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If your child’s screen time is starting to feel out of hand, you are so not alone. Managing screen time is always a challenge, but these days, it’s extra tough. Virtual learning is adding hours of screen time to kids’ days and cutting out extracurriculars and playtime with peers, leaving kids even more prone to turning to tech for entertainment.
So what’s a busy parent to do? First, let go of any parental guilt – this season is tough. Second, try to work a few of these back-to-basics ideas into your kids’ daily routine to get them moving, creating, and using their imaginations!
Even if “cook” just means “spread-peanut-butter-on-toast” for your kid, giving them something to do in the kitchen is a great sensory and fine motor activity. Scooping and measuring build math skills, and kids are more likely to try food they helped create. For a few ideas, check out these kid-friendly recipes you can make together!
Craft areas and maker spaces don’t have to be fancy or expensive to be effective. And you don’t have to plan out Pinterest-worthy crafts. In fact, there are real benefits to open-ended art projects that let kids take the lead. With a few basics, kids are great at coming up with their own ideas. Stock your craft station with a few age appropriate supplies like safety scissors, glue sticks, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, paper towel rolls, craft pom poms, metal brads, and construction paper. (Of course, adjust according to the age of your kids!)
Constructive play with things like blocks, building bricks, magnetic tiles, train sets, or play dough is engaging and brain-boosting. If your kids lose interest in building quickly, play with them to model how you can create and come up with your own ideas. Before long, they’ll be constructing their own masterpieces.
Making outdoor time a priority might be the single most important thing we can do to reduce our kids’ screen time and help them stay healthy and active. Investing in outdoor toys like playhouses, sandboxes, and swing sets is a great way to make the backyard more enticing. Walks, nature scavenger hunts, bike rides, trips to the park, and a backyard garden are other ideas that can become an easy, fun part of your regular routine.
We all know how great reading is for kids. But if we force them to shut off their favorite app and pick up a book, reading can start to feel like a punishment instead of something fun – and what a shame that would be! To raise lifelong readers, try keep reading time fun, kid-led, and low pressure. Keep their bookshelf fresh with weekly visits to your local library (or weekly pickup if your library is closed). Read together with your best voices. Let them see you reading books that you really enjoy. Set up a cozy reading nook and let them decorate it with their own art and favorite pillows, blankets, and plushies. Offer special treats like herbal teas or frothed milk to make reading time even cozier and happier.
If your kiddos are still clinging tightly to their TV time, use that interest to your advantage with pretend play inspired by their favorite characters. If they’ve been playing Netflix’s Over the Moon on repeat, “bake” some of those famous mooncakes together in their play kitchen. If they’re all about the princess category on Disney+, princess-themed dolls and dollhouses are sure to be a hit. Whatever they’re into, use it to re-spark interest in roleplay, pretend play, and open-ended toys.
Hang in there, parents! You’re doing great.