COVID-19: How to Keep Kids Entertained at Home Without Screen Time
From cooking and baking together to playing board games with grandparents...
It's a challenging time for parents of children and young teenagers. With the coronavirus enforcing leaves of absence on parents and children, and anxieties forcing families to stay home as much as possible, the family environment can potentially get stressful as cabin fever takes hold.
Trying to keep kids entertained while at the same time limiting their exposure to iPads, tablets and mobile phones can make for a tough balancing act. And parents' concerns over screen time are real.
A four-year study by the University of Hong Kong, released in 2017, found that children who had more than two hours of screen time a day were more likely to be overweight and at higher risk of behavioural issues.
To help battle the boredom blues, here are five ideas on how to keep kids entertained at home while they ride out the coronavirus crisis.
How to Keep Kids Entertained at Home
Bring the outdoors indoors with plants, kitchen herbs or even a vertical garden. Photo: Shutterstock alt=Bring the outdoors indoors with plants, kitchen herbs or even a vertical garden. Photo: Shutterstock
1. Make an indoor garden
Living in a highly urbanised environment such as Hong Kong can create a "child-nature disconnectedness" so it's vital to find ways to strengthen that bond. One way is to bring the outdoors indoors with plants, kitchen herbs or even a vertical garden " all easy ways to get some green into a small space and brighten it up while helping to keep the air clean. Growing plants from seed also provides valuable lessons for kids about nature and science, and there's no better feeling than adding home-grown herbs to a meal prepared by the family.
An old-school board game will help create a fun family situation while reducing screen time. Photo: Shutterstock alt=An old-school board game will help create a fun family situation while reducing screen time. Photo: Shutterstock
2. Play board games or do a jigsaw puzzle
Most homes will have a board game or maybe even a jigsaw puzzle hiding in a top cupboard, so now is a good time to grab it, wipe off the dust and indulge in some old-fashioned family bonding. While video games mean kids today have a huge selection online, an old-school board game will help create a fun family situation while reducing their screen time.
A jigsaw puzzle is also a fun way to bond and, while they may seem a simple activity, studies have shown they are a powerful brain workout, especially for elderly people living with the challenges of dementia and memory loss. So it might also be a good idea to rope in the grandparents.
Making playdough is super easy. Photo: Shutterstock
3. Make some playdough
Concerns over the amount of toxins in kids' toys is a major one for parents, and cheap, chemical-laden playdough is especially worrying, as young children may be tempted to eat the colourful dough. The solution to the problem? Home-made, toxin-free playdough.
Making it is super easy, involving a combination of flour, salt, olive oil, water and food colouring. Check out one of the many home-made recipes and videos online.
Kitchen tasks provide children a chance to measure, count and see how food changes. Photo: Shutterstock alt=Kitchen tasks provide children a chance to measure, count and see how food changes. Photo: Shutterstock
4. Head to the kitchen
Whether it's to make a meal or bake a cake, preparing and eating together has the potential to strengthen family ties. Kitchen tasks also provide children a chance to measure, count and see how food changes, and affords a fun way to introduce some maths and science into the day. Cooking also make kids feel proud and can help boost their confidence.
Studies also show that eating together as a family has benefits. "Research shows that family meals promote healthier eating " more fruits, vegetables and fibre; less fried food; and often fewer calories," says registered dietitian nutritionist and US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman Angela Ginn. "And family meals do more than put healthy food on the table.
"Beyond preparing the meal itself, we sometimes forget that mealtimes offer time to talk, listen and build family relationships. And it's a chance for parents to be good role models for healthful eating," Ginn says, adding mealtime must be a TV- and phone-free zone.
Learn a skill such as playing the guitar or piano. Photo: Shutterstock alt=Learn a skill such as playing the guitar or piano. Photo: Shutterstock
5. Get creative
When a person is fully immersed in a creative task they can achieve a state of flow, a term coined by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly that describes the optimal state of consciousness where we feel and perform our best.
That sounds like a good reason to stimulate the imagination, and one way to do so is through arts and crafts. Other ways to get creative is to learn a skill such as playing the guitar. And while you're in the music mood, why not write your own songs and get a dance party started?
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.