OK, real talk time: Sometimes electronics in the hands of kids is a life saver. When you have a project due for work or need to have a serious phone conversation or — let’s face it — just need to relax, having your child occupied with the iPad is an easy way to buy some time. The problem is that screen time can get out of control and even though we KNOW too much time on technology is a problem, it’s hard to break the pattern.
Studies tells us that excessive screen time is damaging, but truth be told, we don’t really need a study to figure that out. It’s obvious that one-on-one time with a screen can hinder motor skills, lead to a sedentary existence, impact social skills, affect problem-solving skills…and the list goes on. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting screen time to an hour a day.
So one hour of screen time and 10 hours sleeping — that means there’s roughly another 13 hours to account for. What’s a busy mom or dad to do? Check out our list of eight ideas to take the place of screen time.
1. Break Out the Puzzles
Puzzles come in varying degrees of difficulty, so pick one up that’s age-appropriate for your child. A 4-year old may need fewer pieces, but your older kids can handle those thousand piecers. Regardless, they’ll be exercising their minds trying to complete it.
2. Get Artsy
It could be as simple as printing coloring pages or as complicated as a full-on arts and crafts project you get from Pinterest. But the point is, kids love to get crafty — they just need to be helped along a little. Stock up on markers, crayons, glue, construction paper and — if you’re extra brave — glitter, and let them go to town.
3. Read, Read, Read
No matter the age, a book holds the key. If your child’s young, break out the interactive picture or pop-up books. Older kids can read chapter books and (hopefully) get lost in the story for hours.
4. Play in the Yard
You may not have time to take your kiddo to the park, but you can set up some backyard activities. Sure, they may take a moment to understand that they can actually throw a football instead of play Madden on the Xbox, but once they get into it, you’ve got a winner on your hands.
5. Listen to Music
Whether you blare it over the speakers and a dance party ensues or you set them up with some headphones, listening to music is a great way to tap into their artistic, creative side.
6. Schedule a Play Date
Sure, this will take a little management, but once the kids get to playing, they’re off to the races and you’ll have time to tackle your to-do list.
7. Do Chores Together
You have work to do, so why not involve them? Have your kids help sort laundry or give them a basket and send them on a clean-up mission. With a little ingenuity, you’ll be surprised at how much help they can be.
8. Bake Away
OK, yes, this requires more supervision than reading a book or doing a puzzle, but baking with your child is great bonding time (and produces a delicious result). Get your little one involved with measuring, pouring and stirring, and soon he’ll forget all about watching YouTube.