Pickney can play without a smartphone!

Have you ever just stopped for a second and really noticed how some things have changed since you were a child?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I really have. I’ve noticed how a lot of things have been changed by technology, most specifically the smartphones in our hands. We really love our smartphones, don’t we?

I also think a lot about my children and technology and how it has transformed their childhoods from the ones you and I had. There are so many different devices, all kinds of shapes and sizes and let’s not forget the millions of apps. It’s standard for some of our three-and four-year-olds to have the word “YouTube” in their vocabulary!

YouTube, other apps being used as babysitters

Many parents use smartphones and tablets as babysitters; but virtual play has its downfalls. Children become so fixated with these devices that they become anti-social, and almost possessed by the devices and characters within them.

During our ‘Month of Play’ #PlayMattersJA initiative, I was reminded that play is still really important for our little sons and daughters in this generation. To be clear, I don’t mean play in the virtual world that children are so accustomed to now, but good old-fashioned outdoor board games and free play.

The latest tech is not necessarily the best thing if not balanced with a healthy dose of outdoor play that provides so many benefits for our pickney dem.

One of the first things that come to mind in relation to the benefits of outdoor play is the physical benefits. Obviously, if children are playing outdoors they will be way more active than children that stay indoors. Even better news though, is that an active lifestyle at a young age has long-lasting effects. In later life that child is likely to still be more active and less likely to be overweight.

Health benefits of play

In case you’re still thinking that I’m too stuck in the last century, outdoor play also has mental benefits. Studies show that the brain of a child who plays outdoors tends to develop faster than those of children who spend most of their time indoors.

These children become better learners than those who stay indoors and they are even more fun to be around. Moreover, they tend to be happier because of all these things.

I think you’re starting to see the picture. Whether it is stress reduction, increased focus or improved academic performance, there are so many positive things about outdoor play.

Old and new play experiences

Don’t worry though, this isn’t an all-out attack on video games or more broadly, technology. Video games in particular have gone through a transformation of their own. Gaming companies have been diversifying their offerings with products that make users more physically active. I applaud these improvements and encourage them to continue in this direction.

I’ll be making sure my children go outside and get their fair share of “Dandy Shandy” and ring games. I hope you teach your children to play some of these games, and play them with them too! It’s an important part of ensuring we don’t lose our own Jamaican culture also.

The ‘Month of Play’ – when the National Play Day was also held – reinforced the importance of how children explore and learn about their world through play, developing and practicing new abilities. Play builds important social and behavioural skills too. And it’s good for the mind body and soul.

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