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Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech

Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech

Doctors are recommending that children need more opportunities to develop the hand strength and dexterity needed to hold pencils, with technology such as tablets and smartphones apparently to blame.

Senior paediatric doctors say that overuse of touchscreen phones and tablets is preventing children's finger muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly.

"Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago," says Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust.

"Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they don't have the fundamental movement skills. To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills."

Here at Little Explorers, we couldn't agree more.

We know that technology is a huge part of family life these days and you're just as likely to see a child watching or interacting with a tablet as you are to see them with a colouring book and pencils.

But we need to keep the balance right.

The children in our nurseries are given the chance to decide how their time with us is spent. Activities are child-led and more often than not, they'll ask to build, draw, colour and read.

Take our Eccles nursery for example. Our manager Vicki recently asked the children what they wanted to do on a Friday - at the end of an action-packed week - and here's what they said:

Christopher - mixing colours again
Aidan, Corben and Krithick - dinosaurs
Chester and Charlie - building robots

Despite seeing a different picture to this report in our nurseries, the NHS findings suggest the nature of play has changed for today's children.

"It's easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes," explains Sally Payne. "Because of this, they're not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil."

We're firm believers that nursery only enhances a child's life as they grow and develop, and these findings do suggest that by not opening them up to a broader life experience can leave them without the basic motor skills they'll need at school and beyond.

Karin Bishop, an assistant director at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, also admitted concerns as part of the study.

"It is undeniable that technology has changed the world where our children are growing up," she said. "Whilst there are many positive aspects to the use of technology, there is growing evidence on the impact of more sedentary lifestyles and increasing virtual social interaction, as children spend more time indoors online and less time physically participating in active occupations."

A large proportion of our time at Little Explorers is spent outside, in all weathers. We know that all children want to learn, and with the freedom to investigate the world around them, inside and out, they become active learners.

Using the success of schools and nurseries in Scandinavian countries, we invite the children to come outside to learn through play and exploring the world they inhabit.

There's no denying technology has its place in family life - it's just a delicate balance which we can help you address from a very early age.

Come and take a look around your nearest Little Explorers nursery and see how we're different.

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