Just my two cents as a mom of a toddler (not as a doctor nor a psychologist).
I just read this post: ABC News: iPad generation’s fingers not ready to write, teachers say
At this time and age, i think it is inevitable that children would get a hold of mobile devices and get screen time more than the mere TV of our generation (unless the entire household completely shutdown their own devices at home and whenever they are with kids — all the time for many, many years).
I think shutting them down completely with it would turn out negatively that they would yearn for it more and hide it from their parents and guardians (in Filipino, there’s this saying “Masarap ang bawal”).
I guess we should just learn to try our very best to find a balance between the main priority — traditional, healthy, physical play — and having tablets and mobile phones as side dish.
But yes, Play-doh, pens, papers, monkey bars, slides, puzzles, “bahay-bahayan” (traditional Filipino pretend play), and the likes should be given as highlights. I think in general, kids love them all and would love to try them out, unless they were already completely wired and used to digital technology way too early on in their very young lives.
So, start them young. Let them get dirty, messy, let them have fun. Just make sure they are ready. Say, play-doh and small toys should be introduced by the time they are already aware of not eating or putting in their mouths non-food items. Benchmark age for this is usually 3, but every child is different. In our case, at 15 months, our child can already handle Play-doh and small toys that have warnings of being choking hazards.
Always keep an eye on them when holding pens and even a toothbrush to avoid freak accidents. Teach them where to write and draw, where to prioritize the use of modeling clay, etc. Teach them how to be safe on their own and how to avoid accidents. I think in general, they are smart enough to understand their own safety and protection even at a very young age. But yes, some falls and tumbles are pretty much unavoidable. Use these to let them understand better.