Saturday, 21 December 2013

Toddler technology at meal times

I am amazed by my children on a daily basis. With the boys, I am amazed at their grasp of technology. How they swipe screens. How they know being allowed to watch Granddad's or Mummy's tablet is such a treat.
I was talking to the lovely Katy from Growing Up Milk Info about how important it is to me that my children know how to turn over the pages of a book. That moving a finger from right to left should more be about a book than of a handheld device. We inevitably moved onto how television played a role, and meal times.

Growing Up Milk Info has recently looked at the role of technology during  UK toddler mealtimes and font that TV dinners and smartphone suppers begin in toddlerhood for almost two-thirds of the nation’s little ones (62%), with TV or a DVD (36%) being the top pick for mealtime entertainment, followed by playing on iPads (28%) and smartphones (24%).

The initial shock turned into a reality for me. And watching my parents having mealtime with the boys really made me take a step back.
As a child, every day at 6 o'clock we would have tea. It was our family time. Come what may.

Having three children close together in age has temporarily resulted in separate meal times. Having to help the boys out with their food means we don't have family meals, my food would be cold otherwise. And with the boys still napping in the afternoon and Seren hungry as soon as she gets home from school (alongside inevitable after-school activities) it means not only to the adults eat seperately from the children, but on the most part the boys eat seperately to Seren.
We do not yet have the meal time that kept our family together.

So the findings of the GUMI survey are not overly surprising- that tantrums (38%) and boredom (35%) are the main reasons most mums and dads turn to technology during mealtimes, with just one in twenty (5%) prioritising the nutrition of their little one at the table.
GUMI's resident Child Psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson comments: “The research reveals that a high percentage of parents allow their toddler to play with a gadget while munching at mealtimes, which is a cause for concern.
“Although technology does add new and exciting dimensions to a toddler’s life, access to gadgets at the family dining table inevitably distracts children from eating what’s in front of them, reduces their desire to chat with others during dinner, isolating them from the dynamic communication of the family meal. This is a lost opportunity and a solid reason why it’s best to make at least some family mealtimes a no-gadget zone. After a few initial protests, your toddler will soon adapt and everyone will experience the full psychological and nutritional benefits of an IT-free family meal.”
Our meal times start without technology, and as the boys wane, we introduce (probably wrongly) technology to keep them entertained whilst we try and ensure they've consumed all their nutrients.
Because, the boys are fantastic eaters... they just can't always be bothered.

And, as reiterated by child nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton: “Toddlers have specific nutritional requirements that aren't always easy to meet, especially when it comes to topping up their diet with important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin D. Offering your little one a healthy balanced toddler diet can be a struggle at the best of times but, as the survey reveals, it’s only made more difficult when they’re distracted by technology."

The survey has made me reflect.
On how important meal times were for ensuring my family communicated. Without technology as a distraction.
And how important this is to my family. And as the boys become independent that this routine will keep our family together. Without distraction.

I don't think we've been at a point for family meal times till now.
With the boys turning 3 in January, it's a little more feasible.
Even just sitting down at the table at dinner a few times a week.
Maybe that's our starting point.
If I wasn't allowed to read at the table as a child (despite my protestations)- I'm not sure that technology beats conversation either.

Disclosure: I received this information as part of the Growing Up Milk Mums programme.

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