Creating a screen free domain this summer was important to me. After a humbling look at our children’s (mis) behavior, we needed to create some changes. We decided it would be really helpful to break the iPad addictions cold turkey. There are a lot of benefits that comes from technology and apps for children these days. Unfortunately, we were using it as a babysitter too often.
In our defense, screen time did not begin as a quiet time activity. We were those helicopter parents when it was only Everett. Controlling T.V. time to the very minute and encouraging our parents not to use their phones with him; even for Sesame Street. He did not need it as a distraction at dinner or in the car. However, since Amelia was born, it was easy to give the 3 and 1 year old the iPads to ensure safety while I took a shower or put someone down for a nap. I knew they would be sitting for at least 20 minutes. However, their obsession only grew stronger for their iPads and their attention spans greatly decreased; like many studies prove.
We realized there was an issue when they would wake up asking for their iPads. They felt it was necessary to have it while eating too. These habits they were forming were wrong, wrong wrong! Our excuses were horrible too!
- They are actually quiet.
- They are sitting down eating.
- They are not bickering.
- Maybe we can get something done.
Again, another red flag was comparing their behavior in public with other children. They seemed very rambunctious, inappropriate, whiny, unable to be still and dull social interactions. Church and restaurants are typically places that are already challenging to parent babies and toddlers, but our kids seemed even more stimulated.
Making a Change
Recognizing was our first step in creating a new home life. I took notes for a week and was shocked by the changes. Within the first few days we noticed all of our bad habits switch immediately! During the day, not all care takers are parents. Asking the care takers to help in these areas might be helpful too! The first couple of days were harder than the remaining week. The first day especially there were many tears and tantrums. By day three, no one was asking for their iPads. Life existed without it! Who knew?!
We Have Toys
Legos. Dinosaurs. Babies. Frisbies. Basketballs. The toys that were taken out this week actually were played with for more than one minute. I strategically grabbed some forgotten toys from the basement and brought them upstairs. We all were on the floor playing with Legos.
Watching the kids play doctor, build forts, dress up and “cook” me dinner wasn’t necessarily something new, but they were doing it in different ways and l o n g e r! There was a lot less arguing and plenty more sharing. I decided to remove myself from the little bickering and ask them to work it out themselves. This did not work every time of course, but there was a noticeable difference. One day, they used foam pads on the floor and pretended they were in hot lava. Another time, they decided to make a fort from the “wolves” which were Charlie and Lucy.
I added into our routine 30 minutes of reading after breakfast and before bed. We went to the library the Saturday to stock up on books and Audio books. No one wanted a book the first day accept Amelia. However, I decided to bring out a book while they were eating lunch one day and that was a fan favorite. I think we have read the book, Old Black Fly seventy times this week. Everett decided to start reading his Green Eggs and Ham and Morris Goes to School by himself. This was a huge leap and a big reason to remove iPads!
Sensory + Fine Motor Play
We used paint, play dough, weaving, beads and stickers. One morning, Everett came down stairs and started coloring for an hour. I used some of the Usborne sticker books with Eleanor which helped her fine motor skills. We scooped beads in and out of cups. I did Montessori’s Sink + Float game with water play. We even gardened and cooked dinner!
Fork That Chicken!
Wow! This might have been my favorite improvement. The kids were present with their meal and sitting down in their seats. Amelia is still struggling with this, but common for her age at 20 months. Eleanor was the best success because she was actually eating. Aaron made a cheer up one night which inspired her to try food. Everyone participated in the cheer.
Everyone seemed to find time to sleep better. One day, Eleanor even took an unsanctioned nap on the floor. Everett napped twice and he hasn’t done that since he was sick! Even if they were sleeping because they were bored, I felt like that was fine. It’s okay for them to be bored!
Some T.V. time
Thursday I did allow the big kids 20 minutes of Scooby Doo before their Aunt took them on a little adventure. Their energy level was pretty high and I needed to get Amelia down for her nap. Knowing that they could possibly get into trouble with the parent free zone as I went upstairs, I thought I would try Netflix. To my surprise, they actually were sitting watching this. Typically, when we have the T.V. on, it’s not something they even pay attention to and watch. This was a positive change too!
When I was younger, my parents established a weekly No T.V. Night on Thursdays. The time for us to sit down as a family at night with books and board games inspired conversation and family togetherness. I remember feeling really bored with no T.V. but we were forced to find an activity. We think now that iPads will be limited to once a week if at all, until it’s necessary for school education. Babies and toddlers need to be kids and develop those important brain functions necessary for a solid foundation. I also read that their can be a major disconnection for parents and children which we do not need.
I am not trying to be judgemental to other parenting strategies or make you feel guilty for doing things differently than us, but I thought I would encourage other parents struggling with this new age of screen time. This journey I imagined would be incredibly hard to break away from, but it really was the best medicine. I saw a change in myself as a mother and removed my phone from my hand most of the day. The kids were talking with me more and a LOT more eye connection. Isn’t that we ultimately want? Human connections?