Supporting Children In The 21st Century

We are currently living in unprecedented times. Our normal, modern, fast paced and materialistic life has slowed dramatically. We now have the opportunity to realise the importance of the simpler things in life; giving us the capacity to feel, think and engage.

Alongside this, we have a greater understanding of the benefits of living in the 21st century. Modern technology gives us the ability to ‘see’ our loved ones even when we can’t be with them and we can work from home when we can’t be in the office. Advances in medical science mean that we better understand the challenges that currently face us, and fortunately we are able to develop diagnostics and treatments more quickly.

As we struggle to juggle home-schooling with working from home whilst keeping the house clean and tidy, we may be relying on ‘virtual trips to the zoo’, ‘audio books’ or ‘exploring museum exhibits’ online, modern technology is definitely a support to us in keeping our children engaged and entertained.

But with all its advantages, 21st century living can also cause great struggles and our children can be negatively affected. Here we explain how.

The struggle

Modern lives are all about ‘faster, better, cheaper’, with increased pressures in all aspects of our lives; pressures to succeed academically, in our careers and in our personal lives. Technology and social media enable us to be better connected than ever before, but this also takes away our privacy, and ability to ‘switch off’. Pressures follow us wherever we go, and we never get a break.

It is our responsibility as parents and educators to prepare children to cope with these pressures. To teach them the skills to be able to problem solve independently, to practice resilience, and to have confidence in decision making, conflict resolution and emotional intelligence. However, research is showing that our children are growing up emotionally unavailable for learning such skills. This has a lot to do with the modern world itself.

Virtual reality is not actual reality

Children are growing up in an environment that has the ability to mould their brains; but are we currently moulding them in the right way?

Children and adults rely heavily on technology in their daily lives not only to stay connected, but to keep them entertained. The problem is that the virtual reality created by technology makes real life pale in comparison, which in turn increases boredom and decreases concentration. Technology is highly stimulating and constantly rewards children for their action, resulting in a dependence upon gratification and an inability of children to be able to occupy themselves.

It is not just technology that is the problem, in a world where everything has been made easily accessible to children, they are not required to wait for anything; “I’m hungry” ‘have a biscuit’; “I’m thirsty” ‘here is a vending machine’; “I’m bored” ‘here, have my phone’.

We know from psychologists that the ability to be able to wait for something (delayed gratification) is a key component of future success. As parents we want to make our children happy by solving all their problems immediately, but we should understand that this short-term happiness can lead to a more miserable future. Not being exposed to minor stressors means that children are ill-equipped to deal with the stresses we face as adults – and there are many.

The solution

The good news is there is a cure for all these pressures and the answer is play! Here at KTB Kids our child centred, enabling approach to supporting development is entirely play based. We place the children at the heart of everything that we do, this means that we understand what each child needs and we can provide play-based learning opportunities that support them effectively.

So why is play so important?

In short play means happier, healthier children. Play is the deepest kind of learning, and it allows children to be self-directed learners, who explore, develop curiosity and solve their own problems. Studies tell us that over the last 50 to 60 years as play has decreased dramatically, depression, anxiety and suicide in society have all increased. Here’s how play can make a difference:

  • Imagination

Imagination inspires increased engagement, allows for independent learning, creativity and hands on learning. The more exploration we make, the more knowledge we gain. The nature of imaginative play means children can expand their perspectives and express themselves to become creative thinkers for life.

  • Language development and vocabulary skills

Play is the most effective way to promote language skills and build vocabulary. The social interaction that play supports allows children to become more self-aware, while sharing knowledge and skills through communication and conversation.

  • Social skills

Play is often a very social experience, especially as children develop and grow older. Through social play children learn people skills and etiquette, practicing social abilities such as sharing, turn taking and listening. Playing together is the best way for children to learn how to solve their own problems. While engaging in social play conflicts inevitably arise through this experience children are given the opportunity to develop their conflict resolution skills, beginning to show empathy for others and ultimately making them more emotionally literate.

  • Emotional development

Play has many therapeutic benefits and gives children to play out and work through their own thoughts and feelings and act out difficult situations that they have experienced. It gives children the opportunity to work out different options and problem solutions.

It is important to remember technology and the other benefits of living in the 2st century will always play a huge part in our own and our children’s lives. It offers us many benefits that we should embrace. But we must approach with caution. Play with its many learning and therapeutic benefits should be relied upon more than other methods. The quote by Fred Rodgers has never been truer,

‘Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.’