I don’t think it is easy to bring up children today. Most families are dealing with demanding jobs, child care and trying to make ends meet every month. There are so many difficult decisions parents must make and they have so little time.
Technology is one of the thorny issues. How much TV time for kids? How much iPad/iPhone time? If kids don’t play with hi-tech gadgets, will they fall behind in the race to the future? Do on-line games train kids to problem solve or turn them into addicted zombies? It’s interesting that the trend among Silicone Valley parents is to cut back on screen time precisely because they know how online games are programmed to foster addiction. In parts of the US, “throwback” preschools where kids only play are now starting up in affluent neighborhoods.
The famous historian and futurologist Prof Juval Noah Harari says that much of what children are learning today will be irrelevant by 2050. Who needs to learn their times tables if there is a calculator on every phone? Why do our children learn to write…will they ever need that skill? How many of us handwrite anything these days? Is there any point in their learning grammar if an app will correct their mistakes? Why learn to code if AI will do it all?
We don’t know what the world will look for our little ones, but the consensus from educators and scientists is that they will need to be both flexible and creative. Sir Ken Robinson, education expert, believes that creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status. Let’s encourage our kids to embrace change, to question “facts” and think critically. Teach them to be confident. Teach them to value themselves and learn from their mistakes.
In encouraging creativity I think the answer may lie in more old-fashioned and less digital playing. Making a garage from a cardboard box, a tunnel from a cardboard tube, a space rocket from wooden blocks, a house from a pack of cards, a go-kart from the scrap heap. Many children don’t know how to play snakes and ladders or bingo or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey or charades. Old fashioned games like Mastermind and battleships will teach them logic. Soduku and maze puzzles will train their brains. Get them reading so that they can unlock their imaginations. These are the types of activities that will shape their minds for tomorrow’s challenges.
Dr. Alastair McAlpine a South African pediatric palliative care doctor, wrote a post that went viral. He asked his young patients what they had enjoyed in life and what had given it meaning. NONE said they wished they’d watched more TV. NONE said they should’ve spent more time on Face Book. ALL of them loved ice-cream. ALL of them loved books or being told stories. They ALL valued time with their family.
So let’s future-proof young children by spending play time with them, even if it is only 20 minutes a day- reading to them, playing card games like snap and monopoly, drawing, making models. Those few minutes a day will help build the skills kids will need and at the same time give them memories to treasure.
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