As we end yet another snow day here in Minnesota (and what by all accounts appears to be the most brutal blizzard in years), I’m going to own up to something not often seen in Instagram feeds: in our house we do screens. That’s right, we have an iPad almost exclusively used by our tiny humans, with a kid-proof case and all. There are educational apps, and of course we do take advantage of kindle unlimited (currently tackling the Harry Potter series!), but there’s also Netflix and YouTube and a few others I won’t shame myself with here. We’ve all read about the negative impact of screen time on little minds. (Ready to be terrified? Watch this.) I don’t believe anyone is really debating the damaging effects. But how do we know when we’ve crossed the line from “use in moderation” to screen time overload? The fact is we don’t. And more importantly, how do we manage that time better?\nBefore I became a mother, I swore I’d never allow so much television consumption. Isn’t it crazy to think about the parents we thought we’d be vs. the parents we are? I pictured myself playing games with my kids, baking cookies (yes really), putting on puppet shows, reading through stacks of books in a beautifully decorated book nook. While those are activities we do often (minus the perfect reading area, of course. Pipe dream.), being a work from home mom means there are times I need the help of our iPad. Whether it be an important conference call, an urgent deadline, or some other important task I need to complete distraction-free, that iPad allows me to do so. There are however several things I do to make sure we don't go overboard and become too dependent on it.\nHave Other Activities Readily Available\nOnce the screens are no longer an option for them, you may be surprised what spurs your kids imaginations! Make sure you have plenty of things to keep little hands busy. Some favorites in our house are painting and coloring, educational toys, play-doh, reading books, playing house\/dress-up, blanket forts, and of course playing outside when the weather allows. Some advice: keep close watch when your kids are experiencing free play. I recently walked in on a kinetic sand beach, complete with an “ocean” in the basement!\nSet the Parental Controls (and stick to them)\niPads and Kindles both allow for screen time limits, but the options and features for each differ a bit. Spend some time navigating the options and decide what limits and goals to set for your kids. Then, stick with them. I’m not going to lie and say I never allow my kids more time - hello, 7 cancelled school days just this month - but these circumstances aside, they generally get what they get.\nDo What is Necessary for Your Survival (and sanity)\nI know I just said to stick to the limits you set up, but sometimes you just have to keep your head above water. We all have days where we are perhaps a little less patient, the kids are especially energetic, or whatever it may be and we just need to take a second for ourselves and BREATHE. Take that time. And don’t you dare feel guilty for it.\nChange How Screens are Used\nThis sort of came to us by accident. Judging by the number of subscribers Ryan Toys Review has, I’m sure my kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy watching toy videos on YouTube. When our oldest asked if she could make her own videos, I was pleasantly surprised with the end result. She put a lot of thought into what she wanted to film, her message, and even where she was going to shoot and who would join her in front of the camera. While some might consider this a lateral move, I don’t see it that way at all. She’s learning public speaking skills, sharing the things she loves, and yes solving problems and furthering her language and tech skills too.\nScreen Limits are for Adults, Too\n\nAlthough my focus here is on kid's developing minds, the negative impact of too much screen time affects adults too. So much so that recent features were added to smartphones to remind (or force) users to take a tech break. I for one *always* have my phone on me, and yes sometimes I'm a little embarrassed by my weekly Screen Time Reports. I'm not even gonna tell you the number of "pickups" I had last week! Being on my phone is a vital component of my job, and when you run a small business you're always on call to answer customer's inquiries. So what to do? Well, for one I'm going to allow myself some down time. It's mostly a matter of accepting the fact that the 11pm email inquiry can wait until the next morning. \nNational Day of Unplugging\nThis Friday, March 1 is the National Day of Unplugging. So join me in turning your phone off, hiding the iPad from the kiddos, and instead of watching a movie for family fun night, enjoy a board game, charades, or a new book with your popcorn. And if you happen to send us a DM, we'll get back to you on Saturday ;)\n\nWhat advice do you have for approaching screen time for your children and yourselves?