Ways to keep your kids busy

2010-12-12 13:36

Schools have closed for the ­holidays, but your kids don’t have to waste away in front of mind-numbing TV programmes and ­video games.

“Watching TV, playing video games and hanging out at shopping malls can be transformed by supervising your children, suggesting activities that are age appropriate and setting clear boundaries. The boundaries can be more flexible during the holidays, but they are boundaries nonetheless,” says Merle Dieterich of kids’ activity website Jozikids.co.za.

And there are alternatives. ­Harriet Leisegang, educational psychologist and director of the Bright Start Early Intervention Centre, says: “There are many free activities on offer at shopping malls and various organisations advertise low-cost activities in ­local newspapers.”

Board games, says Dieterich, are a start. These stimulate the mind, and are social and engaging.

“There are board games such as Uno, Monopoly and Scrabble. And there are simple games that only require paper and pencil, such as noughts and crosses.”

Activities that can keep children stimulated for hours while engaging their creativity include arts and crafts – Play-doh and colouring books – as well as construction games, such as Lego.

Dieterich says parents shouldn’t dismiss the games of their childhood either: yo-yos, pogo sticks, scooters, bicycles and skipping ropes are still popular and ­appealing.

Play that encourages exercise, such as skating, is recommended. But not all the activities require energy , as Leisegang points out.

“Some of the bigger libraries may also have activities for the children,” she says.

Dieterich agrees. “It’s useful to visit the library and borrow a book for the holidays.”

Some activities benefit everyone involved.

“Children learn so much from helping those less fortunate – even a visit to an elderly neighbour or an old age home, as they have time on their hands,” says Leisegang.

“Children could also undertake a few more chores to give parents a break, or learn a new skill, such as knitting, crocheting or baking, perhaps from a friend or granny.”

And if you just can’t pull those kids away from the PlayStation or Wii, all is not lost. A new study in the US has shown that some video games can improve children’s eating habits and behaviour.

Professor Tom Baranowski from the Baylor College of Medicine said this week that video games such as Escape from Diab and Nanoswarm were designed to reduce the risk of becoming obese.

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