By Jennifer Landis:
We’ve got screens everywhere we look. Cell phones, tablets, computers, televisions — screens are all over the place, and it can be difficult to separate our little ones from their favorite games or animated characters. We get it — sometimes, it’s easier to get the dishes washed or the laundry folded if you can plop your child in front of a screen for a few minutes, but that few minutes here and there can easily cascade until you end up with kids who don’t want to do anything but sit in front of a screen.
Here are five tried and true ways to avoid or limit screen time this spring.
1. Head Outside
Spring is here, even if it still feels chilly out in most of the country. Instead of staying inside when the weather is nice, make it a point to head outside and encourage your children to play. Kids are inherently imaginative and will come up with some fantastic scenarios that you couldn’t even dream of. Heading outside isn’t just an excellent way to help the little ones burn up some energy — it’s also good for them. Free play builds creativity, helps children develop motor skills and teaches independence and decision-making skills.
Plus, after spending the winter indoors, it’s an excellent time to start getting some Vitamin D from that spring sunshine. Your kids won’t even want to bring out their tablets when they’re busy slaying dragons and building castles in their minds.
2. Set a Schedule
Children respond well to routine and schedules. It helps them to have a sense of security and safety as they’re learning about the world. Humans are inherently afraid of the unfamiliar, and for young children, many of the things you’re comfortable with are strange and unknown to them. Why should screen time be any different?
Set up a schedule, and stick to it. If the kids are allowed to have screen time between 3 and 4 p.m. after getting home from school, then hold them to that every single day. They’ll get used to it after a while, and telling them to get off the screens will stop being such a fight.
3. Try Some Other Activities
Kids are easy to entertain — that’s why they can spend so much time staring at mindless videos on YouTube or throwing angry birds at pig-constructed buildings. Why not focus some of that energy on other activities? Here are a few ideas for you to try:
- Set Up A Laser Maze: Use red string to set up a laser maze so your kids can be secret agents, trying to make their way through it. You can do this activity indoors or outdoors, depending on the weather.
- Get Crafty: There’s nothing better than making something awesome that you can hang on the fridge or in the window. Go collect little sticks, leaves and blades of grass and use contact paper to make a sun-catcher, or mix up some water, cornstarch and food coloring and paint on the driveway instead of using dull old sidewalk chalk. You can even fill water balloons with the cornstarch mixture and smash them on the ground for a splatter-painting session. The possibilities are endless if a little messy.
- Make Colored Flowers: All you need for this is a jar of water, a few carnations and some food coloring. Cut the stem, stick it in some colored water and watch the flower change color! You can even carefully cut the stalk into multiple sections and put each one in a different shade of water to make multi-color flowers.
- Build a Fairy Garden: Use a flower pot base and ask your little ones to imagine where they think a fairy would live. Then, all you have to do is build it!
These are just a few ideas to get you started. Let your imagination run wild!
4. Be An Example
We tell our kids to do what we say, not what we do. But in reality, kids are more likely to follow another adage: monkey see, monkey do. If you’re on your screens all day long, they’ll want to do the same because they want to be just like mom or dad.
If you want to avoid a fight when it comes to limiting screen time, set a good example for your children. Put the phone away. Texts and Twitter can wait. Show them what you want them to do by doing it, too.
Remember that scene from Robin William’s movie “Hook”?
“Play!” as he hits Peter with the ball.
“PLAY!” as he hits Peter with the ball again.
Play with your kids. Don’t just take them outside and sit there on your phone. Get off the bench and actually play with them. Instead of letting them fight or befriend an imaginary giant, be the giant for them. You’ll have fun, too, and your kids will have an absolute blast with you.
Screen Time Is Not the Enemy
When it comes down to it, screen time is not the enemy — but too much time behind the tablet can become a problem. Take some time this spring to avoid screen time with some other activities your children are sure to love.