“Television is the menace that everyone loves to hate but can't seem to live without.” - Paddy Chayefsky
Okay, yes... But swap television for iPad and Paddy is on to something. Before I became a mother, I swore I’d never allow a ton of screen time for my children. Isn’t it crazy to think about the parents we thought we’d be versus the parents we are?
I remember those future-mama visions in my head: taking the kids on picnics, baking cookies, playing games, backyard tea parties, putting on puppet shows, all those things. We do get to some of those things during our days, being a work-at-home mom means sometimes I need the help of an e-babysitter (also known as an iPad).
Throughout the years, “use in moderation” has been our mantra when it comes to screen time at our house, and *usually* that works out. So here are some practical, doable tips that I hope will help you prevent screen time overload for your little ones, too.
EMBRACE PARENTAL CONTROLS
Listen, mama. Parental controls exist for a REASON. If you have to spend some time navigating the options and deciding what limits and goals you want to set for your kids, then do that. Just make sure you set the time limits and stick to them.
ENCOURAGE FUN ACTIVITIES
Once the screens are less of an option for your kids, you’ll see them start to use their imagination more and more. Make sure you have plenty of activities to keep their little hands busy.
Some of our favorite activities:
- Playing house/dress-up
- Homemade fruit snacks
- Painting and coloring
- Reading books
- Nature scavenger hunts
- Educational toys
- Making playdough
- Building blanket forts
DON’T FEEL BAD IF YOU NEED A LITTLE SCREEN TIME HELP
I know, I know. I did just say to stick to your limits, and you should. Most of the time. Sometimes, as mothers, we need to do what we have to in order to keep our heads above water. Don’t feel bad if you need a little screen time help because you’re feeling less patient, the kids are especially restless, or whatever it is that has you reaching for the wine.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes we just need to take a second for ourselves and BREATHE. Take that time. And don’t you dare feel guilty for it.
SET SCREEN LIMITS FOR YOU, TOO
“Do as I say, not as I do…” Have you been there with me? Preaching to my kids about how they don’t need to be on a screen all the time right after I finish sending a text, reply to an Instagram message, checking for rushed toy orders, and looking at tomorrow’s weather forecast.
As a work-from-home mama running an online business, I have a love-hate relationship with my phone. And I’m often embarrassed by my Screen Time Reports.
Model the device use and screen time behavior you’d like to see from your kids, because they learn a lot more by watching you than anything else. For better (and often worse!) my kiddos emulate my mannerisms, expressions, and daily habits a lot. If they really MUST have a phone in their hands like mom, try this one!
Try to batch your phone tasks when you’re with your kids rather than checking every single notification when it pops up. Plan to do most of your screen time when kids are napping or in bed for the night. And don’t keep your phone in a central, visible location in your home at all times. Try setting off to the side, in a less used room, or in a catch all drawer when you’re not using it.
Another thing I do to reduce my screen time? Give myself a break when I need it. It’s mostly a matter of accepting the fact that the 11pm email inquiry can wait until the next morning.
Know your limits, mama. And stick to them (unless your sanity is at risk)!