I’ve just spent a wonderfully special month with my young grandsons and their creative parents. It has had me thinking about how hard it is to bring up children today. I’m particularly thinking about how many difficult decisions parents must make, the time constraints they have, and how much pressure is on today’s children to achieve.

Technology is one of the thorny issues. How much TV time for kids? How much iPad time? If kids don’t play with hi-tech programmes, will they fall behind in the race to the future? Do on-line games train kids to problem solve or turn them into addicted zombies? It’s interesting that the trend among Silicone Valley parents is to cut back on screen time precisely because they know how online games are programmed to foster addiction. I read today that in parts of the US, “throwback” preschools where kids only play are now trending in affluent neighborhoods.

We don’t know what the world will look for our little ones, but it seems that what they will need is to be flexible and creative with a growth mindset that willingly learns from mistakes. Sir Ken Robinson, education expert, believes that creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status.

So, it seems the answer lies in more inventive play. Making a garage from a cardboard box, a tunnel from a cardboard tube, a space rocket from wooden blocks, a house from a pack of cards, a go-kart from the scrap heap. Many children don’t know how to play snakes and ladders or bingo or pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey or charades.  Most of the little ones I teach here in Cape Town can’t entertain themselves with a book. But these activities are what will shape their minds for tomorrow’s challenges.

Recently a pediatric palliative care doctor’s post went viral. He asked his young patients what they had enjoyed in life and what had given it meaning. NONE said they wished they’d watched more TV. NONE said they should’ve spent more time on Face Book. ALL of them loved ice-cream. ALL of them loved books or being told stories. They ALL valued time with their family.

So let’s future-proof young children by spending play time with them- reading to them, playing card games like snap and monopoly, drawing, making models. Even 20 minutes a day will help build the skills kids need and give them memories to treasure.



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