Play with Phones: Alternatives to Screen time

My Experience

I grew up in the country, in a little village in the middle of nowhere so the house phone was my link to my friends. However we only ever used it if we hadn’t seen each other for a few days. Years later, when I started going out with my husband we were students, we didn’t have mobile phones and just  arranged where and when to meet and had to stick to it!

When my children got their first phones aged 10, we tried to limit their time with them (although this was much easier when they didn’t have internet access on them). Now, 15 years later I could be accused of being the one that uses my phone the most in my family, since there’s always more work emails to get to! It’s been a journey to see how the technology has grown and been adapted into everyday life, and particularly in our children’s lives. Nowadays with the endless games, videos and apps to use we must think about how our children can best use technology to benefit their learning. 

The Hidden Benefits

In fact, there can be many benefits! There are few children in our world who are not fascinated by a phone and what it can do and we are all using technology perhaps more now than ever to stay in touch, including our children…
That being said, remember to please read up on screen time, really consider all the facts, and if we need to use phones as much as we do, for all the things that we use them for. Read more into the topic to find out if you feel the benefits outweigh the challenges and concerns.

Playing with a phone doesn’t have to mean using applications or a lot of screen time, in fact we can use phones to engage in role play, to become a superhero or a goblin or the big bad wolf or simply a grocer putting their order in at the fruit suppliers! (I actually witnessed a little girl doing just this). A two way conversation through the ‘phones’ in our safari booking office or vets surgery encourage our children to use their active listening, attention, commenting and extending skills and more!

Curiosity and Intrigue

Phones are attractive to children from a young age, just think about all the sounds they make: ring, buzz, vibrate. It could be noisy, quiet, loud, muffled, strident, shrill, constant, pulsating. What wonderful language we can encourage.
It’s natural that our children are curious about our phones, especially if we use them to speak to other people! They realise there is another way to connect and they want to learn more about it. Let’s think about how we can use our practice to teach develop their understanding.

When our children pretend to pick up the phone and call someone, what questions can we ask? Who could we call? What would we talk about? Why might we need to call? How do you make a call? When is it ok to call? This could be used to teach them about active listening skills, boundaries, how to express their needs with words. Also how to reply, respond, extend and enable the other person, they develop an awareness of the two way nature of conversations.

Advantages and Activities

In fact, there are many hidden benefits to using a phone in play: 
-Number awareness, sequence (if we have to dial each number) and number order.
-Fine motor skills, focus and co-ordination depending on the phones we give them access to.
-Use of our large pivots, shoulder, elbow, wrist. For old fashioned and vintage phones and a really different set of physical skills for a tiny mobile!
-The art of a conversation, two-way processes. 
-Clarity of explanations and active listening skills.

Here are some ideas for wee activities you can do with your children:
Create a small collection of chatter items, like a telephone, microphone or a voice changer. Talk to your little one through the item, rather than just talking into it.
Make a little telephone book. You can use a photo on each page of each person in the family or your child’s favourite characters from books or tv. Then they can look through and choose who to call and talk to. 
In your telephone book you could also write a three-digit number below each photo. Suggest they phone the person/superhero/character using the number of the keypad on phone or to say the number out loud into the microphone or voice changer.

Ask them simple questions, like a wee interview. It could be as yourself or acting as a character.
Suggest you each have a phone or handset, sing a line of a song then they sing the next line, keep taking turns until the end.  So you are actually serenading each other over the phone. Make sure they know most of the words, help them if they get stuck.
Remember there are positives to most toys, resources and provocations even if they may not be your favorite, we have to adapt because there can be no doubt that our children will!
Try it out with your children! And you can tag us with your ideas on how to learn and play at home on instagram or share your photos on our facebook!