Parenting and Screen Time Alternatives: How To Entertain Your Child in a Positive Way
Parenting can be so difficult at times and parents sometimes need a break. It seems as if letting our preschool children use screen time (iPads, tablets, TVs, computers) allows parents to have some time "off" as screens seem to entertain children better than any babysitter out there!
But, even if your children are engaged with educational apps and educational content, do you think screens are good enough for your child?
What if we can replace, for the most part, screen time and allow the development of our children in a positive way?
The truth is that children do NOT need to be glued to a screen for prolonged periods of time and there are many alternatives that you can utilize to allow your children to entertain themselves and help them develop mentally, socially and emotionally.
Being an Example
First, we need to do our part as parents. If you do not want your child to be glued to a screen, it's never too early to show your child how to act at home. For example, if you're always on your phone browsing through social media or sending emails, think about how your child is noticing you.
Remember, children do not always learn in a traditional setting like a school, rather they imitate what adults do. Therefore, if you want your child to not be glued to a screen, dedicate time to them and show them how they can act.
A few pieces of advice related to how parents could use screen time with children:
Have specific times that you dedicate to "turn off" your screen time.
Leave phones, iPads, and computers in specific areas of your house and dedicate those areas as "screen allowed spaces" and only on specific times of the day.
Do not carry your phone in your hand when you leave the house. You can leave it in your pocket or in your purse and only use it while it's necessary. For example, if you're waiting at the doctor's office, you don't have to pull out your phone, bring a book for you and a book for your child instead.For more ideas keep reading to see how you can replace screen time:
Engage in Activities
Engage in activities at home that are fun for you and your child. This involves some parental involvement, but if we start to play with our children, at some point, they're going to want to explore their environment by themselves. It's also a great bonding experience when children want to play with us!
Some examples include:
Watering the plants together.
Doing chores together (washing dishes, doing laundry).
Organize their room together.
Make at-home decorations for the house.
All of these activities are rewarding for children and they make a positive impact in your home. They also see the result of their accomplishments right away and they're making their own home a better place in an active way.
Plan Sensory and Tactile Activities
All of the following are as appealing to children as an iPad but focus on the sensory and tactile aspects that can be educational too.
Sensory output refers to the way our bodies respond to external elements like temperature and pressure. For example, playing with play-dough or washing dishes can be a great sensory output activity that your child could enjoy.
Tactile activities include physical contact between objects. Children can learn about different shapes and sizes if you provide them with toys and tools for exploring. Building blocks, art supplies, and nature-based activities are all tactile activities.
The child will be entertained in an engaging way and will be developing sensory and tactile senses that will go educate them further in the future.
Some examples include:
Playing with sand and water.
Building towers with blocks.
Coloring and drawing.
Making homemade pasta.
Poking at a pie crust.
Board games and puzzles.
Play dough or sand play.
Outdoor play is also a great way to have your children entertained and it's quite educational. Let them run around the yard, explore their surroundings, build sandcastles, or even do some simple gardening activities. They can learn how to interact with other children and even how to share toys!
Outdoor play ideas:
Play tag with your children.
Take them to a playground.
Let them run around freely.
Do a fun race.
Sit down in the grass and bring out outdoor toys.
Look at the sky and form shapes with the clouds.
All of these activities get children out of the house. Most of the time, children already know what to do when they're outside, so this is a great solution that doesn't always involve parental involvement.
The Planning Process
There are many activities that you can do at home or in a public place. All it takes is a little bit of planning.
Some questions that you might consider when it comes to planning to avoid giving into the screen time:
What are your child's interests? Dinosaurs, dolls, babies? You can incorporate your child's interests within different activities by taking the toys on walks or incorporating them into other play activities.
What can you do at home or in a public place? We understand that you can't run around in a restaurant, but what if you can bring a small board game or even playdough to a public outing? Think of ways to entertain your kids in different settings with toys that they already enjoy.
What do you need to bring with you? You don't want to bring the whole house, just pick 2 - 3 small items that would fit in your purse or in a small bag.
How much time will the activity last? Think about how much time they can be entertained and how many items you need to bring.
What are the instructions? Be prepared to start playing with them if this is a new toy or a new activity, but once they understand what to do, they might be able to entertain themselves for long periods of time.
How To Get Away From Screens
You do not need to yell at the child to stop using it, you can simply replace it and start to play with them. You'll see that the more you engage with the toys and activities, the more the child will be entertained. Take small steps, you don't need to cut off the screen time all together, just start out by limiting it and focusing on other fun and engaging play. Just focus on the process and make it a fun transition.
You might also consider the positive aspects into how replacing screentime will allow your children to develop mentally and socially.
Think about the enormous possibilities you have available to you before you let your child only engage in screen activities. There are so many alternative activities that you can do with them and they can be even more fun and entertaining! Show them how to interact with the environment and not just with a device.
In this way, you can help your child learn to interact with other people, understand their environment and explore the world around them. It will also be a great bonding experience for both parents and children! So why not give it a try?