Can Kids Still Be Entertained?

by Samantha on May 10, 2014

kid playing on tablet

How do you entertain the kid who has seen and done everything?

It’s a tough question but a real concern for parents these days.

The idea of “kids’ entertainment” takes on a whole new perspective in the digital age. For those who have grown up in an age of video games, iPads and Google, the idea of being entertained is much different from that of their parents.

Part of the problem is the fact that what’s considered “entertainment” has changed considerably over the years. Gone are the days where the choices were few and far between: a movie on a Saturday afternoon, a local fair, a playdate. Nowadays, the entertainment choices that kids have are mind-boggling, all due to progress and technology. The digital age has indeed changed the playing field – literally – as kids are choosing video games over volleyball (or other outdoor sports, for that matter) and real-life.

What’s a parent to do?

Because of the prevalence of options out there, kids almost have too much choice. It’s a big old digital world out there and the possibilities are endless. Why go outside and play when one can create their own playground - and friends  - digitally?

The bar has been set fairly high in the last 10 years or so, and the old standby options for kids’ play are up against digital contenders that make an afternoon at the park seem pedestrian at best. Whether it’s choosing a movie from an extensive digital collection to watch on our large-screen TVs, or simulating downhill skiing in the Alps, a child’s expectations are much more sophisticated and extensive than ever before.

Part of the problem is that we as parents have benefited from they myriad of digital entertainment choices that are available to our kids. We have given them the tools to play, grateful that the latest technological gadgets have provided us with a few moments of peace. Why throw the baseball with your child when they can play baseball with a whole team - digitally, of course? Why build a fort in the backyard when you can build a kingdom over the ether?

We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re stressed out and frazzled. And in our haste to find a few moments of peace in our own frenetic worlds, we have passed on to our children the idea that activities that require any semblance of energy are optional. The alternative? A digital one. One that keeps them quiet and out of our hair.

If we convey to our children that something as simple as kicking around a soccer ball is not only “low-tech” but more effort than it’s worth, they’ll follow our lead and download yet another video game.

Recent calls to return to our parental roots and engage in old-fashioned play seem to echo a growing concern about this reality. I spoke about it this very topic here, with other equally concerned parents. Increasing outdoor and conventional play time in the digital age may also warrant more extreme measures for our addicted kids, including limiting screen time and in some cases getting rid of the tech tools altogether. A scary proposition which may require some of us to actually take the time ourselves to turn off our smartphones and put down our tablets.

As much as we enjoy the fact that technology has given us choices in how we entertain our children, perhaps we need to step back and reassess how much we’ve allowed this same technology to take the place of more simple pursuits - ones that allow us to bond with our kids the way no video game or app can. At the end of the day, a pixel can’t and shouldn’t replace a playdate, even in the most modern of times.

Can kids still be entertained without the use of technology? What do you think? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Funster May 12, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Samantha
Great write up. What we’ve done with our two daughters who are very tech savvy believe it or not, was to make every Friday night “game night” where we would as a family, order in pizza and play board games like Sorry, Trouble and so forth. After doing this over a month or so we noticed that the two of them started playing other board games on their own together and with their friends. The still play electronic games (e.g. PlayStation, etc.) but not nearly as much as they use to, much to our satisfaction. This worked for us! Hopefully this was helpful. Thanks again for a great post, I enjoyed reading it.
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Samantha May 14, 2014 at 11:21 am

Board games used to be a staple of family time in my life when I was growing up. It’s sad that more kids don’t engage in this type of play. Sounds like you’ve shown your kids the merits of old-fashioned play while lessening their screen time. Good for you! Maybe you’ll start a trend ;) Thanks for commenting.

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Zera May 16, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Having an autistic kid have made us introduce iPads a lot sooner than we would have wanted, however the iPad has been a great help with speech so I can’t complain but with my other two neorotypical children I can see it becoming very addictive very easily, I basically try to keep the boys out of house as much as I can.. Hard job to keep them all happy at once as they often say bored the moment I sit down
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Samantha May 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm

So true about kids getting bored easily, Zera! I’ve heard that iPads provide great support for children with autism, so for this reason I’m all for it. Still, it’s difficult to pull any child away from the tech toys as they seem to have so much more to offer (in their minds) compared to good old-fashioned play outdoors. I guess we just keep trying… Thanks for commenting :)
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Ryan(@SimpleMoolah) May 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Hi Samantha! Great topic in deed! I think this is something that a lot of parents have a “love/hate” relationship with. Being a father of 2 myself, I can definitely relate. I love that I can whip out my daughters leap frog tablet to keep her quiet and busy when need be, especially at restaurants(which is sort of a win-win because at least she’s learning something at the same time).

But lucky for us, she’s not all that attached to her “tech toys”. She LOVES going outside to blow bubbles, she loves going to the park, and she loves kicking the soccer ball around with dad.

In my personal opinion, it’s a balancing act. You have to find a way to balance between some tech time and some outdoor fun time.

My wife and I are both on the same page when it comes to this so the minute it gets warm, we make it a point to get outside as much as we can. Especially because it seems like the summer weather keeps getting shorter each year, so we want to take advantage of that as much as we can.

I think for busy parents, you have to make an attempt, think about it before hand and schedule it in..even if it means scheduling it in your smartphone as reminder to say “Wed between 7-8pm is playtime outside with my kids”

So this way, it’s scheduled, it’s in your phone…so when the reminder goes off, you don’t have to think about it…and as NIKE says you “Just Do it” :-)

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Samantha May 18, 2014 at 8:31 pm

Hi Ryan,

So true! Scheduling is the key - along with being committed to doing it. Make playing with kids a priority, just like we would make time for work, leisure, or anything else. So often it’s easier to take the iPad route (GUILTY!) but at the end of the day, there needs to be a limit to the amount of tech time kids have. Gadgets are great in a pinch (dining out with kids requires some type of entertainment, no?) but like everything, they should be used in moderation. I love your idea of putting the “appointment” in the old iPhone or smartphone calendar. Much less of a reason not to play with one’s child by doing this!

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