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Why My Toddler Plays With Toys, Not Tablets

Playing with toys, not tablets.My older daughter goes to gymnastics twice a week for an hour and a half at a time. Sometimes my toddler comes with me, sometimes she has other more important places to be. I can tell you that when she is with me, I take time to pack a big bag of toys. I’ve seen the drama that can result from relying on only a screen to keep a toddler entertained and I would like none of it, thank you. Just today a mom came in with four little kids and one tablet. Guess how that turned out? (It wasn’t well.) Last week a little girl became bored with her mom’s phone and with nothing else on hand to play with, the little girl became antsy, the mom became frustrated, and said, “JUST WATCH A SHOW ON THE PHONE.” Out of frustration/anger/boredom/being a little kid, the girl chucked the phone and broke the screen.

Look, I don’t care if you’re the best parent in the world. If you have a toddler, things are going to get thrown and toddlers don’t give a rat’s hooey if it’s a ball or your phone. It’s all the same to them.

Neither of my kids are allowed to play with my phone, never have been. My phone is my link to the outside world, work, and my day-to-day schedule. It would cost hundreds of dollars to replace and many hours and memories would be lost if it were to be damaged or misplaced. Addie is allowed to play with my tablet (with permission!), while Vivi is only allowed to play with it under direct supervision from someone much bigger than herself. If she hits it, smacks it, or tries to toss it all bets are off. It gets taken away.

I just can’t see relying on something so fragile to keep a toddler entertained for 90 minutes. What if the battery dies? What then? What if the game she likes to play goes berserk? What if she’s just not interested in it? What would I have to fall back on? This is why I stick to a bag full of toys. Maybe my sense of preservation comes from so many cross country flights with Addie when she was younger. Toys had to last, toys had to have a purpose beyond simply being watched. Screens cannot be watched during takeoff and landing on a plane. Screens can only take you so far when you’re trapped in the Denver airport on a surprise 8 hour delay.

Screens have their place, especially with my friends who parent special needs children. But my toddler can entertain herself with three cars and a block of wood just as easily as my other daughter did 6 years ago when tablets were still only seen  in sci-fi moves. Do I care if you use screens with your kids? Not one bit, in fact I’d like to know what their favorite apps are. But what I do want to say is that screens are iffy at best, and I suggest that parents and caregivers have a simple back-up toy or two in case the plan to “watch a show during your brother’s soccer practice” backfires.

Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy or her Babble Voices site Shutterlovely. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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