The one about kids and gadgets…

3 oldie parents plus a 17yo, 13yo, 12yo, 10yo, three dogs and a pony go wild in the countryside...

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post hopes to give us all a happy new year – once we’ve sorted out how much time the kids can spend on their new gadgets… For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting, click here.

  • In Homemade Kids there are loads of ideas and options looking at all sorts of ways to bring up children in a thrifty, and creative ways. But there are two assumptions about child-care:
  • One is that by loving our kids (and looking out for all children, in the sense that every child matters) things will be OK (pretty much whatever we do).
  • Two is that being outside – or having access and the clothing/skills to go outside – is vital for children. And their parents and carers.

Give them what they want
After Christmas – and the New Year sales – many readers of this blog will have seen new gadgets arriving into their homes. In the past few days I’ve already met a five-year-old boy who got a Wii (apparently all his friends had one!) and a 16-year-old who used his xmas money to buy  a reconditioned DS. Another eco-writer admitted she couldn’t do any green interviews for radio at the end of 2011 because she’d “succumbed to a Wii”… (again for a boy).

Tainted gifts
Why is it that parents of boys are so keen to give them gadgets? Or for that matter why were both my daughters given make-up by adult relatives? I feel if a child wants something then they should save up or borrow or have a taster over at a friend’s house. I am mystified (and angered if I’m honest) by grown-ups pushing unnecessary, not always age appropriate gadgets and lipsticks on to children. Mind you I’m a grouch and also hated people saying to my baby, “Oh what lovely blue eyes you have, you’ll be a heart breaker someday!” or – even worse – to my pre-schooler “Do you have a boyfriend yet?”

Rationing on the battlefield
Back to gadgets. Even if you haven’t thought about it yet, you will soon probably be thinking about how much time children (and teens) should be spending inside on little square boxes. The Wii, the Nintendo, the laptop, the notebook, the kindle, the smart phone, the TV… My 13-year-old Lola adores catch-up TV for Miranda, Merlin, The Big Bang and Friends – and she has literally years of catch-up to watch all these series. Nell, 10, is a fan of BuildaBear as well as Horrible Histories, Deadly 60 and, bizarrely, Escape to the Country. She’s even recently suggested she’d like to be an estate agent when she grows up…

Although we have some gadgets in our house (ie, no Wii, no Nintendo and I’d be loathe to have them too), modern life ensures there are plenty of opportunities for the girls to be goggle-eyed screen watchers rather than say read a book, get absorbed in a creative project or go outside.

Same problems down under
As I’m writing this in the worst weather – violently windy and wet – on the last day of Lola’s winter school holidays I thought you might enjoy finding out how an ecologist in Australia tries to use logic and adventure to tempt kids outside. It’s a good read – not least because you get to see pix of giant salamander survey hunting and duck-billed platypuses in the creek. Enjoy her piece about “Off the couch and out the door” here. Not surprisingly the American writer Richard Louv is quoted too. Louv’s the author of the best-seller Last Child in the Woods, and his more recent book – for adults – is The Nature Principle, again about solutions to nature-defecit disorder.

Over to you
Do you have limits for how long your kids can enjoy TV or screen games, or is it an all-you-want diet? And more to the point – what’s fun to do when the weather is really awful and you don’t live in Oz?

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2 Comments on “The one about kids and gadgets…”

  1. hedgehoghugh Says:

    we have gadgets – I got sent a Wii at the end of 2010 in an attempt to persuade me that Sega were wonderful (hedgehog-related ranting had been going on) – and it is a wonderful toy. We use it to have BBC i-player on TV and the kids fight and dance with it in a way that they simply do not without … I am not an advocate of computer games, but the ones my kids play are played standing up and dancing around.
    As for outdoors … my wonderful wife’s carboot sale habit comes into its own here – so we have good waterproofs at affordable prices … only once in recent days – Boxing Day in fact – were we defeated … here the wind was so strong on top of the Welsh hill I chose for our walk that the car door was wrenched from my hands as I opened it and after 6 minutes, with both kids having been knocked over by stronger gusts, we gave up … but usually – well, there is just so much out there and as long as you are strong over the hump (the actual getting there) I rarely find a child who does not relish it – in almost all conditions … Mine are 5 and 8 and are either in Harry Potter world (sticks are perfect wands) or helping me find Tomtees. Either are really perfect for the outdoors …

    • homemadekids Says:

      Hi Hugh, I think I need to know what Tomtees are. I know they aren’t hedgehogs, but they sound like something that’d be fun to find. BTW do you limit the time the Wii is used by your kids/family or is it access anytime? Nicola x

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