The Unplugged Series: Chapter 2: Stimulate Your Child’s Senses With…Real Life

Unplugged2Like many in our society, I definitely feel that I am a little too “plugged in” to my tech toys, whether it be smartphones, social media, streaming movies, etc.  Many of us probably don’t do enough mindful living in this digital day and age.  It would serve us well to, I don’t know…experience real life: walking outside to feel the cool breeze vs. staring at the glow of an LED screen, savoring a meal with friendly company vs. staring at highly curated photos of someone else’s meal, making a new friend in real life vs. on social media, getting lost and discovering something new vs. always relying on GPS.  Your mind, your body, and your soul are craving life experiences that can’t be fulfilled via your smartphone.  And if that’s the case for us as adults, why wouldn’t that apply to our children?

As a new parent, I’ve taken for granted at times and lose sight of how badly my infant’s five senses are craving to experience life and all the wondrous sensory stimuli it has to offer.  As Tyler has become more mobile in recent months, I started realizing more and more how I need to let him touch, taste, smell, hear, and see all the wonders that we take for granted.

Watching him carefully probe blades of grass the first time he went to the park, his face expressing “what the heck is this and why does it feel so funny?”.  Seeing him smiling from the wind tickling his face as I pull him faster in his wagon, wondering what that feeling is.  Hearing him say “oooooohhhh” when he saw his first helium filled balloon floating up above him like magic.  Seeing his reactions range from satisfaction, to bewilderment, to disgust every time he tastes a new food.  Seeing him learn how to turn on the faucet and repeatedly put his hands under the trickle of cold water and hearing him gasp and then smile and then repeat.  Seeing how much the sense of touch and the intangible sense of friendship mean to him as he warms up to strangers and pats their knees and looks up to beam at them with a huge, heart-warming smile.

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Before we had Tyler, I would look at parents who had their infants & toddlers glued to a smartphone, tablet, or television and think to myself, “I’m not going to be like that“.  Fast forward 11 months and yes, there have already been numerous occasions where I’ve given Tyler my phone to distract him with something when he’s being fussy and let him watch cartoons on the television so I could get some quick task done.  I was too quick to judge other parents before having kids, but now I understand and am facing the daily struggle of how much and how early I should allow Tyler to be exposed to all the different technologies of our digital age.

Avoiding technology all together is not what I’m advising. But, I’m encouraging us to make sure that we are spending enough time nourishing our lives and our children’s lives with rich, meaningful, real-life experiences.  At this point, Helen and I are trying to limit Tyler’s exposure to technology when we can.  And I want to lead by setting a good example.

So, as we bring this chapter of the series to a close, I challenge you to put your phone or laptop into powersave mode.  Put it down.  Go and experience life with your loved ones today.

~AndyK

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