by Gale Pryor, Ruckus Media Contributing Writer
What excites a two-year-old child? Peering at a line of ants marching down the sidewalk. A basin of soap bubbles. A fistful of mud. And, as any parent with an iPhone or iPad knows, mobile touch screen devices.
Toddlers and preschoolers are learning machines. Their eyes light up and fingers get busy when they come across any opportunity to see and do and hear something new, to practice and perfect their skills, to connect those synapses. Is it cause for concern, then, when a young child is as eager to play with a favorite app on mom’s iPhone as he is to stomp in a puddle or build with blocks? Do even the best apps and touch screen interfaces provide the same quality of learning fun as more traditional playthings?
Recently the New York Times reported the popularity of iPhones among toddlers and their busy parents. The piece also reported a vague concern among child development experts about yet another electronic screen to distract children from essential hands-on playtime. One expert wonders if a “fixation on the iPhone screen every time a child is out and about with parents will limit the child’s ability to experience the wider world”?
At Ruckus, we share that concern. We love watching our own kids explore the world with all their senses (especially when it involves mud). We love seeing their excitement when they make a discovery or master a skill. We want to provide our children with as many of those moments as possible in which they are enthralled, all eyes and fingers and synapses engaged. Sometimes those moments arrive in the middle of a mud puddle, and sometimes when they touch a screen and click on an app.
The world is changing, and the many ways kids learn along with it. A century ago, parents told their children stories at bedtime because they didn’t have libraries of picture books by Rosemary Wells, Jon Scieszka, Andrew Clements and other extraordinary talents. Today, parents and experts alike consider reading picture books—and lots of them—with young children essential to shaping lively, curious minds. At Ruckus, we’re keeping pace with a swiftly evolving world by bringing wonderful storytelling to mobile platforms, one we hope parents will enjoy alongside their children. The new devices finding their way into children’s hands simply open another door to engaging and enriching their minds.
Will iPhones, iPads and other devices “limit a child’s experience of the wider world”? That’s up to you, mom and dad. How do you keep your child’s learning and growing in balance? Select apps that truly enrich so that screen time is worthwhile. Give your child lots of time for other kinds of hands-on learning. Go lots of places. Talk about everything you see and do together. And don’t drop your iPhone in the mud.
So, we pose this question to you: How do you keep your child’s learning and growing in balance? Please let us know in the comments section below!