I know. Your child wants a new phone or tablet or video game for Christmas sooooooo badly. And the sales are irresistible. And all their friends have one, or are getting one, too.
How happy they’ll be when they see that shiny new device under the tree! But, oh, how unhappy you’ll all be after they open it. The distraction and addiction will set in within minutes of turning it on.
We all tell our children to disregard peer pressure. “If Johnny were jumping off a bridge, would you too?” So why does everyone get a screen for their kiddo when we are learning how bad they are for them? Security? Please. We were far safer without constant tracking than our kids are with it.
Melanie Hempe has captured all of this in her excellent book, Can Your Teen Survive—and Thrive—Without a Smartphone? In it, she shows how her daughter graduated high school—happily—without a smartphone. She details all the things she avoided, and all the benefits. Every parent should read this book, and act accordingly.
So what do you do instead? Buy gifts that inspire them. Stir their imagination. Help them learn that fun doesn’t come from a screen, nor from doing what everyone else is doing. Help them understand that they are made for more than to serve the social media and video gaming industrial complexes as data serfs all the days of their lives.
Here’s a quick list of ten ideas to fill your tree instead.
- Books! There are many wonderful books that will ignite your child’s imagination while inspiring their hearts. Choose wisely, and then join them. In fact, turning off all screens and reading to them every night is like giving your child (or teenager) a super-power.
- Board games! Getting the family together for face-to-face interactions with Apples to Apples or Scrabble or Monopoly yields hours of fun with the bonus of building social skills.
- Puzzles! There are puzzles for almost every age and interest, and they allow for hours of time talking while you’re searching for the right piece.
- Legos! These magic bricks are an entry into a wonderland of creativity and fun. I credit some of my success as a software developer to the time I spent designing and architecting my own Lego worlds.
- Puppets! Many kids love to create stories where their characters go on amazing adventures. Puppets are a way of imaginative play and self-expression that are fun for everyone.
- Trampolines! How about some fun physical activity? A big trampoline can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, and again, provides hours of excitement that all of their friends will want to enjoy with them.
- Bikes! A bicycle under the tree is more fun than a screen. It’s even better when the whole family rides together.
- Kites! Depending on where you live, you may have an open space with winds that can lift a kite, and with it, your child’s heart.
- Tech: There are some tech-toys that don’t inspire screen addiction: things like remote control cars, robots, or drones.
- And last: Books! Seriously! But the only way they’ll love them is if you share them together. If you’re on your phone while you want your child to read, it won’t work. But if they read to you, or you read to them, or you sit together reading quietly after a busy day, you’ll all be better for it.
How about you? What other ideas do you have instead of a screen this Christmas?
Photo Credit: Ben White