Every time I go out I see more and more children with iPods, iPads, iPhones, DSs and many other electronic devices in their hands. As I waited to be seated at a restaurant, I watched three siblings “playing” each with their own “screen”, while their poor Barbie dolls and cars were forgotten in their mother’s purse. And though I understand the reason(s) why parents like this new trend, and knowing that some of those devices might be therapeutic at times; I feel terrified to think about the amazing opportunities that children are missing while they “play” with “screens”.

Playing (truly playing) provides for building various motor, cognitive, social-emotional, and life skills in children. Here is an example of what these three siblings were missing, while they were waiting for their table, if they had been playing with those dolls and cars…

  • Social Skills: They missed the opportunity to learn to take turns and share while switching between the cars and the dolls, and between play ideas and scenarios.  This is the beginning of cooperative play, as children engage in a shared play activity.
  • Sensory-Motor Skills: Imagine the amount of fine motor control, visual skills and touch discrimination ability that they could have been developing, if they had been changing the dolls clothes.
  • Social-Emotional Development:  They missed the opportunity to express themselves and explore with emotions in a safe environment, as they pretended different scenarios with their toys.  Doing this promotes the development of empathy, self-confidence, and understanding that others have their own unique thoughts and feelings.
  • Cognitive Skills:  They could have been learning problem-solving skills and building their imagination and creativity. They missed out on the ability to analyze situations, evaluate their own and others actions, recall experiences, make comparisons, and determine their actions accordingly.
  • Life Skills:  They could have been learning how to be more aware of their environment, exploring and possibly finding new social participation opportunities, developing independence, and learning responsibility as they safely play while waiting near the adults.

So next time you pack your child’s “screens” in the car, remember to add a non electronic toy with it. If your child dislikes the idea, tell him/her to play with their toys for the first 15 minutes and then they can play with their electronics. They will likely get so involved in real play that they might even forget about their iPod in your pocket.