Planning needed to develop healthy habits in children

It is concerning to learn that a five-year-old boy became aggressive when he was disallowed to use his parents' smartphones for gaming and cartoon watching (More children getting help for Internet addiction; July 28).

How could a child, at such a tender age, become addicted to the Internet? How should a child be spending his time at home?

Healthy lifestyle habits do not happen by chance. Children will not acquire good habits or grow out of addiction on their own accord.

Good habits are acquired over a period of exposure, with routines, regulation and planning by parents.

In other words, parents need to put in effort to introduce a "quality" lifestyle.

First, parents, together with their pre-schoolers, need to plan a timetable on how they spend the evening time together.

Parents need to be role models, and be seen engaging in healthy hobbies like jogging and reading.

Next, parents can set up learning corners at home, with play blocks, toy cars or art-making materials for children to tinker and create.

These creative materials must be made as easily accessible to the child as a smartphone.

Respect and allow the child to leave unfinished play products for him to continue tomorrow or the day after, until he is ready to move on to the next level of play.

These visual cues remind children to get into the habit and routine of playing by themselves, instead of seeking out the Internet for entertainment.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2018, with the headline 'Planning needed to develop healthy habits in children'. Print Edition | Subscribe