Alternatives to a DS (or Amusing Kids in Public)

Dear Reader,

Children with little handheld game players seem to be everywhere these days. My kids do have a few handheld games but they are devices that only play one game each and the games they play are things like yahtzee and tetris. I don’t think such things are inherently wrong but they do seem to permeate life once you let them in. I remember being at a play once, one geared at children, and the little boy next to me played with his DS the whole time. His mother tried to encourage him to put it down but he was not interested and she did not force the issue.

What worries me most about such things is that if I open the door to them, they will become essential. We never got a DVD player for our car, even for long trips (and both sets of grandparents are 12 hours away) for this reasons. Now my kids are a little bigger and I am glad we never gave in. We listen to audiobooks when we go on long trips (and actually on short ones as well).

Most of the parents I have talked to about such things, the ones whose kids have game players, seem to have a sense of abdication about them. They are not usually as bad as the mom who let her son use his during a play, but the attitude seems to be “I just can’t stop this.” Somehow otherwise fairly rigorous parents seem to feel that they just couldn’t resist the pressure to get their kids such things. I would honestly be okay with someone just saying, “I see some value in my son having a DS and therefore I got one for him.” But usually what I hear is “how did you manage to not buy your children one? I wish I hadn’t had to.” But the truth is you didn’t have to. Even if they got it as a birthday present from great-aunt Mathilda, you are the parent and you did not have to let them have it. Admittedly, you would feel like a pretty big bad guy if you took away such a present but you are still the parent and should admit that you had a choice in the matter. Even now you could take it away or limit its use.

Okay I am starting to rant which is not what I had intended. I just had to get that out. (Okay, I didn’t have to; I wanted to!)

My kids have never asked me for a DS or similar device. I am not quite sure why because they have lots of friends with them and are certainly aware of their existence. Perhaps they already know me well enough to know the answer would be no. But we do spend a lot of time waiting around for one another at doctors’ offices and dance classes and such things and somehow we manage to get through it without a lot of cries of “I’m bored!” (Which is actually a sentence I won’t put up with.) So here are some of those alternatives I implied I was going to give in the title to this post:

Things we do while waiting instead of using a DS:

1. Read. My kids bring along their own books or I bring along picture books to places like the doctor’s office.

2. Do crafts. I knit. My nine-year-old crochets. Sometimes others have something they are in the middle of.

3. Write or draw. All it takes is a pencil and paper. Usually we have these floating around (in my purse).

4. Play games. I have one very small yahtzee like game that I keep in my purse for emergencies but we can also make up games that require no or very little equipment like I spy, 20 questions, and hangman. Our usual entertainment for train rides into the city is 20 questions.

4. Play solitaire. This is a new one for us. I remember playing it a lot as a child. Nowadays I never see anyone playing it with actual cards (as opposed to on a computer) but that is what we do. It does require a bit of space so it not best in every environment. It does not tend to be very solitary around here either. One invariably ends up with siblings hanging over one’s shoulder saying “you can put that three on the four” and other such annoying comments.

5. Tell stories. My children will either take turns telling stories or tell one altogether, each adding a new sentence. This is not actually my favorite. I usually find it very tedious and their idea of humor is not always mine but it does amuse them.

I suppose one common element in all these, especially with younger children, is that they require parental involvement. And truthfully, I do not always want to give it. Sometimes I just want to read my own book. Sometimes I want to check my e-mail on my iPhone (a dangerous temptation indeed). But in the long run I would rather have children who can amuse themselves, who have lots if interests, who don’t sit around with their little noses buried in electronic games.

So we resist the urge to give into the DS (or for that matter Wii or other home video game systems but that is another post) and pull out our deck of cards.

Nebby

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