10 Ideas to Help Reduce Screen Time for Your Kids When You’re Stuck at Home

How to reduce screen time for your kids.

Limiting screen time at home can be difficult.

The COVID-19 pandemic has us all sheltering in place and looking for new ways to stay busy and entertained. When you can’t engage in a lot of your normal activities, the easiest thing to do is turn on the TV, play video games, scroll through your phone and zone out. For parents who are trying to juggle working from home and managing their kids’ new distance-learning programs, screens can provide a welcomed babysitter, but, as we all know, too much screen time is bad for both adults and kids. To help you find some balance and help reduce the amount of time your kids spend in front of the screen, consider the following ideas:

1. Give yourself some grace.

Everyone is experiencing unprecedented challenges and levels of stress. You are doing your best to manage a new normal that includes working from home, distance learning for your kids, and trying to stay stocked up on groceries and essentials. Some screen time may be necessary to help you get things done and provide some entertainment. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with toddlers and pre-Kinders who may need more supervised and guided playtime that is hard to provide while trying to work. Don’t be too hard on yourself and take a moment to celebrate what you are able to accomplish during a global pandemic.

2. Give your kids some credit.

Children have enormous imaginations. If you turn off the screens, you may be amazed to see what they come up with and the different ways they find to entertain themselves. It is okay for them to be bored. It is a feeling that they should experience and it will motivate them to find creative ways to play and use their imaginations.

3. Invest in sensory toys.

Look for toys that engage the senses, including sight, touch, sounds, smell, and taste. Play is an essential part of childhood development. Incorporating toys that utilize the senses provide more brain stimulation and help children grow in a variety of ways. These types of toys can range from balance boards and beams to putty and kinetic sand kits. Shop for age-appropriate options that will support your child’s development and keep them away from screens.

4. Play dress up.

Dressing up and pretending to be a police officer, doctor, dentist, or superhero is a great way to spark your kids’ imagination, do some constructive role-playing, and explore different careers. If your child tends to put up a fight when it is time to brush their teeth, you can always pretend to be the dentist and turn this part of your routine into a special visit to the “dentist.” Be sure to give them a reward for a good checkup! Not only will this help make actual trips to the dentist more fun, this type of role-playing will help give them more material and inspiration for when they are left to their own devices and looking for different ways to play.

5. Have the kids help around the house.

Yes, you can actually turn chores into a fun time where children get to feel more grown-up because they are contributing to the household and playing an important role in the family. They might not be the best dusters or cleaners, but this is a great opportunity for education and to develop a sense of community. With smaller children, you can always frame it as they are “allowed” to load the dishwasher or sweep the floor. They will take pride in achieving a new milestone and being able to emulate the activities they see adults doing.

6. Get out the sidewalk chalk.

Combine coloring with a little outside time by arming the kids with a bucket of sidewalk chalk. If you have a wooden fence, you can tape sections of patterns with painter’s tape and allow the kids to color in the different shapes for some decorative art. Otherwise, let them express themselves freely and go crazy on the porch and driveway. When they run out of space, you can simply hose off the chalk and provide them with a blank canvas.

7. Build a fort.

Let the kids take over the living room and use blankets, pillows, and whatever else they can find to build a fort. While it may make the house a little chaotic for a bit, your kids will be using their creativity and imagining their own little world. If you have a tent, you can even set it up indoors and let them pretend that they are in the great outdoors.

8. Help the kids start a podcast.

Why not have the kids start their own show? They can choose the topics, create questions, and set up a format. It doesn’t take much to do a voice recording that they can then share with friends and family. Instead of consuming content, they can be creating their own content.

9. Bring out the building toys.

Do you have tubs of Legos, Magna-tiles, and other building toys that haven’t gotten much attention lately? Dig out these toys and get the kids interested in building again.

10. Get crafty.

There are plenty of kid-friendly crafts you can use to keep kids busy and away from their screens. They can make collages using your old magazines or decorate the house with a construction paper garland. If they are missing their friends and family, have them make cards or friendship bracelets using embroidery floss, so that they can send their favorite people a little gift that is sure to brighten everyone’s day.

Trying to keep your kids busy, entertained, and away from screens is a tall task in the wake of a global pandemic that has everyone staying home. Remember that you aren’t alone and there are parents all over the world that are facing the same challenges. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you put on a movie in the afternoon to entertain the kids so that you can get some work done. When you do have the time, consider trying some of the activities listed above. If you have more questions about how to protect your family during this time and support your child’s oral health, feel free to reach out to the team at Pediatric Dental Specialists. We are always here to help.