We all know that kids love screens, and a lot of family time is often focused around devices that are linked to our home’s internet access. While this isn’t always a bad thing, parents often have guilt about excessive screen time usage. As working parents, we can’t always be there to let them know it’s time to take a break, but there are positive habits we can instill and activities we can encourage to replace all that time spent staring into a screen. These ideas are certainly not revolutionary, but can make a huge impact on your child’s overall well-being when you swap them for screen time.
1. Sign up for a new sport
One thing kids may be missing right now is a healthy way to exercise to burn energy and stress. Kids may act out at home when they don’t know how to channel their emotions. And let’s face it, some days they are just flat out bored.
Signing your child up for a sport is an excellent use of their time. First, they will enjoy doing something fun and active. Second, they can do it with their friends, turning it into a shared social activity. With Sarasota’s weather, sports can be played outdoors year-round, which is especially a bonus during these times. Sports also teach them important lessons about teamwork, sportsmanship, responsibility, punctuality, etc.
2. Set up a reading nook and daily reading hour
Your child may not be wild about reading, which is exactly why you should encourage the habit in your home. Make reading fun by setting up a special reading nook in your home. You can set up a tent, a special chair, or corner of your home specifically for reading to entice your child to pick up a book.
Encouraging your child to read at a young age has lifelong benefits. You can also introduce a variety of reading material to pique your child’s interest. Subscribe to a few children’s magazines. Some of our favorites are National Geographic Kids and Highlights for Kids.
The trick is to help them find something they are interested in reading. A trip to the library or local bookstore, a monthly book subscription, or allowing your child to search for books on Amazon, can encourage your child to pick books that interest them, making them more likely to stick to reading.
3. Establish a family walk time
Exercise is extremely important for a child, and replacing just 30 minutes to one hour of screen time for some outdoor time, will have positive effects on behavior, mental, and physical health. It’s also great for you too!
Encourage a set time for a daily family walk, a bike ride, a game of tag, or a trip to the park. You can change it up each day to keep it fun.
4. Pick up a new skill or hobby
One of the most rewarding activities is introducing your child to a new skill or hobby. With virtual classes for everything from music, art, dance, yoga, to crafting, there are hobbies your child can pick up even amidst a pandemic. Picking up a new hobby or skill can fill time that would otherwise be spent behind a screen. Check out Outschool for a variety of classes and clubs your child can pick up starting from $10!
5. Start a chore chart
Demanding chores may not make you popular with your children, but you can make chores fun with a chore chart and incentive system. Teaching a child responsibility is an important life skill. Giving them weekly chores will give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment when they complete them. Bonus, the time it takes to complete the chores will reduce their screen time!
Create a reward system for completing chores in exchange for screen time. Earned screen time will be more satisfying for your child and you will feel more comfortable knowing they have earned the time. Keep a chart to record their weekly progress and earned screen time. The visual of a chart system will allow your child to feel in control of their screen time.
Above all, kids thrive on structure and activity. Without structure and activity, kids resort to excessive screen time, robbing them of the opportunity to engage in healthier habits and activities. These are just 5 simple ideas to try to reduce daily screen time. Adding in some new activities to the daily routine will create a happier household!
-Contributed by Victoria Standbridge