Most modern parents will tell you that the easiest way to placate a fussy child is with a smartphone. There are countless apps, YouTube videos, and educational games that can capture the attention of even the rowdiest toddler.
For generations, televisions were the stand-in home babysitters. Now, screens follow us everywhere: a 2017 study found that the amount of time young children in the United States spend with mobile screens has tripled in just four years—and that number is increasing.
Smartphone addiction impacts our brain and ability to focus, and the still-developing mind of a child is even more vulnerable. More time in front of screens also means less time for other activities, including playing outside, reading, or engaging in sports — which can negatively impact health and development.
The solution? Go retro with some of these fun analog activities with your kids to boost their brain development, increase their mental focus, and strengthen the bond between you — all while having fun the good old-fashioned way.
Play a boardgame
Research shows that boardgames are one of the best things you can do to boost your child’s mental development. It teaches them logic and reasoning skills, it gives them an opportunity to learn how to win (or lose) gracefully, and it gives them space to practice critical thinking and/or spatial reasoning, depending on the game.
Even a game as simple as Go Fish can improve a child’s verbal communication skills and their focus and memory by requiring them to vocalize what they need, respond to others’ requests, and pay attention through people’s turns who are not their own.
Take turns reading a chapter out loud to one another, or read the same book side-by-side, one chapter at a time, discussing what happened at the end of each chapter.
This simple activity can help develop early analytical and critical thinking skills—no lesson plan necessary! Just ask them what they think about what happened, what they think will happen next, and how they feel about the book so far at the end of every chapter.
A nice option is to turn back to objects of distraction of yesteryear: think slinkys, Play-Doh, puppets, puzzles, bubbles, skipping rope, water balloons for summer, Twister and more.
The benefits of these throwback toys also extend to a sense of bonding. Show your child your favorite toy of your own childhood, and explain to them a time that wasn’t dominated by screens.
Spending time outdoors has been shown time and time again to support healthy development in a child – both mentally and physically.
Physically, it’s great for kids to spend time running around outside. This is good for their heart, their lungs, and their growing muscles. Mentally, a child’s outlook on life as they grow older is greatly improved by spending time in nature. Studies show that even just taking a short walk every day boosts your mood and clarity of mind, which matters just as much for a child’s developing brain as it does for a stressed-out adult – maybe even more so.
Our ultimate recommendation? Pack up your family, your favorite board games, comfortable shoes, and hit the road to unplug and escape to nature for a few days. You might have guessed that, though. For other recommendations, email them to us at [email protected]