If they build it….they will play!

One of the new year’s promises I made to myself and my family this year was that there would be less iPad time and I mean to keep it! Yes, they still get to play every now and again, but I have noticed that this month it’s something they ask for less than ever before. How are we doing it? With help from some awesome toys that are educational, engaging and challenging!

Our friends at The Learning Journey International sent us some toys to play with, and I was fascinated by what happened! My girls were immediately drawn to Zany Trax (a STEM interactive construction set), but they rolled their eyes at the other 2 games which, at first glance, seem to be for younger kids. They got to work right away building the Zany Trax and found it to be quite challenging. The box says it’s for ages 6+ but my 7 & 9 year old needed Daddy to step in with the assist because the instructions have to be followed quite precisely to ensure that everything works correctly!

There is something magical about giving kids the opportunity to BUILD something on their own. The process of building brought my girls together and once they had the final product completed they just kept on playing with it! If they build it, they will play! Meanwhile, I’m one happy Mommy to have kids so enthralled by one activity!

The girls have not stopped playing with the set, by the way. They love to turn the crank and set the marbles in motion. It’s actually quite hypnotizing. I hope my little engineers and architects will take it apart and build something completely original with the pieces now!

The girls had pre-conceived notions that the other 2 activities were too “baby” for them, but wouldn’t you know it…the next day one of them says she wants to try the math game! She’s in 2nd grade, quite good at math, and this game surprisingly pushed her to think about the math equations in a different way. It’s not just a matching game. 3+5 doesn’t just match with 8, it can also match with 6+2 or 9-1. Each card pushed us think carefully and not rush to see then next card. I am really happy we ended up playing this game together. Naturally, she loved the device that spit out the cards most of all, and I love that we had a chance to play a math game!

Mathematics LAB
Playing Mathematics LAB

Finally, this morning my little one asks if it’s ok if we make the puzzle together! The same child who had declared the puzzle to be for babies!! She and I have made puzzles since she was tiny so I can understand why she was hesitant at first. We spread out everything on the floor (the pieces are large and we do almost everything on the floor anyways!) and worked together. The pieces fit together nicely and the Sea Life animals are adorable. We’ve left it out – in the middle of the house – because she’s dying to see how it glows in the dark tonight!

Just for giggles, the video below is the same child at 2.5 years old (5 years ago March 2015) building a puzzle!

Some other changes we have made/incorporated in our lives which have helped reduce iPad time are:

  • making board games easily reachable – we had kept the board games up on a shelf they couldn’t reach. This was purely driven by my desire to keep the room tidy and not lose so many game pieces, cards, dice, etc. But, you know what they say: out of sight, out of mind!
  • more regular trips to the library – we used go every single week to the library when my youngest was taking ballet class next door. When those classes stopped, the weekly trips became less frequent. My girls love to read and get bored with the books they’ve already read at home. Having a stack of fresh ‘new’ books to read is much more enticing!
  • speaking of books, we keep books accessible pretty much everywhere. They are next to the TV, next to the dining table, in the car, everywhere!
  • family movie night every week, no matter what! – at least one night on the weekend is family movie night, usually followed by a dance party! I let them pick the movie and set up the couch with blankets and pillows and we all get into PJs and watch a movie together. Last week they picked Space Jam and it was awesome to watch such an “old” movie (or so they said it was!).

Let me know if you have any changes you’ve made that have helped you reduce iPad/device time in your home!