By Waheeda Essop (Occupational Therapist)

It’s like magic

It’s alluring

It’s addictive

They cannot get enough!!

Having children engage on screen activities is like saying yes to chocolate cake!!

But what is it about screentime that really has kids panting for more?

When children partake in a screen activity or watch a movie….it’s a ‘fun rollercoaster’, continuous with constant feedback. And if this exciting feedback is not received, then all they need do to is change the app/channel/ game. It is as simple as that.

While this is awesome entertainment for all (yes for us parents too!), it tends to lead to the instant gratification phenomena and limits the development of delayed gratification and general endurance. So when a child is faced with routine tasks, they do not get any feedback and this affects their motivation in completing the task. This scenario is compounded in a school setting where activities, have no appeal to them and children are found to be distractible and easily bored.

So how do we tackle this?

Besides limiting screentime, to develop endurance children need to partake in activities that are longer with challenging segments but have an amazing outcome or end product. Gardening in the perfect example. Kids plant seeds or seedlings, they have to nurture this daily, then only after a week or so would they see results. Herbs and vegetables are also lovely as our little gardeners would need to keep a regular check on these and tell mum or dad what is available to them in the kitchen.

Craft activities or similar creative tasks are also excellent. They would need to gather materials, follow instructions and get satisfaction only when they have completed the end product.

Other ideas to have children do is to plan or orchestrate something, whether it be a small event or an activity for others. So perhaps you have guests coming over and need to have a pretty table setting. Let them assist! They can throw ideas around, rummage the cupboard for crockery or explore the garden for pretty centrepieces. They will be at it for a while but the end-table will be awesome enough for them to feel accomplished!

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