No Time to Waste

Photo credit: *USB* / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: *USB* / Foter / CC BY-SA

The Prophet (sa) said: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death.” This Hadeeth teaches us the importance of time and its right use. Every day is a precious gift to us by Allah (swt) and we should make the best use of it- remembering the ultimate goal of pleasing Allah (swt) and not letting a minute to be wasted. This is not to say that we should constantly work and pray, because Islam teaches us to find the right balance and we have the right to rest. Rather, wastefulness is giving time to things and activities that take us further from Allah (swt) and lower our Iman. And some of the most common time thieves nowadays are- watching TV and listening to popular music.

TV – the vital or the virus?

One might ask, “What is wrong with the TV? Why to vilify it, when it’s so common it has practically become part of our lives?” The TV box may be on constantly, and we would hardly give it any thought – just letting it become the not-so-silent background to our day-to-day activities. Yet, if we have young children at home, we should certainly give it more than a fleeting thought, as TV has a profound effect on shaping the mind and it is rarely a positive effect. Even though there are some worthy channels with some content of benefit; the TV in general is full of violence, inappropriate images of genders and gender relations, foul language and un-Islamic ideology.

Also, the TV is addictive, especially for small children who may throw tantrums the moment someone changes their favourite cartoon channel; its content is beyond our control and by watching TV we simply become passive consumers of the broadcast. Getting used to this passive reception also leads to laziness and makes the traditional ways of acquiring knowledge such as reading, seem tiresome and difficult.

Some people may think that if they give up on TV, they would miss out on latest news, newest dramas, everything people might be talking about. But the truth is just the opposite for we miss out on real life, meaningful activities and authentic human interaction, because we spent too much time watching the telly. And same goes for children. Yes, they might learn their phonics and counting quicker from the TV cartoons, but they will miss out on learning good habits and socialising with other family members and guests. Considering all these arguments, I decided that my family would be better off without the TV, but how to make the switch off painless for children (and everybody else)?

Watching TV easily becomes an addiction and breaking off the habit may be more difficult than just turning off the set. It might be a little easier for the grown-ups, once they realize that spending time in front of TV or listening to useless songs really diverts our mind from worthy activities and thoughts and lowers our productivity.

It’s never too late to change

When trying to make a change, it’s always a good idea to replace a bad habit with a good one. For example- if we are used to watching the TV in the afternoon to relax and rest, we might instead reach out for a book or go for a walk. If we get into the habit of listening to music while doing kitchen work or any other household chore, we could instead turn on the CD with the Quran recitation or get busy with Dhikr. Just keeping in mind, why we want to make a change should be enough to keep us motivated through the difficult early stages.

Yet, the children may not be so easily persuaded. It might be much harder for them to understand why watching cartoon is bad and in the first stages they might express lots of negative feelings or even throw tantrums about not being allowed to turn on the TV. It is our role as parents to make the transition easier for them, while at the same time remaining firm about our goals. And this might be actually the hardest part for us as parents, because children occupied with watching TV shows makes the parenting job easier; giving mums a break from watching over kids when they are very busy.

Be there for your child

Yet, we should remind ourselves that the easiest option is not always the best; and bringing up children as good Muslims is our most important job and we should primarily focus our efforts and time on the right education. Once we switch off the TV, the children will turn to us to find them something to do and keep them busy. Expecting this, we should try to find for them activities that would be not only more meaningful, but also more fun for the kids. It would be perfect if we could manage to occupy our children’s time in a way that would be more attractive to them than watching TV. And if we put a little effort, they might not even demand for cartoons at all, preferring instead to spend time playing and learning with their parents and other family members.

Children who spend lots of time watching TV often have no contact with books and see reading as a boring activity. But, we should try to instil the love of reading in our kids from the early age; and that’s why, it is a good idea to build a family library and share stories together every day. Little children love listening to the stories told by their parents and looking at the colourful illustrations in children’s books. Little elder children are often interested in activity books and stories about other children. There is a lot of choice of good literature for children at all ages, and it doesn’t have to be very expensive to build the right collection for them with so many shops with good quality second-hand books available.

Sometimes, we do have a lot of work and we cannot give children our full attention, but there are lots of activities to keep them busy and entertained other than watching TV. Doing crafts, painting and colouring are some of the things all the kids love. Otherwise, we might try to engage the elder children in our own activities, teaching them to help in the kitchen or with any other household work.

I believe that with Allah’s (swt) help, the right intention and a bit of determination, we can give up the unproductive activities and make better use of every minute of our time. Insha’Allah.

Developing Reading Habits in Children

booksImportance of reading

The first revelation of the Quran was the first five verses of Surah Al- Alaq:

“Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood).Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen (the first person to write was Prophet Idrees (Enoch)). Has taught man that which he knew not.” ( Al-Alaq 96:1-5)

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” (Richard Steele)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn the more places you’ll go.” (Dr. Seuss)

Early bird catches the worm

Many parents are concerned about how to develop reading habits in their children and save them from unnecessary and time wasting activities. When your child is still a baby, there are some things you can do to help him or her learn! The first three years of life are very important in developing your child’s mind and abilities. Here are some ways to give your child an early and strong start.

1. Capture with picture

Picture reading can be started at a very young age i.e. from the age of 6-six months.

2. Bed time stories

Every night before sleeping, one of the parents can read a book to a child. Initially, the book should be pictorial. Then a book having few words, followed by a book with simple to complex sentences, as the child grows older.

3. Read and teach

Children are quite observant and love to explore everything around. So whenever they pick up a thing and if there is something written on it, adults can help them read in a playful manner.  Such as the text on jam jars, bottles of lotion, powder, water, packets of biscuits, rusk, chips, etc.

4. Read together

Every morning, when you read newspaper, make your child sit with you and play a game of reading headlines one by one. First you read one heading and then make the child read the other. Cuttings of interesting and knowledgeable sentences along with pictures can be pasted in a journal, as children love cut and paste activities.

5. Reading on-the-go

When going outside to Masjid, restaurant, shopping mall or any place, where you can utilize the time constructively, play reading games on way by reading the names of shops, banks, grocery stores, billboards, banners and slogans to enrich child’s vocabulary and observation.

6. Introduce reading etiquette

Establish a library area in the room. Encourage children to bring books, read them and put them back later on. Show them, how to hold and open a book, without spoiling or tearing it. Also, demonstrate as to how to turn the pages with care. Tell them about the different parts of a book in a conversational tone such as the cover, the end and the spine. When reading out a story, show them from where a sentence begins, in which direction do we read and how we read from top to bottom,  without expecting them to understand or remember straight away. Talk to them about different kinds of books like story books tell us stories, dictionaries give us the meanings of different words, encyclopedias tell us about so many different thing like animal, plants, buildings, history. This way you can introduce the Holy book Quran as well by telling them that this is the Book of Allah (swt) which is a complete and authentic guide for us, it is our Manual Book! It tells us how to spend our lives and most importantly Allah (swt) talks to us through it.

7.  Reader-friendly environment

Provide a print rich environment. Children learn to read fast by trying to make sense of the print they come across. We can support their efforts by labeling objects and areas in the house.

8. Flash cards rule

Making flash cards is a great help in learning letters and vocabulary. Prepare square cards with alphabets (any language you want your child to learn: Arabic, Urdu, English, etc.) and play matching games. Match the cards to objects and pictures which begin with a particular letter. Say the initial letter sound of objects and match it to the object that the letter represents. Begin with words that are personally meaningful for the child like his/her own name, name of family members, pets, favorite food and places. Keep an ear open for children’s interest and use words that are important for them to help them “read” letters of the alphabet and sight words.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” (Frederick Douglass)

Happy reading!