Reduce Screen Time Ready for School!
As we all know, working through school/daycare closures, summer vacation has likely increased screen time. As we head towards fall, you may ask yourself, how do I wean screen time ready for preschool?!
For the under-six group, deferral is the best approach to screen time requests. How about we do X, Y, or Z instead – and make sure it's enticing – they'll soon forget their initial request.
Here are some of the things to bear in mind as you tackle screen time request tantrums:
Children thrive on routine, so if your little one is watching at random times, perhaps introduce a time for screens – maybe a family movie night or after breakfast for 20 minutes. This perhaps is the easiest thing to introduce!
Ensure the environment, outside and in, is set up for success. Keep it minimalist with less toy clutter – like adults, clutter fogs the brain, and when there is less, it helps with focus, concentration, and length of play.
- Inside: Toy Rotation: rotating toys are one of the best ways to keep up interest.
- Outside: Objects of interest – try introducing sticks, buckets, stones, etc., in their outdoor space to allow them to create an exciting play space themselves. You can also introduce routine daily priorities such as watering plants which can help ease them into outdoor playtime.
Getting outside is not always the only way to do physical activity. You can build indoor obstacle courses or treasure hunts. There are a ton of age-appropriate treasure hunt printables that can show pictures of the items allowing the child to complete the task self-sufficiently.
It is easy to put on the screen as a digital babysitter so that we can get on with our work or chores. However, independent play is an excellent skill for little ones to learn, and depending on the child's personality, this takes practice and patience and may be easier or harder to achieve. Not only will it give little ones the tools for when they start school, but with all skills, the more they practice, the easier it will be and the longer they will play - and it's great for their creativity and concentration. This does take practice, and the first step is to have your child play in the same space as you. Setting up a mat with a few select toys (few being the key word, when there are many – children often become overwhelmed)—slowly progressing to a safe space to play independently, whether in their room, a playroom, living room, or your room. Make sure you do a once-over every day to ensure it is safe - it will keep your nerves at bay knowing that they are somewhere where they can't get hurt – side note – make sure all furniture is attached to the wall!
Tips for success:
- Try to schedule this independent play at regular times, too – say after breakfast or quiet time before lunch; if it's more predictable – it will be easier for little to accept.
- Set up the activity and back away – it helps children ease into this transition.
Having children play independently will reduce the likelihood of screen time when you need to get work done. Remember – learning to play independently takes time – be patient and consistent, and you won't believe what you and they can achieve.
Reducing screen time can be overwhelming, but take small steps, and you will be surprised what you can ac