It incenses me when I visit my mother on a lovely sunny day, and find my 12 year old brother glued to the Xbox 360, with no intention of parting with it until he has completed the level and the one after, and probably the next one too.
When I was younger, games consoles were nowhere near as popular as they are today, and in fact we used ours as a family treat, where we would put a game on and each take turns, swapping over when one of us lost. It was a fantastic bonding experience, but it was a once a week treat.
Now, in so many families, gaming has become part of the average child’s daily routine. Come home, eat tea, play the latest shoot-‘em-up, check Facebook…. It’s a destructive cycle that we need to break. But how?
As parents, if we try to intervene, it can cause ructions and arguments, and so ground rules need to be set. But it isn’t just about hiding the console; it’s about finding something to fill the time. Here are a few simple ways to get your children away from Call of Duty, and back to being proper children!
- Limit the amount of time your child is allowed on the games console per night. This is at your discretion, but since guidelines recommend they rest every hour, an hour per night seems reasonably suitable.
- Family board games or jigsaws – set aside one evening a week to play a game together. The age of the child will dictate what you do. Hungry Hippos may be suitable for a young family, while a good long game of Monopoly will stimulate older children (and even help them with maths skills a little too!).
- If it’s a sunny day, a trip out to the park, or a bike ride could be in order! Take a picnic and some things to do, like a Frisbee or a football for when you stop.
- Raining out? Why not try some arts and crafts, or even home baking with your child! Galt Toys have a fantastic range of craft kits, such as ‘Cute Cupcakes’ or their ‘Chocolate Making set’. Younger children will enjoy this kind of thing (as long as you let them lick the spoon) while an older child may get more ‘into’ helping to make the family meal.
- For the budding scientist (or a child who just enjoys being messy), why not try getting them into home science kits? A popular one when I was young was making a volcano. Just some baking powder, some red food colouring, and a dash of vinegar provided hours and hours of fun! Tip: Make sure you have kitchen roll/newspaper at hand for the eruptions…
- Teenagers and pre-teens aren’t always as easily pleased as their younger siblings, and it is important to find something that amuses them. Try encouraging a hobby or sport that fits in with what they are good at. You could also suggest they relive their youth by helping the younger ones have fun with some of these ideas?
What do kids really think of our ideas? I ran some of these past my 12-year-old test subject Tom, who had this to say:
Tom: ‘If you wanted to get me off (my games console) I wouldn’t mind going bowling or going to the cinema. If it was sunny, I like going on the bikes with my friends round the doors.’
So I asked him, how would he feel about family time, and what would he like to do as a family if we were having a quiet night in? I also showed him some suggestions of items online, such as ‘Make your own…’ kits.
Tom: ‘I like drawing pictures, and making things. It’s fun making a mess and not getting in trouble! I like the look of some of the science experiment things, science is one of my favourite things at school but we don’t get to do many experiments.
I also spoke to Claire, mum of Ben, aged 5. I asked her, what do you do with Ben to try and get him to put down the controller?
Claire: ‘Ben can be so naughty when it comes to tearing him away from his games, but he has learned that, when mummy says time to play something else, he has to put it down and come and play. I try and encourage him to build things with his younger sister. He loves toys where he can build a track, like with his cars, and he always tries to make a bigger and better one!’
Sometimes, the best fun can be free, but there are always new ideas being launched onto the market to distract your children. Why not try some of these ideas with your little angels?
James Galt & Co. was established in 1836 as an educational stockist in Manchester. They expanded to printing and publishing services in the 1850s, and it wasn’t for nearly another 100 years that Galt Toys was born. Galt now make and market their own range of exciting toys and games for children aged 0-10, encouraging their development along the way. To view their products, visit www.galttoys.com.