5 Years of Digital Parenting - part two: “Screentime”

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Ok, in this first follow up post I’m going to talk some more about screens and what is widely referred to as “screentime”. As I mentioned in the previous post, our approach has been to not limit our kids’ screen time but to pay attention to what content they consume and be involved in their play whether it involves a screen or not. We will occasionally limit the amount of time they stay sat down or indoors, but only if it really has been hours - generally speaking if they want to play on an iPad all morning, that’s fine, although in truth they rarely get more than 3 or 4 hours at a stretch indoors at home anyway, with nursery and school and family activities at weekends.

I should also point out that

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5 Years of ‘Digital Parenting’ - Stock-take, part one

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Rosie and I now have had more than five years’ worth of experience raising children in a house full of technology, so I thought it’s about time to review our approaches and think about whether things have worked out or not.

As I have mentioned before, we very quickly realised the magical influence that touch-screened gadgets exert over young children, but we also recognised what a great motivational opportunity this represents. I think we both saw this fascination as a way of engaging kids in interesting things, rather than as a dangerous attraction that should be suppressed.

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Let’s not raise robots…

Flynnie and I were trying out a new game the other day, (one that is really designed for younger kids, but sometimes it’s fun to play something easy for a little while), and the more I watched him play, the more it bothered me..

I’m not going to name the game, some people may recognise it from the photo perhaps, but I’m making a general point.

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A game of fractions…

So Michael Gove’s new curriculum is out, and amongst many things, he wants five year olds to learn how to do fractions. Now whatever you think of Gove, and there is a fair bit to gnash your teeth about in my opinion, it certainly can’t be said that he doesn’t want education to be ambitious. 

I think its possible to enable kids to learn pretty much anything given enough fun, encouragement and the right level of challenge. Whether it’s desirable for them to learn things early when compared with their cohort is another issue, but Rosie and I have decided to trust that our schools will make other activities available if our kids are bored and want to move on. (I’ve always taken inspiration from my Mother on this, as she used to tell my younger brother

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Apps for girls and boys…?

So a few weeks ago, Rosie wrote a post about how children’s TV has seemed really gender-biased to her recently. That post connected us with the Facebook campaign “Let Toys be Toys - For Girls and Boys" who are doing great work in this area and are shaming toy shops and retailers who inappropriately separate girls and boys toys. Go and like their page and support their work if you feel the same way we do.

However, while that campaign mainly looks at toys, and Rosie’s piece was about television, I thought it was high time to take a look at gender differentiation in the app world.

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Fight flight & froo froo

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Lately I’ve been thinking about an age-old question in modern day terms. Why aren’t more young females taking up coding? Or opting to study Engineering or Science in the new University Technical College that’s due to open in Sheffield this year, or starring in the street dance/bike or wake/snow-boarding clips on YouTube that my 3 year old loves to watch?

I have a few ideas why.

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Helping kids create their own games…

Lucas loves puzzle games and loves drawing ‘tricky mazes’ for other people to solve (which are invariably too tricky for anyone to solve unless they can read his mind..). So we’ve been looking at ways to combine these things by finding puzzle games that let him make his own puzzles to share with us. (And don’t worry, he still draws a lot - this is to make his screen time more engaging, not to replace drawing time with being sat at a computer!)

And, not that we’ve tried every game out there, but the one that’s worked best recently is…

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Nurturing a love of numbers: Lucas and the marbles game

It’s been a little bit quiet on the Appy Families front for a few weeks - partly because we’ve been away and partly because we had a week-long internet outage (which was hellish!). But we’re back now and here’s a new post to prove it :)


A few weeks ago, Rosie wrote about what she really wanted to teach our kids. I agree (of course!) and it reminded me of one of my favourite quotes. It’s from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and it goes:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

The point being that doing things because you are passionate about them is always going to be more effective than doing things because someone tells you to and/or pays you.

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Worry-free parenting in an app…?!

Watch this before reading further…

MamaBear from Mamabear App on Vimeo.

“Download the MamaBear app to give your children the freedom they need & get the peace of mind you deserve.”

“Never have to worry about her wandering off with her friends”

“Spend less time checking his Facebook page and get alerted when he makes a new friend.. you can be notified of inappropriate language (you can set what this is so you could make it even more intrusive..) protecting your kids just got a whole lot easier.”

I don’t even know where to start.. seriously.. this is simply the most intrusive, controlling, inappropriate, boundary crossing and down right disrespectful piece of tech I can think of.

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Teaching versus learning

Since I became a mum nearly 5 years ago, and a Non-Directive Play Therapist 4 years ago, I have experienced, both first and second hand, the anxiety and the eagerness parents have for their child to learn.  Of course, we all want our children to learn and grow and flourish, but what I’m talking about is the emphasis that parents put on their child knowing ‘stuff’.  This stuff is ‘tick box’ stuff and ranges from farmyard animal noises to colours, numbers, letters and beyond.

When looking at how children learn, we know that they learn through play. This is fact, although many parents don’t seem to truly believe it and don’t trust that play is enough. I think fundamentally there is a whole generation of parents thinking along the wrong lines. A generation thinking about measurable, observable ‘tick box’ outcomes that have been drummed into us via a painfully outdated education system concerned with ticking those same boxes.

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