Kris Louis is back with us to share some nice guidance about how to get our kids away from the screen. I know in our home we went from feeling like we were mastering this whole remote work and virtual learning thing until we weren’t. My daughter is definitely enjoying much more screen time than I prefer. Kids everywhere have tablets and phones and are glued to them because parents are trying to keep up with the demands of work. This post is talking about young kids and I know some of you have really been struggling with how to keep the little ones busy while you are on calls and trying to do your job. Take what you can from the post and leave the rest here. It’s meant to be helpful, not judgmental. If you are working from home, share with us in the comments some of the ways you have been keeping your littles busy without putting them in front of the screen (I may have to try them with no no-longer-little one!).
It’s important to keep an eye on screen time for kids of all ages. Too much screen time in kids under five is linked to decreased developmental outcomes. In fact, that’s why experts now recommend that children under the age of five get no more than one hour of screen time per day, and less is better.
Time spent in front of a TV or tablet is time that kids aren’t developing their motor skills, exploring their environment, or connecting with parents, caregivers, and other children. While it can seem like screens are a great educational tool, it’s these activities that really guide a child’s development. And since so much brain development happens before a child turns five, lapses in early education have lasting impacts.
Despite the drawbacks, many parents find it difficult to place tight restrictions on their child’s screen time. And it’s not hard to see why. Between their careers and their families, today’s parents are busy non-stop. When handing their child an iPad allows parents to get a healthy dinner on the table or help an older sibling with homework, a little bit of screen time seems like a fair trade-off.
For many parents, it’s hard to see an alternative that doesn’t cost a fortune. Nannies aren’t exactly cheap, and someone has to keep the family fed. But there are better, cheaper ways.
3 ways to reduce screen time (and save money doing it!)
Out of sight, out of mind is surprisingly effective when it comes to reducing a child’s screen time. Store tablets in a drawer or other out-of-the-way place and avoid using your phone in front of your kid or storing it where they can see it. TVs are harder to hide, but not impossible. An entertainment center or TV wall cabinet with doors lets you hide the TV after use. Instead of paying for expensive built-ins, look to options from budget-friendly furniture retailers like Hayneedle. Since Hayneedle offers free shipping over $49, you won’t spend more to buy online.
Screen time is linked to behavioral problems. Green time, on the other hand, is linked to reduced stress, increased confidence, and greater creativity and imagination. In addition to creating a safe backyard space for your child, consider enrolling in their first team sport. Even if your child isn’t a natural, they’ll reap the many benefits of team sports, from motor skills development to social skills development. Since you don’t want to spend a fortune on equipment your child will soon grow out of, look for discounted gear at stores like Target or Kohl’s and use promo codes and coupons for extra savings.
Toys deliver in all the ways that screens fall short. Not only do toys make children use their imaginations, but they keep their bodies moving and their skills developing, too. While there’s no shortage of toys on the shelves, buying flimsy or trendy toys is a recipe for wasted money. Instead, look for classic toys that will capture your child’s imagination again and again. After all, there’s a reason that toys like building blocks, chalkboards, and play dough never go out of style. Instead of shopping the clearance aisle for new toys, look for quality toys that will last and buy fewer of them to save money.
Limiting your child’s screen time doesn’t require a drastic overhaul. By reducing your child’s exposure to electronic devices and providing positive alternatives to screen time, you can reduce screen time and create healthier routines for your family. If money or time has kept you from getting serious about screen time limits, let these tips help you make the leap.
Kris Louis is a mom to two rambunctious boys. Her oldest is 10 and her youngest is 7. A former advertising copywriter, she recently created ParentingWithKris.com, where she puts her skills to work writing about the trials and tribulations of parenting. Kris, her husband, and her two boys live in Durham, NC.