| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


The over-doers…

What happened to letting our kids use their imaginations once in a while, asks our busy-bee columnist, Farah Sawaf (with the help of her imaginary friend, Annika)

© ITP Images

I always knew it would only be a matter of time before our two-year old son destroyed our iPad. At the risk of him hearing me proof-read this aloud, I actually meant to write ‘HIS’ iPad, lest I end up suffering through the pains of yet another tantrum. Yet while the lovely techies at iStyle were fixing this shattered extension of my brain, my son actually seemed to forget about it all together. During our iPad’s downtime I re-introduced a long lost concept that we all grew up with: thick paper attached to another piece of paper with pictures and words (better known as a book). To tell the truth, I’d almost forgotten how much he loves books and how my reading them to him helps to conjure up imaginary worlds that he can get lost in. So I’m embarrassed to admit that it took a broken iPad to remember the importance of a good old-fashioned reading session.

With that being said, allow me to run through a typical week of activities that I typically line up for my boys, a two year old as well as a tenth month old baby.
Sundays: Music class.

Monday: Arabic class.

Tuesday: Children’s play gym.

Wednesday: Play date, which involves bring your own plasma cars.

Thursdays: A birthday party with cake pops, three-piece band, and the occasional bouncy castle or petting zoo.

Fridays: These generally fall within the confines of a shopping mall where we interact with fish behind state of the art glass combined with seemingly endless rides on the carousel until we all get dizzy.

Saturday: A popular day for yet another birthday celebration. My two year old usually consumes obscene amounts of sugar and returns with more pent-up energy than a wind-up toy.

Following a particularly exhausting week and the iPad incident, it occurred to me to ask simple yet logical question. What are we playing at these days?

I recall fond memories from when I was five, silently creating mud pies in our backyard alongside my imaginary friend Annika. We would share giggles as we doubled the dose of pretend sugar. Granted, I was obviously a bit of an oddball but at least I was using my imagination. In those days the only technology we interacted with was the TV on our Saturday morning classic cartoon sessions with The Jetsons and Tom & Jerry. While I appreciate that times do change and that we ought to evolve as parents, I often wonder why we 21st century mums and dads are so pre-occupied with seeking entertainment for every waking hour of a child’s day? Why can’t our children learn to entertain themselves on their own, without an arsenal of battery-operated toys?

I’ve lost track of the amount of times our parents have lectured us about being the ‘over’ generation – over-indulging with presents, over-booking with too many activities, and over-stimulating them with technology.

So what’s the solution? The way I see it, it has to begin with recognizing that we might indeed be overdoing it. Having undertaken a bit of ad hoc research in various parenting mags, I was stunned to learn that over 60 per cent of children under the age of 12 have never climbed a tree, rolled down a hill, picked a flower, played tag, have any clue what hopscotch is, built a fort out of blankets, or even gone camping! What happened to imaginary friends and mud pies? These days, a meeting with my pretend friend Annika would probably result in a call to the nearest child psychologist.

Perhaps we need to stop and smell the fresh grass every once in a while. We ought to remind ourselves that permanent marker on our walls, non-organic food, wooden toys and non-hypo allergenic clothes (among the many other modern-day child conveniences) are not the end of the world. We can still rewind back to an age when play dates didn’t involve a professional event planner.

Admittedly, it does require genuine effort to avoid falling prey to the wonders of modern technology, and I still can’t resist the lure of child-friendly alphabet apps. Given we are all products of this modern day world, I guess it’s not about completely changing our day-to-day norms. Having said that, maybe it’s just about stopping for a moment, putting technology aside and kicking off our heels to teach the kids how much fun a game of hide and seek can really be. It’s up to you… Tag, you’re it!
Check out Farah’s blog at www.cookingwithamanicure.com

Time Out Dubai,

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