Now that I’ve gotten a little braver, I’ve decided to start publicizing this project of mine. I’ve decided to delve into the world of blogging, focusing on our family journey in respect to play, and how to have a healthy play environment in a world where technology is becoming a more pivotal part of work and play. When I started having children, I started reading parenting blogs, magazines and articles, and one of the most commonly repeated tropes is that young children should have little to no access to screens. While there are many articles about the evils of technology for young children, and there is definite truth that too much technology is a bad thing, I quickly discovered that having no screens available wasn’t going to happen with my kids.
I actually tried to keep screens away with my eldest son, and it was next to impossible. When he was a baby screens held no interest, but as he got older and started to notice phones, televisions, and computers, he started trying to get to them. He quickly started figuring out how to turn them on and off, and if he could get the remote he could find things to watch on his own. This is also the child who completely undid all the baby proofing in the house by the time he was 18 months old. So we put up more passwords and codes, and we started hiding electronics and remotes in an attempt to keep them away. All of our electronics that are small enough live on top of the china cabinet if they aren’t in use; it’s the only place he hasn’t figured out how to get to them…yet.
My husband, Matt, and I both love playing video games, both together and individually. My husband especially loves Nintendo, while I was into computer gaming and had a PlayStation 2 growing up. This has been one of our favorite things to do together since we started dating. So our son’s interest naturally turned to our video games, especially Matt’s consoles. Matt was thrilled, because gaming as a whole family is something he has been looking forward to since we discussed having children before we got married; but at the same time, we both were concerned about how interested he was by the time he was almost two years old. Pretty much all of this last year has been discussion and debate over how to juggle our little Third Player’s enthusiasm and keep his interest from becoming unhealthy. I’m not going to lie, we’ve had a number of missteps throughout the year as we’ve started trying to figure out how to address this.
When I had our first baby, I was still going to work pretty close to full time. But when I got pregnant with our second son, things had to change. My mother, who had been babysitting for us, decided that she wouldn’t be able to handle watching two little kids for a whole work day. Also, my job had outgrown its original parameters and was becoming difficult to manage, and I agreed with my boss that it needed to be redesigned, and it was ultimately split into several separate positions, one of which is a irregular work from home position that I still hold. I also had a high risk pregnancy and a number of extra complications including anxiety, partial bed rest and severe insomnia. With all these factors, my husband and I agreed that it was time to at least temporarily take a break from working a job out of the house.
When I gave birth to my second son, I was in really bad shape physically and emotionally. I spent the first several months at home focusing on adjusting and recovering; it was hard and crazy, but also rewarding. I don’t think my home has ever been this messy, but we’ve been bouncing back steadily. I also began focusing on building a new routine for us, and in doing this, I began redeveloping an interest in developmental psychology and play based learning. Being at home had definite benefits, but I often missed going to work in the office, I missed the projects, I even missed deadlines. I told my boss this when I was doing some work from home, and he got a good laugh out of that. When I told Matt I was feeling this way, he suggested I consider blogging. I decided to let that idea stew and pray over it to see what kinds of directions I felt I should take this, I needed a goal and not something too broad.
While I was pondering this, the Nintendo Switch was released; and with it Matt the Nintend-nerd came out in full force. He had set aside some Christmas money to purchase it and he was at GameStop at midnight on release day. I don’t think I’ve seen him this excited for something in a long time, and fortunately, he wasn’t disappointed. The Switch lived up to his expectations, and in the last few months it has traveled with us on two road trips, and gets used pretty much every day. I’ll probably go into more detail on it later. And along with the Switch came Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and this was the trigger that turned our little technophile into a full blown Player 3. When he watched his dad play the Switch, our eldest son’s intrigue with all the buttons and control sticks suddenly clicked, and he realized exactly what the controllers did. And he liked it. Suddenly, he wanted to sit with his daddy and help him solve the puzzles in the shrines, hunt koroks and save the Princess.
Player 3 was now a fully formed entity in our lives; a clever, surprisingly tech savvy little boy, and this posed a problem. How do I go about navigating technology with a toddler who has figured it out to this degree? How do I teach him limits, and keep him interested in a variety of things? When you have a two year old who’s preferred hobby is 2D Platformers, what do you do? As I said earlier, technology usage for young kids is a hot topic, and the general consensus it to avoid it, and yet it’s everywhere. It’s not going to go away either, we live in a world where a certain degree of technological skill is necessary, and technology is going to be even more important as a skill for our kids.
Matt and I agreed we needed a plan, and that we needed to set the rules and tone for technology use in our house. Agreeing on what the rules and tone would be was and is an ongoing discussion. We still haven’t come to a complete agreement, but here are some basic rules we have agreed on.
- Videogames for Player 3 is part of family time, he isn’t allowed to play games alone.
- Game Time is a short part of his day, and not necessarily every day.
- Player 3 needs non-tech time every day, including toys that sing, light up and move. He has both outdoor play time and indoor quiet time.
- Playtime needs to be varied throughout the day, and include activities such as reading or helping mommy or daddy with manageable and fun projects. (chores)
This has been one of the biggest reasons why I started revisiting my notes from my developmental psychology class as well as my other psychology classes from college, and I’m beginning to start talking to people I know about books and studies specifically on technology and play based learning. And what started as just curiosity about technology and parenting, has become the basis for an entire blog. In my next post, I plan on talking about my beginning research in the importance for play in adults, and the other things I plan to do with this blog.
See Ya Next Time!