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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 20 June, 2019
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Opinion: Survival strategies for parents to get through long dark winter weekends

On overcast, rainy weekends, it can be tough to keep them occupied.

Simon Cocking

NOBODY WANTS A zombified child. Hooked on a game, either on their laptop, tablet, phone, or some other device. Yet at the same time, on overcast, rainy weekends, it can be tough to keep them occupied.

It’s a tough choice for parents to make. It’s also tricky as you see several future careers that are currently evolving for those who have mastered online methods of communicating.

We definitely haven’t cracked parenting, and certainly aren’t perfect parents. Our kids drive us crazy at times (most of the time if we’re being honest). We don’t know what the ideal amount of ‘screen time’ should be. Living in Ireland for a long time, though, here are some strategies we have come up with.

Learn and use the resources at the libraries that are available for kids

The local libraries are a great resource. There is one within walking distance, and a few more within a 10 – 15 minute drive. We’re not just talking books here, but DVDs, audio books, computer games, and graphic novels as well. A number of libraries also run art activities.

Museums and galleries are your friends!

Rotate the museums, art galleries, and TCD Science Gallery. While this may sound very worthy and highbrow, you’d be surprised at the number of kid-centric activities they put on at these places. They know kids get bored easily, and they have realised this by hiring younger, energetic people to run the workshops.

Often, too, it is relaxed and open-ended in terms of what the kids can do. At the National Gallery for example there is a kids area with pencils, crayons and paper just laid out for kids to do a drawing. The Irish Museum of Modern Art also offers this unstructured activity ,as well as specific workshops you can book.

When the weather is good, grab the opportunity

Parks, beaches, and playgrounds are all good places for a burst of activity. As a non-Irish long term resident of Ireland, I have learnt that when the weather is good in Ireland, you need to grab the opportunity and go for it. As a result we have had some lovely walks and brief activities over the winter months.

Sure – it’s colder, and they get a bit dirty, but it then means when you get back home again they are tired out and happy to be there. Also, in a previous life of taking other people’s kids out on nature walks, 99 times out of 100 the kids will grumble on the way to the activity. However once they are there, out in the open, time and time again, they only complain at the end when you tell them it’s time to go home.

After all of the above, it’s OK for them to have some computer game time

Everything in moderation. There are a large number of free, online computer games for kids, ABC Arcade and many others. You can find specifically educational games, which is great for the younger ones. It helps to make them really adept with swiping and other useful screen commands.

Our four year old was coming home from the crèche telling us about games they played that day. Similarly the 11 year olds have found a bunch of strategy games, which actually require them to use some really good reasoning skills. Yes, something gets blown up at the end if it all comes good, but along the way they are using some interesting and sophisticated decision making skills.

Simon Cocking is the Deputy Editor at Irish Tech News. See more from Simon on Twitter @SimonCocking or on his blog http://sarahpaddleswim.wordpress.com/.

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Simon Cocking

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