This post was written by guest contributor, Kailan Carr with The Quiet Book Queen!
This post does contain affiliate links. To learn more about this, click here!
Hey, we’re in a pandemic so screen time limits likely went sayonara with our social lives. Every family is different, and every parent out there is navigating their own course. This is no place for guilt or judgment.
But there will come a time for every family to get back to a somewhat normal; a pre-pandemic state. Distance learning will soon be over for a few months, and there won’t be a solid reason to need a screen.
There actually is a price we pay for the moments of quiet and entertainment screens provide. The cost could be our children’s loss of creativity, focus, sleep, or happy mood. Have your children become screen zombies that want nothing else?
Then maybe it’s time for a reset so you can get back some control.
This doesn’t mean giving up screens forever. But it is a period of about 3-7 days (however long you can last) where you go screen-free to reset your children’s brains and bodies – like a detox. Then you can reintroduce screens where YOU are in control again and you can establish your routine.
If you think you and your family are in need of a reset, I have some tips for you!
This is not something you declare after an outburst when your emotions are heightened. It needs to be thought out and deliberate. Look at the calendar and choose your screen-free weekend/week. If the thought of 7 days without screens is horrifying, try for 3-4. But I can bet when you start to see the differences in your kids you might be willing to go for the full 7. It needs to be at least 3 days though to get the full benefit.
Get Everyone on Board
You and your partner must be in agreement. It should be discussed with the kids beforehand too. Make it super clear that this is NOT a punishment. I always turn to books for conversation starters, and these are good ones to highlight what too much screen time can do to us.
Order the Books
This is part of planning ahead too. Get enough activity ideas together so there isn’t a moment to be tempted by screens. I have compiled a list of over 75 screen-free activities to do at home as a free download on my website!
If quarantine has relaxed in your area, get out and go somewhere every day! Side note – I absolutely recommend letting kids get bored and not filling their days with activities by the minute. But this detox period is not the best time for that. It’s better to keep them busy so they aren’t thinking about wanting screens
It’s going to be tough. Day 1 is the worst. You will likely hear whining, tantrums, outbursts, begging, rude words, etc. Don’t. give. in. It WILL get better. Screens have similar affects on our brains as drugs. They are addicting. This is the “withdrawal” period and you need to break the habit. If you want to read more about it, I highly recommend the book Glow Kids by Dr. Nick Karadaras and Reset your Child’s Brain by Dr. Elizabeth Dunckley.
Put The Devices Away
When they are out of sight, they are out of mind. Put the tablets in a drawer, video game consoles can go in a closet, keep your phone in your purse when kids are around, etc. Computers and TVs are hard to move, but you can unplug them or hide remotes.
Be a Good Example
This should be a family effort and it’s important for you to limit your screen time in front of the kids. Save the phone scrolling and Netflix for when they are in bed.
Set Limits for the Future
When it’s time to reintroduce screens, make sure you openly discuss your new limits. If you have older kids, you can even create them together. If you have kids 5 or younger, I highly recommend following the guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Make sure to outline when screens are allowed, where they are allowed (best not to allow them in bedrooms or while eating as a family), and a time limit for the day.
I have experienced this with my own children and have heard from many other parents about what a difference they see in their children after a few days without screens. Their imaginations come to life. They have more control over their emotions. They get creative and stay interested in things for longer. They have conversations and ask questions. When screens aren’t an option, they find other things to do!
And just for fun, here’s a look at a few activities that are easy to set up and will be perfect for summer time screen-free play.
Frozen Nature Treasures
This can be a two part activity. First, get outside and collect nature treasures. Go on a walk or explore your yard to gather things like flower petals, green leaves, brown leaves, seeds, berries, bark, etc. Then put them in a muffin tin or ice cube tray with water and let them freeze. On another day, set them out for your kids to explore. They can try to get them to melt or bust them apart. You can also do this with small figurine toys and tell your kids to help free them.
Spray the Letter
This is a complete learning in disguise activity. Kids think it is so fun to be in charge of the spray bottle. It’s also great water play on a summer day. Write something that your child is working on in chalk on the ground or on a piece of poster paper with marker. This can be letters, numbers, scribbles of color, sight words, math sums, fractions, etc. You call out the letter sound or the math problem and they have to spray the answer.
Outdoor Scavenger Hunt
Get the free printable on my website!
It comes with a nature scavenger hunt if you can go on a hike or a neighborhood scavenger hunt to stay close to home. It totally gets kids minds off walking and looking at their surroundings! You can never go wrong with a little extra challenge like a scavenger hunt!
Reading Bingo Challenge
It may be summer, but keep reading!! It’s more important than ever to keep practicing and not let those skills slide backward. This is another free printable. Kids will get a kick out of reading in silly places and finding the right books to check off their list. There is one for readers and non-readers!
Here’s to starting out summer and getting your little ones back on track. Remember, tech is a parenting tool for you, not a right for your kids! You have the control.