The Mommy Chronicles: Finding your Kids’ Niche (Outside of your Smartphone)

Beaux William smiling before soccer practice. Most Tuscaloosa area sports programs accept athletes beginning at ages three and four. Beaux William smiling before soccer practice. Most Tuscaloosa area sports programs accept athletes beginning at ages three and four. Marlena Rice

I was in ninth grade when I was gifted with my first official cell phone. There was no social media constantly vying for my attention. Fast-forward to present day. Children are bombarded with the ease and “right now” mentality that all things digital promise. As the mother of a three-year-old who is just as skilled with an iPhone as myself, I can attest to the marketing of countless fun, cutesy learning apps that consume our little ones to the point of keeping even the busiest busybody still.  

I read an article on the New York Times website, “Toddlers’ Favorite Toy: The iPhone,” about the popularity the smartphone has with our babies. I agreed with the benefits of easy and accessible learning tools offered via toddler-based apps, but I also agree with the old saying that there can be too much of a good thing. As parents, we can see firsthand how our children learn while participating in day-to-day activities. 

Tovah P. Klein, the director of Columbia University’s Barnard College Center for Toddler Development, said, “Children at this age are so curious and they’re observing everything. If you’re engrossed in this screen you’re not seeing or over-serving or taking in.” 

Think about you regular routine. Are there things that you do regularly that you can turn into learning opportunities? For example, does your child have downtime with a smartphone or tablet while you’re cooking dinner in the evening? Change it up and let your child be hands-on with you. Think about how much help you could receive when your little one is excited over new “big kid” responsibilities. You may just find yourself a regular dinner helper!  

What can we do when electronics have become easy distracters for our children? We introduce them to new hobbies, and leave the electronics for the occasional treat.  

The Non-Technology Hobby Route for… 

…Nature-loving Kids 

  • Make a small garden in your yard 
  • Start a rock or leaf collection 
  • Buy a cheap camera and let your little one start taking his or her own photographs (Kudos if you can find a Polaroid camera for quick results!); 
  • For children who love race cars and monster trucks, create DIY race cars and dump trucks or join a local go-cart league can make their interest come alive! 

 …Artsy-loving Kids 

  • Scrap booking; 
  • Painting; 
  • Reading and writing;  
  • Learning musical instruments 
  • Taking part in the local theatre. 

  …Athletic Kids 

  • Introducing your child to new hiking trails and day tripping on the weekends to find new locations, 
  • Introducing your child to sports. In many areas, once your child reaches the age of three or four, they are eligible to join soccer, martial arts, gymnastics, karate and even dance companies! 
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Marlena Rice

Marlena Rice is a busy mom and writer who lives in Tuscaloosa with her husband, Rod, and their son, Beaux William. Her new book, “Pacifiers, Flatbeds and Barn Wood Thingamajigs, a ‘Come to Jesus Guide’ for the New, Southern Mom,” will be available on soon. 


Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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