When it gets cold, children tend to spend more time indoors with you. And after about two weeks, they get bored, and you run out of ideas. Slowly, your rules regarding screen time disintegrate and they end up in front of your TV, iPad, or iPhone so often that you wonder why their eyes aren’t falling out.
With this increased screen time, your child’s behavior changes. He whines and complains more often. Throughout the day you’ll observe (and experience!) more tantrums and pushback from him.
Below are a few guidelines that families in my practice and in my online programs find incredibly useful in the winter months. Use them!
Schedule screen-free time for the entire family. Your small ones are watching you, so if your eyes are glued to your screen, their eyes will be also. Designate at least 30 minutes a day for “non-screen family time.”
Tell small beings why you are using a screen. When you have to use a device to work or coordinate schedules, communicate that to your small beings so they understand that technology is a tool and not a destination. Before you dive in, set your small ones up with something else to do.
Create a surprise box of activities that can be done in your home. Write the titles of the games on small slips of paper in either words or pictures, depending on your kiddo’s age and ability. When your child complains that there isn’t anything to do, then have her reach in the box and pick out a slip of paper.
Make a daily schedule, especially when you have to be home the entire day. This will make the day feel like it’s moving and not dragging on. This could be a very approximate schedule that is broken down into morning and afternoon and that you update as the day goes on. Make sure to put this somewhere that you and your small beings can check it.
Write up clear, simple rules for screen time — and stick to them. Post the rules in a place where everyone will see them on a regular basis. I recommend starting with these two rules: “Screens can be used for 60 minutes every day.” “All screens are shut off one hour before bedtime.” Just two short and simple rules go a very long way!
Ultimately, you need to be creative to find activities that do not require screens, and your small beings will need support in playing them. You might consider Play-Doh, Go Fish, Bingo, a jigsaw puzzle, writing holiday cards, or baking cookies. The possibilities are endless and there are multitudes of simple activities you can find outlined on the internet. When you enjoy spending time with your family away from your screen your little ones will enjoy it, too!
Dr. Marcie Beigel is a behavior specialist based in Brooklyn. She has worked with thousands of families for more than 20 years and has condensed her observations into her private practice and online programs. Her book “Love Your Classroom Again” was a bestseller. You may have seen her as a guest expert on WCBS and Fox. Find out more at DrMar