Let’s face it – screens are everywhere! Not only at home, but in malls, at school and in every public building we venture into these days there are screens. So how do we help our children (and ourselves) reduce our time looking at screens?
In my house you are either in the living space (which is a small living room and dining room combo) or you are upstairs in the bedrooms. If the tv is on, you are essentially watching it, whether you care to or not. Honestly I don’t like that at all, but it’s my reality.
This month my daughter, the one in grade 5, is doing a screen time challenge. She has a timer and is supposed to record how much time she watches screens for each day. The target is to stay below 2 hours. So far she’s managing, but I don’t know if she’ll keep it up.
This has got me thinking about how I can better support my kids and help them reduce their screen time. I’ve brainstormed some ideas:
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Get them more active with chores
I know I pay a lot less attention to screens when I’m busily doing the dishes or sorting laundry. Pull your kids into these tasks and it’ll keep them away from screens for as long as you can stand the “help”!
Related: Why we don’t reward chores
This works for everyone – screens are often hard to see outside so go for a walk or to the park. Gather some neighbours for an impromptu playdate or backyard afternoon gathering.
Get out the games and puzzles
Family game time is so fun. Learning a new card game or playing a favourite board game is a great way to connect as a family and get away from the tv. We got Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit for Christmas so we’ve been playing that a bit – I’m so glad I’ve got my girls interested in the Wizarding World!
Listen to the music or books on “tape”
A lot of the time we enjoy having the tv on for company, or background noise. An easy way to get away from screens is to find something else to listen to when you need that auditory stimulation.
We listen to the radio in the morning – not just for the music, but also for news and weather to help prepare us for the day. On weekend afternoons we’ll often pick out a cd to listen to while doing chores or playing together.
We have been frequenting the library a lot lately. My girls will take out at least 2 books each and enjoy them for a few weeks. The afternoons after the library are my favourite – we each sit and read for half an hour and I often actually just watch the girls get absorbed in their books.
Believe it or not, actually being at the library isn’t necessarily a screen-free experience. Our libraries have computers and tablets for the kids to play games on, computers for searching (not quite the same “screen time” as playing), and sometimes even tvs with rotating ads and such.
I prefer reading for a bit before bed, though my husband likes the tv. Often (or at least sometimes) I will head to bed first so I can read a chapter in my book. It helps me relax before bed better than watching tv.
Lead by example and reduce your own screen time
I know I spend too much time looking at my phone. My husband does too. We’ll both tell you we do it for our jobs (paid or unpaid), and while that may be true we could both make more of an effort to put our phones and computers away.
This is where family game night comes in handy – an easy way to reconnect and have fun while phones are tvs are not even thought about. Spending active time together outdoors, having designated reading time, and even doing housework together can keep boredom and inactivity at bay, which stops us from reaching from our screens.
Check out some local initiatives
Here in Kingston the KFL&A Public Health team is currently running a Sit Less campaign. While it’s not directly focused on screen time, we all know vegging out in front of our screens drastically decreases the amount we move around on a daily basis.
We were lucky enough to be included in this campaign! Emma and Rose are the subject of one set of photos they are using in a banner. The photo crew came to the house and spent some time deciding on a set up and taking tons of photos. It was fun and everyone was super nice!
Check out their website (we’re not featured there, yet) and search #SitLessKFLA on social media to read their important messages and suggestions for staying active and away from screens.
What do you do in your home to stay busy and away from screens? Any ideas to share? I’d love to hear what works for your family – share in the comments!