Often I, as a parent, have faced that dead-end where I didn’t know what to engage my active child with. Taking advantage of my confusion, he would steal the remote of the television. My objections then fell onto deaf ears, once he had possession of the remote. Logic aside, it worked for me as television kept him occupied and silent, and I didn’t have to run behind him. Rather I focused on my pending jobs and got them blissfully ticked off my table.
Soon however I realised that the child was watching cartoons for long hours and the duration only increased with time, as much as he was left alone with the television. All through those dumb hours of sitting on the couch, he would unblinkingly stare at the screen in front, entertaining no requests, instructions or advice that came from the sides. He refused to go out and play in the park; he threw a fit if we offered to take him out for a drive.
To put an end to his obsession, we obviously had to find out alternate means.
Just before his television time started, we scooped him out of home and took him out; we returned only after his television shows were over. We needed to discover some potential pastimes that wouldn’t remind him of the idiot box. We took him to a mall and made him sit on one of the benches there, and opened his homework books. He focused and got distracted at his own will, but completed the homework nevertheless by the time I finished my coffee.
Eventually, we discovered some other options that could provide better engagement and learning, compared to watching television for long hours. Some of those are elaborated below.
Tracking: for those who can’t find a better place to take the child and hits the mall as their outing preference, it would be nice if they can make good use of the resources available there. Try this game called tracking. If your child is too small, still adapting to the concepts of colours and shapes, ask him (for example) to find something blue or triangular from whatever is available around. Encourage him to ask you back, so that it becomes a game, rather than a one-way learning exercise, which might bore him beyond a point. Ask him age appropriate items to track, so that he gets to learn about new objects and gets to know about their utility. For their entertainment, at times show your incompetence in tracking the stuff that they assign you to find.
Reading / Painting / Music: These are some extracurricular activities that help develop story-telling skills, as they enable the child to express himself. If he enjoys reading or stories, read them out and explain the concepts covered in the story. My child hates reading; even if we try to read out to him or simply tell him a story, he tries to run away. But when I gave him an easel and canvas, I found him having a blast with colours. He created his own designs with people he knew, places he has visited, explaining things he wants to do.
Get the child to soak some mustard seeds overnight, put some soil in a pot in the morning, give him a spatula (or a spoon) to de-arrange and rearrange the soil, sprinkle water and the mustard seeds. Make him pour water into it. Make him count the leaves as they appear.
Wrapping: Teach him how to wrap books, birthday gifts, etc. This will help him understand that things need to be protected and maintained. Also, the technique of cutting, folding, wrapping introduces the idea of processing things. This is something they’d genuinely enjoy, as they’d get to play with the forbidden glue and cellotapes.
Gardening: This is one intellectual hobby that can teach multiple things, most importantly, valuing life. Help them to appreciate eco-friendly initiatives. Mustard granules are the easiest things to start with. Get the child to soak some mustard seeds overnight, put some soil in a pot in the morning, give him a spatula (or a spoon) to de-arrange and rearrange the soil, sprinkle water and the mustard seeds. Make him pour water into it. Make him count the leaves as they appear. Use other seeds and shoots to develop this into a hobby. It not only introduces green to the child, but also gets him to learn the progress of growth in living things.
Rearranging: Rearrange the home at regular intervals and hire him as the helping partner. Not only does it attribute a fresh look to the same old home without a penny spent extra, but it also hones the creativity of the child. Invite ideas from him in decorating the house. Let him create the place where he wants to stay, under your guidance. This instils the faith of ownership.
The five simple ways of engaging the kids listed above do not require any added investment; yet they are impactful in channelising their focus creatively and relevantly. Try them yourself. Give a break to the televisions and mobile phones.