Tips & Tricks for Screen Time Boundaries

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We managed to stay almost 100% screen-free other than an occasional sick day until our daughter was 3.5 years old. This isn’t meant to shame anyone but simply to showcase that it is possible. Tantrums and demands around screen time can be incredibly difficult, and we have been fortunate that we learned how to manage many emotions before outbursts that are solely based on a desire for screen time.

Below are some tips and tricks that have worked for our family about screen time boundaries that may help you and your little ones:

Create other activities in advance

If you are trying to steer clear of screens you need to create activities that your baby or toddler enjoys but that you also enjoy (or at least can tolerate) setting up. Things can get tricky when attention spans are low. I try each day to have a variety of activities, games, lessons, and sensory bins that I speak about with my child as preparation for the day and that I keep prepared and in my back pocket. Anything that isn’t used can simply scoot to another day.

Don’t over-glorify screen time

We can make screen time feel like the best thing in the world in a few ways. Perhaps we get more excited about it than other activities. We can offer special snacks and treats to either snuggle up and watch something or gain a bit of kiddo free time with the TV on. We can also glorify screen time by utilizing it as the ultimate consequence. Try not to only suggest a loss of TV time as a consequence of poor listening or other undesired behaviors.

Keep away from the TV at first

An introduction to screen time can be far more manageable if a device that isn’t always in plain site can be used. This can be a device that belongs to your child as long as you have control over it and when it is in sight.

Encourage a good job finishing

Just like the park or any other screen-free activity that a toddler may be sad to finish we need to be able to set clear screen time boundaries to stop. I always let my daughter know what our limit is in a way she can understand. Like what shows or number of episodes will be viewed as well as what the very next activity is.

Initiate engagement

Shout out answers with your little one and interact about the show. Even if you’ve selected a show or movie on the screen that has less toddler interaction you can still add it in. For example, ask how Cinderella may be feeling when she cannot (and then can) go to the ball.

Circle back to a book or game

Whenever possible connect the skills or characters within a TV show to something outside of television. A character may remind you of a common scenario in your home or a family member. A favorite book may have the characters or a parallel lesson. Some character emotions or conflicts and resolutions may tie into other stories or toys in your home.

Did any of these tips or tricks help your family with screen time? Do you have any tips to add to the list that have worked for your family?

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