Don’t tell me to decrease screen time!

If there’s one thing that causes heated debate on social media, gets defenses up and brings out the worst side of already over-tired moms, it’s another blog post that tells us we’re doing it wrong.  Specifically, that your kids should be exposed to less screen time.

From what I’ve seen, whether it’s a celebrity influencer, a mommy blogger or a key opinion leader in a professional capacity, it doesn’t matter how much research is quoted, everyone skips to the last paragraph if they read it at all, and then feels down about failing their children.  Some have the defensive energy to argue it out with the other parents online, others add it to the list of overwhelm (not organic, not emotionally available, not recycled, not meat-free, too much busyness etc). Why the hype?  Why do we feel so strongly about these things and yet do so little to change it?

Technology is all-encompasing

As a paediatric occupational therapist, my bag of “work tools” has become considerably lighter.  No need for a calculator, stop watch, or diary.  These days I don’t even need my laptop!  A smartphone can do everything I need, and all my information is in one place.  Even the cards in my wallet are less, as medical aids, banks and shopping loyalty programs all switch over to apps.  Have a look at the apps of your phone, and imagine what your parents’ generation would’ve been carrying around in their place.  So as an adult, and more specifically a millennial, why wouldn’t I have phone that requires so much of my attention throughout the day?

No-one has navigated this before

A millennial is anyone born between 1980 and 2000.  So that means the first generation of millennials are just about to reach “middle age” or start having their “mid-life crises”.  And after that they’ll slide towards “maturity”, and later “old age”.  But no-one born into this techno-era has aged yet.  We don’t know what the effects of all this convenience will have had on our lives.  Do we know that some of it is positive?  Absolutely.  Can we foresee the negatives?  Maybe some of them.

These things are supposed to make life better

I’m reading such an alarming amount of articles on mental illness in children, and it scares me.  How can I care for the emotional well-being of my kids?  How can I know whether they’re ok?  Why is it that children are experiencing increased pressure and anxiety?  Maybe these articles are pushing me towards a positive action.

Children do not need much to develop well.  They need your love and attention.  They need routine and balance.  As the pace of society increases in response to being “busy” being made easier, we try to keep up but are failing.  It might be “convenient” to check email while your child has their swimming lesson, but you’ve also lost a chance to be off the grid for 30 minutes.  We can “chat” to our friends via Whatsapp, but we lose the opportunity for a heartfelt conversation, with eye contact and a physical hug, instead of LOL’s and emoticons.

As an OT I am so aware that we, and our children, are losing “touch” with reality i.e. losing our grasp on the tangible and physical world as we give way to virtual learning.  It is so important for your baby to see your face while you rock them and sing a lullaby, for your toddler to paint with real messy colours and feel the squish of brush as it touches the paper.  Your preschooler needs to know what a star’s points feel like, as he turns it to fit into the hole of the shape sorter.  Grocery shopping needs to be a literacy and mathematical journey – learning about brands and weights and prices and calculations. Your children need to rest their weary heads on your chest and hear the thump of your heart as you read a bedtime story.  Dinner time or tea time needs to be a quiet space in the day.  Maybe sometimes your school-going children had a day that was “fine”, but they need to know that on the day that wasn’t, there’s a safe space to come home to – a space without judgement or interruptions.

Hear me out, dear parent.  I am a mommy to two loud boys.  Having babies has been a difficult and sometimes isolating experience.  There have been days that Whatsapp has been my shout out for help when I just couldn’t manage.  Google has set my mind at ease about various kiddy problems I’ve never had to deal with before.  Messages from my husband when he’s running late help me to plan dinner time better and email on my smartphone means I can run a virtual business without getting a babysitter for my kids.  I understand.  I know the way that technology has seeped into every facet of your life.  I know that sometimes a moment of quiet to attend to something while the kids watch tv is a Godsend.  But I am going to dare say this : we all need to be more mindful about exposing our children to screens, and specifically unsupervised internet access.

Why?

  1.  They are always “on”.  There is never down time.  If you don’t teach them to put boundaries in place (and yes, by example), they will burn out from anxiety before high school.
  2. They are visually overstimulated.  Everything is busy, beautiful and appealing.  The abilities to touch, feel, and listen are being lost.
  3. When we’re addicted to screens, “normal” everyday experiences that are developmentally vital lack their appeal and are passed over.
  4. Social media is all about appearances. Being a teenager has always been hard enough.  Now you have to up your game.  And any mishaps will be screenshot and exploited.
  5. The popularity contest of tweens and pre-teens is having a negative effect on children’s self-confidence and sense of worth.
  6. Young kids are able to find their way around cyberspace without being aware of the inherent dangers, or being mature enough to deal with them.
  7. Screen time has replaced green time: we don’t get out in the fresh air, exercise our tree-climbing muscles and watch the clouds.
  8. App’s are being developed by the minute for every facet of your life: from your Bible to your exercise routine … don’t let an app replace you as a parent.

 

I’m not going to tell you to take away their screens.  You’ll tell me I’ll raise dysfunctional children who can’t navigate the world.  But I am going to beg you to be steadfast in making time, away from the busy world, to spend quality time with your children.  Not just for their mental health, but for yours too.

HOT OFF THE PRESS: Moluk’s new toys

This past weekend saw the world’s biggest toy fair take place in Nuremburg, Germany, and in keeping with their development rate of the last few years, Moluk once again impressed with their designs, showcasing two new products and this time branching into the arena of baby products.

  1. Baby teethers

Meet Nigi, Nagi, and Nogi!  A set of three silicon tactile baby teething rings.  These have been developed with such care and thought into the sensory development of the child’s mouth.  Not only are they safe for baby nibble on, but look at the wonderful tweaks that keep baby interested beyond the mouthing phase.

  • Little teeth on Nigi: great for scratching those itchy gums, but also great for creating really cute little smiley faces in combination with Moluk’s other toys.
  • The centre of Nagi has two little knobs which prod those gums, but get creative making all kinds of crowns, hats and constructions when used with Mox and co.
  • Nogi sports three scoops that resembles the surface and shape of a spoon. When baby transitions to solids they will be used to the fact that a spoon has a convex and a concave surface. And it’s a cute teddy face!

Made of 100% food-grade silicone rubber, MOLUK’s new teething rings are easy for small hands to hold and offer essential tactile and visual stimulation. The rings are dishwasher and freezer-safe and come in beautiful pastels or primary colours.

 

  1. Haibo! It’s Oibo! The elastic baby ball

Let’s:

  1. A) grasp + chew
    B) roll + throw
    C) stack + nest/build

There have been some popular baby balls on the market which are easy to grip, but Oibo takes this line of thought one step further.  Oibo is made of soft silicon, making it a popular choice for a larger age range.  When babies are learning to sit, we prop them up with pillow and surround them with toys, but what if the toys they topple over onto are hard?  The collapsible nature of Oibo means that no-one gets hurt if baby wobbles before sitting balance has developed. And the thin pieces mean that despite its large size, two blocks can be grasped in the palm at once.

Oibo can be grabbed, thrown, caught, squeezed, chewed and even stacked, thanks to the clever design cut from a sphere. The easy “grippability” of Oibo makes these skills more achievable at an earlier age or assists children who need the challenge to be modified. For example, Oibo’s many places for fingers to grip make it much easier to catch than a regular sphere. This will be a great asset for therapists working with children with slower reaction times, as the nature of the cube is “forgiving”, allowing for mastery of skills that are still developing.

The unpredictable bounce caused by the silicon and irregular shape provide novel appeal initiating play rather than skill mastery as the motivation for children to try. And Oibo is fun for adults too – can you juggle?

Oibo is made from 100% food-grade silicone rubber, free of BPA, phthalates, lead, and latex. It is dishwasher-safe and highly durable. Available in monochrome or primary colours.

 

Using them as a combo

Both the teethers and Oibo are made from soft silicon, allowing them to be suspended over your baby lying on their back as a mobile, and the various size openings encourage poking, gripping and passing from hand to hand, working on those eye-hand coordination skills at a very early age. The easy-grip of both toys also allows them to be passed easily from one hand to the other, encouraging the child to bring the hands to the midline.

Without being solid, the shape of Oibo is suggestive of a cube and other toys can be posted through the top and sides easily. The teething toys can be posted into Oibo. Later on, the teething toys can be threaded onto a pipe/pole/cone.  And of course they are wonderfully compatible with the rest of the Moluk range.

Well done to Moluk following a new line of thought while still staying true to their values of open-ended play, interchangeability, sensory and motor development and durability,

WOW that’s a long read!  If you’re still here you must think they’re worth investigating further so why not follow us on IG or Facebook and we’ll let you know as soon as they arrive.

The best place to be this weekend

This weekend (30 Jan – 3 Feb) marks the 70th anniversary of the world’s biggest toy fair, and the Spielwarenmesse is taking place in Nuremberg, Germany.  Anyone who is anyone in the toy industry is there, releasing cool new toys, bargaining for licenses, finding out what trends are hitting the playgrounds of the world this year, and living the spirit of play.  The strangest thing about the fair though, is that there are no children.  It’s a trade fair.  It’s the place where adults decide what toys will make their way into the playrooms in 2019.

My heart longs to be there, and it’s hard to believe it’s already 5 years since I made my way through the snow and crowds to experience the largest exhibition halls you can imagine.  One hall just for trains, one for dolls and accessories, one for tech toys, one for soft toys, one for educational toys, and the list never ends. Five days is barely enough to walk through once, and it’s hard work looking out for new stars.

The show sports a trend gallery, where they identify the up and coming themes that seem to be popular in the industry.  This year the trends are:

  1. Ready, Steady, PLAY!  

At Straight Zigzag we’re all for getting kids outside and active, so we’re 100% behind parents looking for attractive toys to grab the kids’ attention and get their muscles working.  It’s easy for us to see how the Bilibo, wobble boards, climbing ropes and scooters are popular in this category, and why parents are prepared to spend good money on sports equipment that will last through phases and seasons.

2. The WOW effect

These toys encourage the curiosity in our children.  Some conceal unexpected surprises to be discovered during play. Whether through water or heat, technical gimmicks or sophisticated mechanics – the toy is suddenly transformed into something special.

3. Toys for Kidults

Adults like to reminisce about the toys they played with, and some collectors pieces are placed in prominent places in homes and offices, often showcased in glass cabinets.

There are wonderful ways to use technology to spy on the exciting world of the toy fair.  Summary videos get posted on Youtube, you could watch for news on the official site here or you could follow #spielwarenmesse2019 to see more personal impressions. And for a primitive little video of my trip 5 years ago, click here.

Happy playing!

PS we’ll have an exciting news release from Moluk soon!