Last week, I received my children’s school newsletter and decided to have a read.
It had the usual stuff in it, attendance of each class, key dates, etc. But what stood out to me and even shocked me was a note from the head teacher about children who were struggling with their handwriting due to excessive use of tablets and phones!
Yes. The use of technology has actually started to affect the fine motor skills, hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination of our children.
My children have always hated us for reducing the amount of screen time they have but I’m so glad we did now. But I think about other children who I see spending countless hours in front of a tablet, swiping away.
This will eventually affect them too and it’s a real worry.
Not long after, I came across an article about trainee surgeons ‘losing dexterity to stitch patients’! A professor of surgery is quoted as saying that students have spent so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands, that they have lost the dexterity for stitching and sewing up patients.
Could this be our children when they become adults? Have we as parents, underestimated the importance of creative and practical, hands-on activities?
Education has become so academic that so called ‘soft’ subjects are even frowned upon. The way school performance is measured tends to push schools to focus on core academic subjects, to the detriment of arts and creative subjects.
Sometimes, as parents, giving our child our phone or a tablet to play on for a little while can be bliss, a little break to sit down and have a cup of tea while it’s still warm. I get it, I really do. Parents are expected to be superhuman these days and we have to be able to juggle everything.
If we can get a break from our children constantly wanting our attention and wanting something to do, we’re going to take it. Of course we are. So a few minutes a day is harmless.
It becomes a problem when those minutes become hours, and it’s first thing in the morning, and while they have lunch and while you cook dinner and just before bed… it goes on and on and before you know it, your child is in front of a screen more often than not.
This doesn’t exclude the TV either. If I leave it up to my kids, they’ll watch TV for hours on end. As a consequence, your child isn’t taking out their toys and building towers or dressing up their dolls.
They have lost interest in painting and play-dough. They don’t want to go outside and do gardening, they would rather watch other children do it on YouTube!
A few years ago, no one really cared if there was a little clutter around the house or if the kids had their toys scattered around. Nowadays, with the pressure of social media, everyone is expected to have perfect looking homes.
I scroll through Instagram and I see the beautiful homes people have, with their perfectly dressed children and home decor to die for. There may be one or two toys lying around that match the decor of the room but otherwise, its picture perfect.
As a result, parents don’t want to make a mess. Some even have an ‘only one toy at a time’ policy, just in case they need to capture another perfect picture or get that unexpected video call.
Ok, I may be exaggerating, or be a little biased… (maybe even a tad jealous!) But I’m sure there is the added pressure there.
I can’t keep up with it and I wish I could!
With the pressure of having seemingly perfect lives and maintaining that perfection, there is an increased chance of handing our children a phone or tablet. It stops them pulling out all their toys and making a mess and it stops them picking things up around the house.
This has really got me thinking about what I see on social media too.
I have seen some mums and dads do wonderful and amazing hands-on crafts with their preschool children. In fact, I’ve seen some great stuff that I really admire, so I question why children are less dexterous.
Could it be that parents are doing those amazing hands-on activities, but just not enough?
I have also noticed that as our preschool children get older, there is more emphasis on doing more academic learning than creative activities. The academic learning tends to happen on a computer or tablet.
Perhaps this contributes to the problem. If schools are placing a greater importance on academic subjects, parents are feeling that they too must focus more on academics.
It’s important for teachers and parents to remember that creativity is not just for artists. Subjects such as design and technology, art and drama are vitally important for children to develop imagination, resourcefulness, resilience, problem-solving skills, team-working and technical skills.
There are so many jobs that not only require good grades but good hand dexterity, surgeon being one of them. Other jobs include, hairdressers, mechanics, plumbers, fashion and design, these are just to name a few.
If we restrict our child and don’t enable them to master their fine motor skills, we are really narrowing their opportunities as adults.
So what do we do about it? The answer is much simpler than you think.
Get your kids using their hands and reduce screen time!
Remember, whatever it is they may be doing, if they are making use of those fine muscles in their hands, then they are increasing their chances of being able to write better as well as do things that require the use of those fine motor skills.
Here are a few things you could do:
- Allow your child to dress themselves. Give them the chance to do up their own zips, buttons and laces.
- Use play-dough or salt dough to make models, big and small.
- Let them read and hold the book, turning the pages makes use of their fine muscles.
- Get them to dressing dolls.
- Use building blocks to make different shaped towers and buildings.
- Paint using different size brushes.
- Colouring books are a great way to learn how to hold a pencil and train.
- Scissor skills – cutting isn’t easy for young ones but a great skill as part of a bigger activity.
- Sticker and activity books – puzzles, dot-to-dots etc. are brilliant for this.
- Cooking and household chores – the action of chopping, stirring, pouring and other things really help.
- Encourage them to do whatever household chores they can do, they can fold their clothes or hang them to dry, sort the washing out, dry the dishes etc.
- Gardening is brilliant – get them digging, watering and handling seeds.
- Get them out! Visit woodlands and parks, museums and libraries – there’s so much to do!
Let’s do what we can to undo the damage caused over the last ten years.
Technology is great but everything in moderation, just like chocolate cake! 🙂