Screen time is more necessary than ever. We need our devices to work from home, order groceries and supplies, finish out the school year, and maintain connection with family, friends and the outside world. But, how do you prevent screens from taking center stage when you’re at home 24/7?
Start by building non-screen time activities into the daily schedule.
Set Goals. You’re more apt to get buy-in if kids set their own goals for limiting screen time. Ask them to reassess at the beginning of each week. Take the focus off screen limits by encouraging kids to weave positives into their goals: “I want to spend X-minutes outside every week.” “I’m going to commit to reading X-minutes each day.”
All Hands On Deck. You’ve heard the saying “A chore a day keeps the screen time away”? (Probably not, since I just made that up.) But, now’s the time to break out (or create) the old-fashioned chore chart. Chores and tasks must be complete before any device is powered on.
It’s Only Natural. Get outside every day. Kids are used to recess or P.E. class activities outside. Not only does spending time outside act as a natural mood booster, but it also helps kids stay focused when it’s time to learn.
Multiple Choice. Kids need choices. Always have different activities readily available. Create stations for coloring, drawing, puzzles, solo card games, building (blocks, Lego, K-NEX). If space is limited, keep the necessary items for each activity in ready-to-grab boxes, bins or baskets.
She Blinded Me with Science. Now is not the time to worry about the mess. Engaging kids is much more important. There are a plethora of online resources for simple science experiments that use items you’re likely to have on hand.
Gimme a “P”. P is for passion project. Focus on more hands-on, less research-intensive passion projects. Perfect “real” photography (it’s not just about selfies); practice the harmonica; learn to draw anime characters; master origami; start an herb garden; write poetry.
Kitchen Cooperative. Have kids participate in preparing every meal of the day. Scramble the eggs, wash the fruit, butter the toast. Help set up the sandwich assembly line: bread, condiments, lunchmeat, cheese or PB&J, then make their own. Help with dinner.
Get in the Groove. The key to structuring non-screen time into the day is just that: structure. Establish a routine. It may take time to adjust, but don’t give up. Research abounds on the benefits of regular routines for children. Not only are scheduled activities a source of comfort, but they also go a long way toward reducing anxiety. Which, in this COVID-19 driven world, is the perfect payoff.