When I excitedly walked into Hongkong’s Disneyland resort with my 2.5 year old son, little did I know that toughest parenting challenge awaited me. There were screens everywhere – in the lobby, restaurants, and in front of them, were a bunch of kids watching Disney cartoons without battling an eyelid. So far, I have been able to sustain screen/gadget free policy, but with free access to content that can excite every kid and a bunch of kids as an example, I could sense the danger of my son copying their behaviours.
When my son started following suit while we were waiting to check in at the lobby, I quickly looked around to see how to distract his attention. A series of circles on a lamp caught my eye. “Look Mickey Mouse” I told him pointing at the lamp and one big circle and two small circles-shapes that were familiar. He smiled as he started making association with the character he just saw on screen and on the lamp. I encouraged him to count the number of Mickey Mouse on the lamp to completely distract his attention from the screen. It was soon time to walk towards our room and as he excitedly pressed the button of the elevator, we found another Mickey Mouse. And thus the hunt for Mickey Mouse began.
As we looked for Mickey Mouse, in everyday things (from shampoo bottles to food items), interior elements (from mirrors, carpets to curtains) and architectural features (from windows,roofs to ceilings), this became a really fun game to play for the next 2 days. It not only kept my son distracted from screens, but also improved his understanding of concept of big and small, enhanced his counting and, more importantly, visual perceptual skills.
And finally, while taking a train to Disneyland park when he pointed to the Mickey Mouse on the handrail, I could not hold my delight as I was not paying attention anymore, but he seemed to be continuing to enjoy this game of visual perception.