How to get back to books (and off those screens...)
Information and activity books
Children's use of electronic devices and the amount of time they are spending on screens is becoming an increasing worry among parents.
According to Sarah O'Brien on the HSE website: "Under-2s should have no screen time while under-5s should have no more than an hour a day." She says the average daily screen time for older children ranges from one hour to three hours depending on the family. She suggests you should "set limits to suit your family and stick to them".
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It is an ongoing battle in our house with the 12-year-old who loves Roblox. I do my best to manage his screen time: I make him play in the open family area (I don't allow computers or devices upstairs) and he has set computer times every day. Once he has used up that time, he has to do other things - in his case make Lego movies, draw comic books and read.
Less screen time gives more opportunity for other activities and as parents and guardians, we have to step up and help our children discover new ways of entertaining themselves. Ideally, they should be playing outside or being active, but this is not always possible. Luckily, Irish and international children's publishers have started to produce a wide range of attractive books to entertain and delight youngsters.
There are lots of books designed to "beat boredom", although my children don't dare say they are bored at home as I always say, "excellent, I'm glad to hear it, your brain needs a rest," and I actively encourage them to sit and stare out the window for a while. As UK Children's Laureate, Lauren Child says: "We should let children dawdle and dream." In fact, she's created a whole website dedicated to creative ideas for children called staringintospace.me which is well worth checking out. It has six free activity sheets to download with ideas about how to make a toast sculpture or your own miniature world.
Younger children love art activities and Painting with Nature by Emmanuelle Poliméni and illustrated by Nicolas Gouny (Auzou) is fantastic. Part activity book, part instruction manual, it provides backgrounds for the child to add to with simple paint, print, drawing and collage ideas. From printing with pine cones to adding pebbles to a lighthouse, it's full of great ideas to capture the imagination of any child age 3+. On a recent family trip to Iceland, we spent many hours in the car and the quiz book I'd packed - The Irelandopedia Quiz Book by Shauna Burke (Gill Books) - was a real hit. The questions cover lots of different subjects and even the most knowledgeable adult will be flummoxed by some of them, such as: "Juan Mackenna was a war hero in what South American country?" The answer is Chile. And there's a Historopedia Quiz Book for history buffs. Age 8+
The National Geographic also has a terrific range of colourful quiz books with different themes, from animals to space, travel and the world. The questions are perfectly pitched for children of age 7+ and there are also mazes, crosswords and Sudoku puzzles.
Those lucky enough to be going away for Easter will like My Holiday Scrapbook by Lonely Planet, an attractive large-format guided scrapbook (remember those?) where you can stick bus tickets, sweet wrappers, coins and other mementoes. Journaling is another good way of encouraging children and teenagers to be creative and The You Are Awesome Journal by Matthew Syed, illustrated by Lindsey Sagar and Toby Triumph (Wren and Rook), asks them to write about their real-life superheroes, answer quizzes on school and friends and gives them lots of tips about how to be confident. Age 11+
If you are looking for ideas for games try Gadgets Away: 100 Great Games to Play by Fiona Jennison (Summersdale). It brings together lots of traditional and modern games for age 4 to 12, from Duck, Duck, Goose to French Cricket. Red Rover, Red Rover: Games from an Irish Childhood by Kunak McGann (O'Brien Press) would be an asset to any home or school. It's full of traditional games from bulldog, to murder in the dark and battleship. A handsome hardback with lots of illustrations, photographs and visual instructions, it would also make an excellent family present.
Peter Cosgrove's Fun Unplugged (Proby Publishing) was such a hit over Christmas that the booksellers tell me there's a new edition coming from Penguin Ireland in the future. Packed with games, magic tricks, number puzzles and brain teasers, it will keep your family amused for hours.
Finally why not encourage them to make their own magazine with Read All About It! by Kristyna Baczynski (Laurence King) which gives instructions and enough material to make 10 bright and attractive magazines - great fun!