- Three in four (75%) parents admit to watching TV with their child when they are together
- 9 out of 10 children watch TV, films or DVDs (91%), but only 1 in 3 children engage in non-competitive play that risks bumps and bruises, such as climbing a tree (33%)
- 1 in 4 parents most often watch TV, films or DVDs when playing with their children (26%), as opposed to 1 in 20 who most often engage in imaginative, make-believe or role-play games (6%)
These are some of the findings from the Ribena Plus Play Report – based on a survey of 2,004 parents of children between the ages of 3 and 15 conducted in February 2012. “We found that parents have lost the confidence to play with their children. They love to play with them and know what kind of play is most beneficial but they have trouble putting the theory into practice,” Verity Clifton, brand director at Ribena, commented on the report’s findings.
But, it seems that as parents, we do know what’s best for their children. According to the report,
- Only 12% say their child is happiest watching TV
- 4 out of 5 parents (79%) agreed that play should be for fun rather than about achieving a goal and almost every respondent thought it was important for their child to play outside (97%)
Then when compared to reality, things are quite different. For example, as I’m typing up this post, Child 2 is watching a Tom & Jerry DVD on the computer and Child 1 is watching The Simpsons on television. They are quiet, their tired little faces staring blankly at the screens. While they sit motionless, I carry on working.
During the week, it’s just not possible for me to down tools and play with them after picking the kids up from school. I need to earn some dosh to pay for school dinners, nursery fees, the weekly food shop, nappies, and other children-related miscellaneous. So I count on the TV and computer for a few hours of babysitting before bedtime. And yes, I do feel terribly guilty about it. Because I know that too much screen time is bad for them.
Janet Moyles, an Early Years Consultant and author of Excellence of Play, describes how
exploratory play is about first-hand experiences, trial-and-error learning and sensory encounters. Children engaged through their play in exploring the world, learn to develop a perception of themselves as competent, self-assured learners who know that it’s all right to ask questions, make mistakes and discover things for themselves. Whilst gathering information about objects through exploration, children acquire skills including problem-solving and understanding of the characteristics of each object.
What is a mother in my situation to do? I don’t have a clue. I need to work, but the kids need to stop watching so much TV. I’m just not available to be their playmate. Weekends, fine. Week days, not so fine.
Maybe I’ll try unplugging the damn screens, scatter random toys on the floor, and see if that works.