• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Engaging children beyond the screen this holiday

Engaging children beyond the screen this holiday

For the past three weeks, I have been going on shopping errands courtesy of my children to procure ‘exotic’ cooking ingredients for esoteric meals. Their enthusiasm has been very high and I found myself asking how we got to this point where preteens are so enthusiastic about cooking beyond the regular meals by themselves, that is, without any active harassment from their parents.

We had a very interesting discussion during the COVID-19 lockdown about limiting screen time via television and devices and exploring options on how to keep them occupied and creative. For almost a year there was no cable subscription and hence no television and though it seemed extreme, the learnings were acknowledged by even the children themselves.

Before this time, however, we had started teaching them early that cooking is a life skill irrespective of gender and getting them engaged during food preparation. The very little ones were also involved (even if it meant watching others) and passing the salt container as a task was encouraged (age-appropriate kitchen tasks).

We also started making them watch cooking channels early to expose them to male and female cooks. If you are parenting boys, this is really helpful because it helps to dismantle any gender stereotypes concerning cooking. After some time, encourage them to start trying out preparing simple dishes under adult supervision. Remember that the goal is engagement and learning not perfection, because the first meals they make will be terrible (as it should be with newbies).

It is best to limit criticism and offer constructive correction. Through every activity, find a way to boost their self-esteem as you prioritise praising effort over results. Even if it seems like they are doing rubbish, let them know they can do better and help them build confidence.

Over time, they grow into loving the act of cooking rather than doing it out of resentment and coercion which introduces stressful family dynamics (which are totally unnecessary). This was our own case and it’s beautiful to see how well things turned out through intentionally engaging their conscious and subconscious minds to embrace an activity.

Read also: Five things to know to start your Friday

Other ways of keeping children engaged off-screen include the following:


Build up a mixed collection of books (fiction and non-fiction) in your home library and encourage them to read. The idea is not perfection but for them to get used to reading as a means of personal growth, mastery, and gaining superior ideas and intelligence.


Buy exercise books, reams of paper, cardboard, strawboards, art pencils, crayons, watercolours, glue, beads, strings, and other craft materials so that they can write, draw, colour, construct and create whatever their minds tell them. Variety is important, so buy as many as you can afford.

For our kids, we have their “artwork” displayed around the house (they ask us to put them up and it gives them a sense of pride).


Scrabble, Chess and Monopoly easily come to mind. You need to see children acquiring and showing off their real estate investments while playing Monopoly, their excitement is out of this world. Monopoly also shows their money behaviour and areas where they need their beliefs changed.


Encourage the children to have farm/ gardening projects. There is a joy that comes with growing things and they can become passionate about it. If you do not have outdoor space, look for plastic buckets, and baby baths, fill them with good soil and hand them over to them to grow easy plants. Again, be creative depending on your house size and their interests.

Outdoor sporting activities such as Football, Badminton, Skipping, playing catch, etc can also keep the children engaged.

It can appear daunting in these times of screen addiction to introduce and sustain these concepts. Everything depends on the things you want your own kids to learn. Many of these activities are also helpful as they teach children critical life skills beyond the classroom including organisation, planning, taking responsibility, self-control, and building self-confidence. Picking age-appropriate tasks and giving rewards also help with sustaining these.

I hope you have found this useful. I would love to hear how it goes. All the best.