Tablets, smartphones, television and video games play a major role in our daily lives. Technology can be a positive thing, but when it dominates our kids’ free time, it’s time to start limiting it. With these easy tips, even reluctant kids may not notice they are cutting down their time spent with technology.
The easiest way to cut down on screen time is playing outside. Kids can ride bikes, use sidewalk chalk, take a walk, play catch or play in the sprinkler. When kids are preoccupied outdoors, they are less likely to think about TV or video games.
Set clear boundaries for your kids when it comes to electronics. Mom of three Amy Cameron says, “Zero screen time is allowed in the morning before school.” Many other parents do not allow any phones or television during meals. It’s also a good idea to set limits on how much screen time is allowed and what time of day. When everyone is on same page, there is less arguing about putting screens down when the daily limit has been reached.
Join extracurricular activities
Kids who are busy with sports or the arts have less time to play on electronics because their time is spent in practices, games and performances.
Set a good example
When attempting to limit screen time for your kids, take a look at how much time you spend on screens. Good or bad, our kids learn from our actions and we can set a good example about when it’s appropriate to look at our phone and when it’s time to focus on other things.
“Screen time checklists need to be completed before kids get their devices,” says Anna Schuster, mom of five. Many parents find it helpful to make a list that must be completed before kids can have screen time. This may include schoolwork, chores, instrument practice or reading time.
Host a masked play date
One way to cut down on time for screens is to host a no-electronics play date. With friends over, it is easier to find other ways to occupy kids’ time as they socialize and play with their friends.
Distract your kids from electronics by keeping them busy in the kitchen. They can help cook and bake and have fun sampling the things they have made themselves.
Visit the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the International Spy Museum, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, The Hirshhorn’s Sculpture Garden, the National Mall or the Lincoln Memorial. If they are busy exploring our area’s great monuments, historic sites, parks and other attractions, they will not have time for screens.
Do a project
Come up with a family project for the day to keep the kids screen-free. This could be a big chore like cleaning up the backyard or something fun like an art project or science experiments.
Play a game
Declare it family game day and choose a few board games to play together. You could also try an outside game like hopscotch, foursquare or kickball, or break into teams and have a water balloon fight.
It’s easy to fill our time with screens because they are enjoyable and take little effort. However, a little bit of effort to plan a few other activities to distract us from our phones and tablets pays off in creating great memories your kids will remember far longer than the video games they played.