How do you handle screen time with your kids?
I think a lot of us have been down this road before. We need to get something done, or someone is sick, or you need some time alone, so you turn on the TV or hand over the tablet, hoping it will keep your kid busy for a little bit. Then before you know it, they’ve been watching unboxing toy videos for two hours, and now they’re grumpy and hungry. Plus, they want to make two pounds of glitter slime from a recipe they just found.
Screen time isn’t fantastic for our kids, but it’s a necessary evil in my home. We don’t have super strict rules on how much or how little they can have, and sometimes things get out of hand.
I decided in the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, 2020 will be the year that our household cuts back on screens. Maybe eventually (probably not) we’ll be screen-free, but until then, I’m working on some baby steps to move forward, and, hopefully, if you’re in the same boat, they’ll help you too.
Cutting Back On My Use
My husband and I need to cut back on our screen time while the kids are awake. I will be the first to admit; my phone is glued to my hand. I use it for everything: emails, social media, taking pictures, writing this post, all on my phone. And if my husband can’t be found, he’s likely at the desktop with his headphones on, playing a videogame. These are bad habits we have to break before we can tell our kids they can’t watch another cartoon.
Making Better Schedules
Getting into a new routine can be hard for kids, but having a loose schedule is a great way to cut back on screen time. I’m not saying everything has to be planned hour to hour, but having breakfast time, music time, craft/coloring time, free time (the kids usually go off to play outside or in their rooms), and then lunchtime, has been my loose schedule for the last week. I won’t lie. There was some protesting since it was still winter break, and I cut off screens until after lunch, but they adjusted just fine. Figuring out a couple of easy activities to transition to throughout the day and sticking to it will help your kids realize their imaginations are more fun than the newest episode of Paw Patrol.
Your kids blew through the activities you planned, colored all the papers, built all the blocks, and even cleaned their plates during breakfast and lunch, now what? Luckily, my kids have a couple of go-to’s that will distract them from any topic, even TV at any time. If we have the supplies, we bake. Just a box cake or cookie mix is good enough for them, and it takes up only enough time for them to decide it’s time to play with something else while it’s in the oven. If I don’t have the supplies or time to bake, then I turn on their favorite music. Their playlist is filled with happy pop songs from movies they love, and they stop whatever they’re doing immediately (even whining about their tablet) to start an impromptu dance party. Keep things that your kids love in your back pocket for times when they need to be redirected from the screens.
Have a Time Limit
When screen time does arrive, make sure you and your kids know there is a limit. Set a loud timer, or set the parental controls on their tablets, so it turns off after a certain amount of time. Making sure the screens are all off at least an hour before bedtime has been a lifesaver in our home as well. The kids naturally calm down and are much easier to get ready for bed.
Finding a digital balance is an ongoing struggle at my house.
Do the kids still complain sometimes? Yes. But I do feel like they are using their imagination more, and we have more time to do other things because we’re not continually stuck in the next episode loop. They’re still wild, crazy, loud kids, but at least I feel a little better about how they’re spending their time. Plus, their brains aren’t completely turned to mush!