It is true. Technology is here to stay and will only become more predominant with each passing year. Studies are working hard to justify the benefits of technology use for our youngest children claiming, “Children engage in high levels of spoken communication and cooperation at the computer. They initiate interactions more frequently and in different ways than when engaged with traditional activities, such as puzzles or blocks. They engage in more turn taking at the computer and simultaneously show high levels of language and cooperative-play activity. (National Association for the Education of Young Children). However, the use of technology does not address how children learn – by sensorially engaging multiple senses through touch, vision, sound and taste in a constructive process. Mealtime can be a perfect time to incorporate sensorial learning with creating socially prepared children and fond memories.
While walking through a restaurant the other evening I noticed something…something that was disturbing to see at the time and has bothered me ever since. Every single child in every single age bracket was plugged in to either an ipad device or a smart phone. And I am not exaggerating! Every child I walked past looked utterly disconnected to anything around them. They were zombified by the visual imagery in front of them. Parents every where had a hand held babysitter for the sake of a quiet dinner. At what cost? Where are the lessons of social engagement? How many of those children will understand the skill of conversation with adults, waiting their turn, asking to pass the salt, learning self-control to sit long enough to wait for their food. What happened to the days of being intrigued by those around us and discovering objects in new and unfamiliar surroundings?
I am a Mom. I get how tempting it is to simply press the “on” button for a peaceful meal. Meal time in my memory was a time for talking to each other, learning about what is going on in our day, telling stories, or playing “I Spy” or tic-tac-toe if the meal was really taking a long time. Interaction is important for both children and parents. Many of my fondest memories is of eating dinner with my Mom, Dad and brother laughing about our days events. I have since lost my Mom and am thankful for those memories. As a parent I am now holding on to each and every family meal with our son as time is flying by entirely too quickly. Even when he was very little it was a joy to sit together and share a meal. The time was as limited as his attention span, but special and funny none-the-less.
In this fast paced life family meal time can be a challenge to even accomplish. Why waste the precious moments we CAN fit in by adding even more technology to an already technology filled life? Technology has its place in learning and in our world – just not at the dinner table.
So what to do to keep your children engaged? Here are a few suggestions:
provide small table top manipulative’s for your littlest children. Something with moving parts and color work visual senses and fine motor skills
bring crayons and small coloring books or blank pages for creating their own pictures
small water doodles are clean easy fun for creating
visual/verbal games such as “I Spy”
Spend time learning about each other with questions not normally brought up throughout your day.
What do you like most about your dinner?
If you could make you (peas, broccoli, etc.) a different color what color would they be? Why?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
What is your favorite smell?
What is the best thing that happened today?
What do you like most about your friends?
A little effort will make for memorable and life lesson learning meals. Enjoy!