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How to incorporate funcraft and educational learning in the home…

By Michael Hawton, Parentshop

It’s time to shut off the screen, step away from the iPad and look at new (or should I say old-school) ways of educating children through funcraft and games. While it may be true that the laptop, iPad and desktop computer have paved the way for innovative and ‘connected’ learning in the classroom – making it not only effective but fun – a lot can be said for traditional methods, which seem to have lost their place in a technology-driven world.

For parents, the greatest battle can often be prying their children away from the screen, meaning, rather than fight with their kids, most find a way to make ‘screen time’ as educational as possible. But how much time is too much, and are we sacrificing our child’s education in order to appease their new-found technology addiction?

While I am not discrediting the value and need for online gaming and learning programs such as LeapFrog Academy, Mathletics and thousands of others, there are vital life skills and teachings a child will never learn while staring at a screen, they include:

Building social skills and connecting with peers: There are some things you can’t learn in a book, or by watching an educational program. Sometimes, you’ve got to put theory into practice and learn on the go. Social skills are one of them. How we speak, act and feel is developed from a young age and is often influenced by our interactions with others. We mirror and model from those closest to us and it plays an integral role in self-construct.

Problem solving – without Google! All too often, we don’t teach our children problem solving skills, we teach them how to seek out the solution with just the click of the button. “Just Google it” or “ask Siri” are some of the most commonly heard phrases, and they are ones that make my eyes roll. We’ve become so dependent on our devices that we often let them control our lives, and we don’t think for ourselves. Unfortunately, this mentality is rubbing off on our children.

Gross motor skills: It’s important that we keep our children moving and growing. Infants and toddlers, specifically, need to be encouraged to get up, play, move, crawl and run. Screens, especially at an early age, inhibit this and can delay growth and natural progress – which is a rising concern for parenting experts and health professionals.
Furthermore, as much as we’d like to ignore it, obesity is quickly becoming one of Australia’s greatest health concerns, with emerging evidence linking it directly to excessive screen time.

Suggested Funcraft and learning games:

There is no right or wrong way to introduce funcraft and real-time activities; it’s just a matter of engaging with your children, encouraging creativity, and providing some much-needed time away from the TV and computer screen. But for those who are a little stuck for ideas on how to incorporate learning at home, here are some ideas to get you started:

Outdoor games:

Ball games, counting steps, what’s the time Mr Wolf (an old-school classic), show-and-tell (nature-related), wild-life discovery (birds and bugs), excursions to parks and museums. The tip here is to make these activities both fun and educational – if your child is excited by the idea of learning, the process will be a lot smoother, and they’ll soon forget the iPad and iPhone ever existed!

Funcraft:

Cut-and-colour alphabet letters, drawing, colouring, building-block learning (lego, alphabets, numbers), and construction of models, collages and dioramas are all activities that will increase gross motor skills and encourage learning, in both a fun and stress-free way. Additionally, songs and music time can be effective in your child’s education. Whether they are singing the times tables or experimenting with different DIY musical instruments made from items at home, the intent is to encourage creativity and imagination. And, as these activities can be done with others, it’s a great opportunity for your child to develop social and problem-solving skills – these are vital and can rarely be taught through screen-based learning.

While educators are not condemning the use of technology, they are urging parents to limit screen time and remember the importance of real-time activities that encourage learning and growing. For more information or support on how you can encourage fun and educational learning in your home, please visit the Parentshop website.

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