Up until recently, my two boys were obsessed with gadgets. PlayStation, Nintendo Switch Tablets. They were just consumed by them and could easily sit and play them all the time if giving the chance.
When they didn't have them it was "can I have the Switch" or "can I have the Tablet" repeatedly over and over again and the more we said no the more they lost their minds!
When they weren't gaming they would want to watch television. With the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, you no longer have to wait for your favourite shows to come on; you can just watch them repeatedly with the touch of a button.
So recently, my wife and I decided to ban all gadgets except for a little bit of television until the weekend. The first couple of days they would nag and look for them over and over again. They would complain of being bored, but after a couple of days, they didn't seem to look for them as much. They seemed to discover that there were other ways of enjoying themselves.
They started to play with one another more.
Suddenly we had Lego towers popping up all over the place. We had proud children running in and showing us their amazing pieces of art. We had a lot more imaginative play.
These are things I feel children can't enjoy as much when computers and TV is so easily accessible.
Now living in Ireland doesn't always give kids the ideal situation to go outside and play. It rains a LOT here! And during the colder, darker and wetter days they are more than likely to be indoors so making the most of our indoor space can go a long way to helping the kids get lost in imaginative play.
My wife and I have got the kids plenty of toys down through the years. Big, small, cheap and expensive. From robots to dolls houses. Laser guns to action figures. We have gone through a lot. Most of it's gone, some of it collecting dust in the toy box. Some of it clogging up my shed.
But some things have remained. The cream of the crop if you like. The creative things. The things that allow them to make, build or draw.
Lego has without doubt been the most popular toy that has been in our home. From the moment we got our daughter Ava her first Lego Duplo set for her 2nd birthday the Lego has been a staple in the house. Now is 2019 we have built up a good collection and it's still used just as much by Conor (4) and I know when he's outgrown it our youngest daughter Emily (1) will get great use out of it.
I decided to build this simple little Lego play area in the boy's room to keep all the smaller Lego together. It's just a shelf really but it gives them an organised, creative environment to play in.
A place where they can let their imagination run wild.
Drawing is something we try to encourage every day. Keeping A4 storage boxes within easy reach, one containing crayons, pencils, erasers and sharpeners. Another containing kid's scissors, tape, rulers, glue and other crafting materials.
Besides them, we have lots of paper (A4 printing paper comes in packs of 500 sheets) along with books that show step by step drawing instructions.
A couple of years ago my wife and I got our youngest boy Conor some Kinetic Sand for his birthday. (It's like sand that sticks together, less mess). When we pull it out for him, he could sit at the table for up to an hour playing with it.
Another thing just as popular in our home is Play-Doh. This is something we all played in our younger days. Whether it's making snakes and snails, our pizza's and cake's, it can provide hours of creative play for the children and best of all, It's extremely cheap.
As a parent, I guess we have got to ask ourselves are we taking the easy option here by handing our children the gadgets. Are we giving them the Switch just to keep them quiet? Are we putting on that movie just to get two hours of peace and quiet?
A quick search on Google will bring up a list of side effects that too much screen time will do.
Hampers Cognitive Development.
Builds Obsession Leading to Agitation.
Delayed Physical Development.
Restrains Social Relationships.
Increases Risk of Obesity.
Less Focus on Studies.
Sense of Isolation.
Strain on the Eyes.
But if you're a parent I'm sure you have seen first-hand some of the rages the kids will go into when asked to turn them off or the boredom they complain about when not getting them.
But ban them for a few days and you'll notice they quickly forget about them.
They'll be more cheerful, will laugh more, chat more and play more.
They'll do the things children are meant to do. They'll be kids again.