My husband is awesome. His love for books belittles screen time, and it makes it really easy for him to instill that in our kids while also encouraging me to do the same. Not to say I don’t turn on the television at times, and especially after the kids have gone to bed. Our kids, 4 and 2, don’t play on our phones, they don’t play on a tablet or iPad, and while they do get to watch the occasional My Little Pony or Wild Kratts, we monitor what they do watch. We’re those parents. We’ve actually talked to our son’s Pre-K teacher about how much screen time he gets at school.
While you’ve probably seen a lot of articles shared on Facebook about how screen time negatively affects children (and to be honest, adults, too), I’m here to tell you why my family heeds this warning. I’m also here to share some ideas that have worked for us and our kids, as far as avoiding screen time.
When a screen is on, whether it be a t.v. or phone or iPad, my son is zoned in and nobody’s going to interfere. He absorbs quite a bit of information with that laser focus of his, but if left in that state for too long, his behavior suffers for it later. Have you ever turned off the screen and your little one had a complete meltdown? *Raises hand* It’s not pretty. We’ve witnessed the benefit of limiting screen time for our children. While our son seems more addicted to the screen than our daughter, it still benefits them both to avoid it.
So what do we do to keep them away from it all?
- BOOKS. Well, earlier I mentioned that my husband loves books, so he’s instilled that in our kids. We have a lot of kids books in both of our kids’ rooms that we encourage them to read together, by themselves and with us. They each get to pick 2 books to read with us as part of their bedtime routine (although I think that might dwindle to 1 book per child when the third child arrives in February). They have a variety of books. My son loves look-and-find books, and most recently has gotten into Pokemon or Spiderman chapter books. Our daughter is still pretty content with any book about animals. My husband also loves to take our kids to various libraries when he can, which is a fun trip for them.
- GO OUTSIDE. This will be good for you, too. Get some fresh air. Let the kids jump, climb, run and draw on things with chalk. Let them explore and use their imagination. Foster their curious minds. We have found that letting them play outside for at least 30 minutes or going on a walk with them in the evenings increases their mood 100%, and they might even sleep better.
- ART. Create a space in the home for your little ones to draw, color, paint, or play with stickers, for example. You may have to let go of your obsessive-compulsive tendencies with this one. Our kids have completely covered their drawing/coffee table with stickers, and they miiiggghht have drawn on the walls in that corner of the room (which comes off with a magic eraser, I promise), but it’s great for their developing minds.
- MUSIC. Our kids love music. They have 2 silly parents that love to dance silly, so it comes with the territory. We have an Amazon Alexa in the living room that we play music on. We do monitor what music they listen to, btw. The other morning, I turned on the music while they colored on paper at their drawing table, and no lie, it lasted 2 hours. We’ve also had silly dance parties together, which the kids love.
- GARDENING. I guess this could be a subcategory under going outside, but I’m a professional horticulturist, so I choose to highlight this one. This can be done inside or outside, so when it’s cold outside and you say there’s no gardening to be done, try growing some herbs or produce in the house with your little ones. Save that potato that’s started sprouting in the kitchen and plant it in a pot in the window for your kids to watch. In April, you can start planting outside, and if you’ve never planted a garden before, start small. Try containers or a small area in your yard for your kids to take ownership of. Last year, I let my son plant potatoes in a pot on the front porch and involved him in every step of the growing and harvesting process. His friend Gretta even wanted to join in on the planting fun. This is not just for plant-lovers’ kids, I’m telling you. Outside gardens are usually done by the time October rolls around and we get a freeze, but you can still involve the kids in the cleanup of the garden, or collecting seeds in the garden.
- COMMUNITY EVENTS. Take your kids out to a fun (and often free) event in the community. Storytime at the library, Parks and Recreation sponsored events, Cooperative Extension sponsored workshops, church gatherings, etc. Check out Eventbrite for events in your area, if you’re unaware. Start following your local Parks & Rec Facebook page, or your county’s Cooperative Extension page.
- FAMILY TIME. If you’re lucky enough to have family close by, spend time together. When we can, we like to get together with cousins and let them play together. Quality time can be vastly underrated. If you don’t have family close by, invest in each other. Spend time together, just you and your kids. Play pretend with them or let them wrestle you. Make up silly songs with them. You get the idea.
So how do you avoid screen time in your home? I’d love to hear your ideas.