you leave the house, have a “survival kit” ready to go, with crayons, paper, books to read and/or to be read to, deck of cards (for “go fish”, “crazy eights”, “war”, etc.) or other things that will keep the children occupied.

• Brush up on “rock, paper, scissors”, tic-tac-toe, and other children’s games.

• Keep age appropriate books, magazines, maps, binoculars, a compass and other fun things in your car for travel time.

Enjoy your time with your great-grandchildren, prepare ahead and make time for yourself. And when you need to, get out that handy-dandy Smartphone.

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