By Sarah Lyons
Tablets, smartphones, television, and video games play a significant role in our daily lives. Technology can be a positive thing, but when it dominates our kids’ free time, it is time to limit it. Balance is key. With these easy tips, even reluctant kids may not notice they are cutting down their time spent with technology.
The easiest way to cut down on screen time is by playing outside. They can ride bikes, use sidewalk chalk, take a walk, play catch, or play in the sprinkler. You can also send them on a scavenger hunt. When kids are preoccupied outside, they are less likely to think about TV or video games.
Set clear boundaries for your kids when it comes to electronics. Mom of three, Amy Cameron, says, “Zero screen time is allowed in the morning before school.” Many other parents do not allow any phones or television during meals. It’s also a good idea to set limits on how much screen time is allowed and what time of day. When everyone is on the same page, there is less arguing about putting it down when the daily limit has been reached.
Become an Artist
Kids who are busy with art have less time to play on electronics because their time is spent focusing on the art. Search for an art project beforehand or let kids explore with different items to make a sculpture or paint a picture.
Set a Good Example
When attempting to limit screen time for your kids, take a look at how much time you spend on screens. Good or bad, our kids learn from our actions, and we can set a good example of when it’s appropriate to look at our phone and when it’s time to focus on other things.
“Screen time checklists need to be completed before kids get their devices,” says Anna Schuster, mom of five. Many parents find it helpful to make a list that kids must complete before they can have screen time. This may include schoolwork, chores, instrument practice, or reading time.
Maker Space/Breaker Space
One activity kids can do at home is create, design, and engineer a bridge out of materials from around the house or build a fort. Kids also love looking inside things to see how they work. Have kids take apart old remotes (with no batteries), phones, earbuds, or other non-working items.
Distract your kids from electronics by keeping them busy in the kitchen. They can help cook and bake and have fun sampling the things they have made themselves.
Family Reading Time
Set aside time when the family reads. It can be a read-aloud for younger kids, and older kids can read their own favorite books. Showing your kids that you enjoy reading might foster their love of reading.
Do a Project
Come up with a family project for the day to keep the kids screen-free. This could be a big chore like cleaning up the backyard or something fun like an art project or science experiment.
Play a Game
Declare it family game day and choose a few board games to play together. You could also try an outside game like hopscotch, foursquare, kickball, or break into teams and have a water balloon fight.
It’s easy to fill our time with screens because they are enjoyable and take little effort. However, a little bit of effort to plan a few other activities to distract us from our phones and tablets pays off in creating great memories your kids will remember far longer than the video games they played.