Q&A! PLAY TIME > SCREEN TIME & HELPING OUR KIDS BALANCE LIFE WITH TECH

Friday, March 30, 2018
It's Friday! Time for another Q&A. πŸŽ‰ I chatted with a mama friend out there via Instagram about our kids and screen time -- how to set up boundaries and how to encourage our kids to play. After struggling with balancing screen time for a while when Olivia was little - Claire was a newborn and I was still running Let's Playground (see here and here)- she and I had to dig deep and change our ways to be more balanced, and we did, so I was happy to share with this friend how we went about that + how we play now. Her Q and my answers are below! 

Pics via -- an afternoon this week in the playroom. Olivia was playing "Orphanage" -- those stuffed animals set up all over were her "sweet, sweet orphans!"; she was giving them rewards (felt balls that color-coordinated with their fur color and Shopkins) for being "such good kids". 😊 Emmy and Claire were in baby doll mode. πŸ‘Ά
Q: It seems like your kids are always playing! Can you tell me how you encourage play and limit screens?

A: Gosh it's tough to turn screens off, but honestly, I just turn them off. The girls have about 1-1.25 hours of screen time every day - it's always some kind of show during Emmy's nap - but that one round is it...


It helped me IMMENSELY to teach them about their brains getting weak via too much screen time. I first taught Olivia about the purpose of screen time when she was 2.5 -- its benefits and mostly its detriments, since she was pushy about wanting more and more screen time back then. I called the overall detriment of excess screen time "mushy brain," that parents can get it as much as kids, and that we all have to learn how to turn off screens. For a visual, I showed her a side-by-side comparison of a healthy versus an unhealthy brain (just Google "healthy vs unhealthy brain" and you'll get a whole slew of pictures), and I taught her that too much screen time leads to the weak brain (the image/scan will have missing areas of the brain), and on the flip-side, playing with toys, being outside, talking to people, reading -- all of that leads to a healthy brain (the image/scan of a complete, whole brain). Olivia got that, and she stopped pushing me when her daily screen time ended. Honestly it was magical.

I've since taught Claire the same things and she gets it, so whenever they push back on wanting more screen time, either in conjunction with the time they've already had or if they ask for it again later in the day, I just tell them "Girls, I am here to take care of you and I will NOT let you get mushy brains." Oh - I taught them the effects of an unhealthy brain, too - like not being able to walk, talk, eat, play, etc. Those side effects are obviously a stretch, but it made the point!
Being consistent and firm with the one segment of screen time each day means that I have to be more engaged and creative in helping them come up with things to do. So really, the amount of screen time they have is totally MY choice. And sometimes it is hard to not let them be on the screens -- I am tired, I have things to do, etc. But gosh it pays off in the end. When they're left with nothing to entertain them, they learn to entertain themselves!
Regarding how to encourage play, I've learned to -- 1) give my girls a space that is theirs, 2) toys that can be played with in more than one way (EG, stuffed animals are their "kids," then they're their zoo pets, etc. Battery-operated toys that just sing or something can only sing or something), and 3) to kick off the pretend play with them. Suggest something like, "Oooh is this doll's name Ella? Is she your baby or are you babysitting her?" and then keep pretending with them.

Having a creative box of some sort is a must. My girls have an art box that they LOVE. It's full of crayons, kid scissors, colored pencils, etc., and they have a coloring/cutting/everything session at least once a day. If I had boys, I'd definitely have a Lego box. You just need something that will occupy their minds and hands at the same time for a long time!
And that was the end of that convo! The thoughts below weren't part of what we talked about, but I thought about them while writing this up -- 

- My big girls started to seem interested in screens around 1.5-years-old -- kind of. It really isn't until 2-years-old that kids, I've found, want screens. I mean, they'll eat it if you give it to them - Emmy would probably like a little show on my phone - but I definitely don't go there because other babies have phones in their hands or because I want to keep her quiet. Parenting becomes work in this regard. We have to dig deep and work for our kids to stay engaged with the world. But it's been done for literally thousands of years, right? Why break the molds now? :) Anyway, yes, the screens at baby for babies. Babies' brains are just so little. Let them really grow via a lot of play!

- I've tried to set the precedent of "big screens only" for my girls, and that screen time is an at-home gig. The girls don't have their regular show time on any hand-held, smaller screens like on our iPad or my phone. Again, for the sake of precedent. I want them to understand that screens are generally for entertaining, and really, you only need to be entertained for a small portion of your day, like for an hour while at home. I want them to do public-oriented things in public, like saying hello to people, noticing nature, asking questions about how stuff works -- they can't do that if they're stuck on a screen. That said, public stuff, like Costco trips, can get wild. It's so easy to just stuff a screen in your kids face and keep them quiet. But it's WORTH it to work together as parents + kids and really live in the world. All that said, we use an iPad for watching shows when we travel via long car trips and flights. But otherwise, screens are solely "big" around here and left at home. 

Any other thoughts out there, mama?? Share away! Screen time is such a big deal today. We have to teach our kids to be disciplined with it (we have to be disciplined with it! Another convo for another day 😊). And we have to, yes, to let them be little and let them play. The endeavors to nix screens and nurture play totally make us work but it's so worth the work. 

We can do this whole Life thing, friends! Cheering you on. πŸ’›

XO

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