It’s not easy being a parent these days because you not only have to teach your children good values and give them a good education but you also have to tell the generation addicted to smartphones how to limit screen time and go out and spend time outdoors and engage in physical activities so that they grow up to be healthy individuals. Keeping this in mind, Toddlers Nursery, along with Aajol Daycare and Brainstorm International, has been organising Toddler Parent Marathon since the past two years. This year, the run will take place in Mohammadwadi on January 13.
Insiyah Rahim, director of training and development, Toddlers Nursery, says that over the years a whole lot of health issues like developmental and brain growth-related disorders in children like ADHD (attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder) syndrome, autism, etc have been on the rise. “After a lot of research, and meeting with director of the school and parents, we found that these issues have a lot to do with the current lifestyle of kids — they spend a lot of time on screens/ smartphones,” says Rahim adding, “Scientific research says that kids below two years of age shouldn’t be exposed to screen or iPads at all and screen time for older kids should be limited to only 30 minutes.”
However, unfortunately, kids and even infants spend hours staring at screens which stops them from getting into any kind of physical activities. “Present-day parents are so engrossed in looking at their smartphone screens that kids too tend to follow, and, in fact, some parents find it convenient to give their kids smartphones, instead of taking them out to play. That’s why we started this marathon three years ago, so that parents realise it is important for children to step out and ditch gadgets,” explains Rahim.
Currently in its third year, Toddler Parent Marathon was started as a movement that focussed on toddler fitness and wellbeing. “We wanted to tell parents that health and fitness activities are something families can do together which can be a lot of fun, especially if you are doing with your children. Instead of parents and kids sitting at home looking at their smartphones or smart TVs, they could go running, hiking together or play a sport that children enjoy,” says Rahim who is also the founding director of Learn2Teach Teacher Training and Parenting Institute.
The 2k marathon has seen participation in huge numbers in the past two years. Rahim informs that while some kids run, some dads carry their kids on their back and complete the run. To add more fun, they also include activities like zumba, obstacle course, jumping castle and so on. “The purpose of the event is to spread awareness about fitness and the idea is not just to make it a one-day event, but to take this spirit home and continue to enjoy fitness involving children” adds Rahim, a mother of two.
The marathon is a non-profit event which aims to help children who don’t have the best of everything. For the last two years, they have been supporting underprivileged children who are suffering from cancer. This year, the proceeds from the event will be donated to Ayodhya Charitable Trust for Deaf and Mute Children in Mohammadwadi. The kids from this NGO will also take part in the marathon. A couple of months prior to the event, the school runs campaigns on Facebook, urging and reminding people to leave their smartphones behind, step out, and spend time with children or take up running.
Running for a better mind
Running can significantly improve physical and mental health and as a form of aerobic exercise, it is known to reduce stress, improve heart health, and even helps alleviate symptoms of depression in adults. But does this really help in development of the brain in children?
“The maximum number of nerve endings are located on the soles of our feet and our palms, and activities that involve using these areas boost brain development. Running stimulates the nerves and receptors that are connected to the brain, thus improving the mood, the brain part that controls stress-reducing hormones, making you feel happy and positive. Running also enhances appetite and thirst which is very crucial for the physical development in growing children. Also, when you run you are focussed on doing one task which further enhances your ability to pay attention to things,” explains Rahim.
Ditch the smartphone
Today’s kids are addicted to smartphones which is slowly affecting their brain development. Rahim argues that children at this impressionable age are like sponges. They absorb and inculcate everything they see, including their parents using smartphones. “If you look into your own lives, you will realise that you spend a lot of time looking at digital screens. When your kids see you using the device so often, the message that goes to these young minds is that smartphones and gadgets are something good and interesting. They too enjoy watching videos that have many colours, shapes, and they get to listen to different kinds of music, which make them hooked to smartphones. But kids are not supposed to watch screens which keep refreshing every now and then, instead they should see things that move in real time, which is slow. Looking at screens can hamper their sensorial balance, the coordination between the eyes and brain. Parents fail to realise this because the effects are not always instant. That is why it is important for us to create awareness on these issues so that adults can take precautions before it is too late,” warns Rahim.
Addiction to smartphones is one thing, but do urban spaces allow parents and children to step out and spend time outdoors? Rahim suggests that there are a few public parks near residential areas, so taking children there will also make a lot of difference. “Even indoors, you can cook with them, play old board games that we played as kids. Playing hopscotch or run and catch, climbing trees or just running around them can also be a great bonding time. Once you start playing with them, children themselves will give you a lot of ideas that you can do together,” she concludes.
ST READER SERVICE
Toddler Parent Marathon, a 2k marathon, is being organised in Mohammadwadi — Undri area, Nyati Estate Road (near DPS School) on January 13. The event is open for all. The marathon will start at 8 am and registration for kids below six is free. For registrations, visit www.townscript.com.