Having a late night scroll through social media and it is apparent that there are many parents out there desperate to reduce their child’s access to screens.
I see parents asking how to get their children away from screens and seeking advice around what activities to distract their children with.
Now I will admit that Miss 4 and Miss 19m have always had very limited screen time. I have occasionally shown them a photo I have taken of them on my smart phone, we FaceTime Dad while he is at work sometimes and family on the other side of the country once a week or so.
Mr 10, however is a different story. We have been through the tantrums, the withdrawals and the lack of direction that comes with the initial restriction of screens. Trust me, I can understand what these parents are talking about when they just default back to screen time.
Guess what though? We stuck with it, he survived and wow, what a different child!
- He became social with the family
- His is speech improving
- His mood is more consistent
- He laughs and smiles
- He is moving, playing inside and outdoors too
- He is so such happier!
Four years later and I have no regrets in limiting his screen time. During the week, outside of his schooling during the day, he has an hour each evening of TV time with the option of doing some extra household chores to earn XBox time (which he hasn’t done for what could be coming up for a year per his own choice).
Instead of screen time, he plays with his lego, draws, plays with play dough, jumps on the trampoline, rides his scooter and has developed a forever growing fondness of reading books. Just today he came home from school and got straight into creating his very own comic book!
He seeks out his sisters and joins them in their activities and is excited to share the tales of his day.
So what would be some tips that I could offer to restrict screen time?
1. Write down why you would like to reduce your child’s screen time. This is going to be something that you remind yourself of when the going gets tough. Stay true to your values and your reason why!
2. Provide your child with open ended play opportunities. Craft supplies, paint, colouring pencils, loose parts for small world play, play dough etc. Be attentive to their interests and offer play opportunities surrounding what they enjoy. Eg insects, dinosaurs, animals, vehicles, space
3. Let them get bored! Boredom inspires creativity. Screens trigger a hormone production that offers a feeling of pleasure. It is going to take time for your child to feel the same ‘pleasure’ in a real life situation as the rapid paced stimulus it has become accustomed too.
4. Set a good example. Monkey see, monkey do. Try to be conscious of how much time you are spending on your device or in front of your tv while under the watchful eye of your children.
We started off with what I called ‘Park and Craft’ after school. We would spend an hour or so at the park running around or hanging off the playground only to come home and he would craft it up while I cooked dinner.
Once the habit of finishing school and switching on the tv was broken, I gave him bit by bit more control over what he did once we were home. There was resistance here and there but that little system worked well for us.
Now when he finishes school, Mr 10 tells us about this day, asks about ours, shares his ideas, troubles and ambitions. His mind is active, his body is active, he is being social and he is building bonds that will last a lot longer than a 20 minute episode of whatever the latest fad is on the box.
Good luck folks and when in doubt, remind yourself of your reason why.
Dani D x
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Here are some open ended toy options to consider- remember to keep play based around you child’s interests!