How I Realized that I Needed to Limit Screen Time for My Kids

I don’t want to admit it, but I know that I have become the mom who lets her children have too much screen time. You know, when she gets busy cleaning or planning or cooking or whatever and decides that while she gets these things done, and in order to be able to get these things done the kids can watch a movie or play games on the tablet or whatever device to “keep them busy.”

limit screen time

I did it. I was there. This is how I know: the kids whined and complained ALL.THE.TIME., they weren’t happy with turning off any show (even if I gave them fair warning), there was a lot of disobedience, bedtime became difficult, they were always hungry (bored is more like it), and I was angry and irritable.

It was very easy for me to go from “harmless” intentional screen limits to a nonchalant and permissive attitude. “Sure you can watch a show, I need to catch up on dishes.” “Okay, let’s do a movie night, I need to fold laundry.” “Alright, you can play games on the tablet, I need to pay bills anyway.”

I don’t have an issue with my kids watching shows or movies but I do have a problem when their eyes are glued to a screen all day, every day. (They really didn’t watch all day, every day… but it felt like it.) And I knew that I didn’t want them to have access whenever they asked. I had actually used TV as a reward if my daughter was ready for her day on time. She could watch one show before we started school, and that was usually it for the day.

But then quiet time came and they were behaving well, why not allow them more TV while I am on the computer doing work in the afternoon? Then, they were quiet and occupied while I cooked dinner. But as I became more lax, and this became more than an occasional occurrence, I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing. I knew they were getting too much screen time.

I started brainstorming how I was going to get out of this, because it was great to have time to myself, but I knew this was such a very bad habit that I had allowed. I talked to a couple of friends. One recognized too much screen time in her home and implemented no screens because she was just so sick of her children’s behavior. Another friend revealed that she’s had days like mine where she’ll allow screen time for her kids so she can get some of her work done. She also mentioned that they have certain times they allow screens. To really kick me into gear was another blogger who I regularly read. She is currently doing a series in the month of October called 31 Days of Screen Free Activities for Kids.

It was quite convicting to see this series just as I had been contemplating what I would be doing to quit all this screen time nonsense. Rosilind has come up with an amazing list of things you can do with your kiddos – check it out! Seriously, this could not have come at a better time.

After seeing what other mommas have been through and what they do in regards to screen time, I have come up with screen time rules in our house. Well, a screen time schedule, I suppose. This is what it looks like in our house right now: Wednesdays are Kid Movie nights, Friday afternoons each child may choose one show and they can watch those 2 shows together, the weekend allows each child 30 minutes of time on the tablet. That’s it!

Yes, only 3 opportunities are built in for screen time. And to explain a little, Wednesday nights are movie nights because we host an informal Bible study and they can look forward to this “event” and be occupied in the other room. We will occasionally say “let’s have a family movie night” which is a great surprise for them, obviously not on days that behavior was an issue. And I will occasionally have a specific educational game available for school lessons that they can do for 10-15 minutes on the computer or tablet. But not yet. I don’t want to give too many exceptions, I just can’t.

My reasons for the “schedule” are: that it is too easy to become lax, it gives a sense of consistency, and it seems to be just the right amount that the kids look forward to the screen time but not seem to want more. I have a feeling that a lot of behavior issues for my 5 year old are not only because I allowed so much screen time but because there was a lack of regularity and consistency in day to day life. We have been all over the place and I can see how it’s hard to know what mom expects if things are always changing. But that’s for another post.

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We are in week 2 since the addition of the screen time schedule and I have already seen an improvement in behavior, manners, imagination, desire to be helpful, and kindness. The kids have been perfectly fine with the rules and I have had no complaining about the rules. There are times when my daughter asks to watch something but she’s totally okay when I tell her to remember it for when she gets screen time. They have been playing very well with each other. I “caught” Elle reading a book to Finn this morning, it was so lovely to see. Several times I’ve seen them take dolls or stuffed animals on adventures. It didn’t take too long for them to figure out what they could do to keep busy and play.

How is screen time limited in your home?

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Our Family Rules – and printable

My quest for a set of rules began a few years ago when Elle was about three years old. That was about the time when she was telling me “no” and being quite willful and disobedient. She needed to know what was expected and how to behave. And, I needed something to help me be consistent and something to refer to when disciplining her.

road rules

Just Google “family rules” and there are so many options. It seems that 90% of the images are of rules listed in really cool fonts and sizes on a chalkboard background and images that are meant more for decoration. I like a lot of these ideas but it wasn’t quite what I wanted.

I wanted something that was easy to read and simple. I did not want a “decoration” on my wall. I wanted something that was Biblically based. Then I came across this poster of family rules. It was perfect! I got out my markers and a plain white sheet of printer paper, wrote down the rules, and posted it in view of my youngster.

It was the quickest way to get a set of rules into play. If they didn’t work or I found a set of rules that I thought would work better than I would change it. Well, it’s been a couple of years now and the rules are still posted. However, it’s time for a makeover… I typed them up, all nice and neat, and I added a written verse instead of just a scripture reference. And, I want to share them with you! Click here to download Our Family Rules.

Our Family Rules 3.20

1. Love God & Love Each Other

2. Listen & Obey the 1st Time

3. Use Kind Words in a Kind Voice

4. Be Honest & Loyal

5. Have a Servant’s Heart

6. Ask Permission & Forgiveness

When disciplining the kids I like to ask them what they did wrong and what rule they need to be following. This set of rules is great because they are a little more general, you can fit a specific wrongdoing into any one of the rules. If your child is calling names, teasing, or using bad language then rule #3 can apply. If your child is refusing to do his chores or responsibilities or is not being helpful then you can use rule #5 to remind him how to act.

I recommend “assigning” a discipline for each rule. It helps me to be consistent and for my kiddos to know what to expect when they do something wrong. The type of discipline will depend on your child’s age and motivation. And the form of discipline will change as your child grows older. I really like how Doorposts.com explains what discipline looks like. Ultimately, you know your family best and what works best for you.

Please feel free to share any discipline ideas in the comments.

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My Top 5 Reasons Why Playing is Learning

Playing is a big part of our day around here. We play all sorts of things like dinosaurs and baby dolls. I am all about pretending and using our imagination. It’s great! But aside from fun, playing has other wonderful benefits to our little people.

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1. Speech development
Elle has been going to speech therapy since the beginning of the year. Playtime is a great time to naturally focus on the sounds on which she needs to work. For example, when we play babies Elle becomes Dr. Elle and we can /f/igure out i/f/ the baby has a /f/ever and what we need to do to /f/ix her booboo. Can you tell we are now working on the /f/ sound? I try to incorporate words that have the sound and as we have our conversation she repeats some of those words; it’s a great way to practice.
2. Vocabulary expansion
When we play together we talk a lot. And this is a fabulous time for me to add in “big” words. In fact the other week while playing dinosaurs I asked if the dinosaurs were going to battle. Elle immediately perked up and asked what battle meant. “It means to fight,” I told her. Since then I have heard her use that word several times in conversation, and she has correctly used the word.
3. Problem solving
One thing my kiddos love to pretend is being different animals. They also like to pretend being a scientist who is looking for a particular animal so they can observe or help the animal. This opens up the door to their creativity: how can we help the fox find its home? Let’s build a den! And there you have it, now we are figuring out how to build a fort and make it have the characteristics of a fox’s den. There are so many ways to incorporate this skill. Playing with blocks automatically puts this skill to use.
4. Modeling manners
Playing with my children gives me a chance not only to reinforce please and thank you but to show how to act or behave in different situations. If Elle is being the mommy and I am the daughter and my “mommy” doesn’t give me the candy I asked for, I don’t throw a fit. This is my opportunity to show her how to accept a negative response to her requests. Sometimes, I will behave badly and we later talk about why it’s not okay to behave in that way.
5. Learning something new
I love it when we come to a part in our game when it takes on a new direction, I can explain how something works. The other day while playing pet shop we eventually came to a point where we were learning how money is made. As the pet shop owner of 16 triceratops, I wanted to make sure that the purchaser of 6 triceratops had enough land and money to care for these creatures. I asked Elle “how do you make money?” She explained that she takes paper and cuts it into rectangles then draws on it to make her money. (I tried really hard not to laugh, she took my question so literal.) I proceeded to be upset that she would dare use counterfeit money and that I wouldn’t be able to sell her any animals. Then I took this as a learning opportunity and explained what counterfeit was and showed her a video from the mint so she could see how money is printed.
We have fun playing. We are learning while playing. And for this homeschool mom, learning when it doesn’t feel like learning is the absolute best.

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Kindergarten Ready or Not?

Ah, the question that all parents ask: do I send my four going on five year old to kindergarten this year or next year? I was faced with this predicament last year with my then four year old daughter.

kindergarten

I had recently attended a homeschool convention in our area and was making preparations for the next school year. I get a little eager when it comes to planning. But the trouble for me was deciding on curriculum. There is a pretty big difference between what I deem appropriate for preschool and for kindergarten.

In my opinion, preschool is more relaxed and the most important thing is reading to my little ones, exploring, playing and talking to them about what they see and experience. In fact, I probably don’t “do” preschool the way a lot of other moms might. And I’m okay with that. My philosophy aligns with the adage that “play is the work of a child” (Maria Montessori). But, I digress, my education philosophies can be saved for another post.

Kindergarten is still a very playful and exploratory stage. However, learning to read and beginning to see math formally becomes important. I researched which curriculum I wanted to use and found a few that I really liked. I thought that they would be great for us to work through. Then it dawned on me… do I really need all this now?

My daughter is super smart. I know she wants to start to learn how to read. I think she would enjoy doing school. But there was still something in me that was asking if she was really ready. I found out that in our state (you can find your state’s cutoff date here), children who turn five after January 1st may go to kindergarten the following September. My daughter’s birthday is at the end of January so that would make her one of the oldest if she were to go to public school. Coincidentally, the state where I went to kindergarten, the rule was that children must be five on or before September 1st the year they begin kindergarten. My birthday is at the end of September, so I was one of the oldest kids in my class. By the time I was in high school I didn’t like being the oldest. I felt that I was behind the other kids, and that I should be smarter because I was older. I really let the age thing bother me; I carried that through college as I bounced from major to major. I thought that I was “running out of time” and that I was “too old” to still be in school (crazy, I know, but I let society dictate what I was supposed to be doing and that I didn’t “measure up”).

My experience influenced my thoughts about why I wanted to put my daughter in kindergarten “early.” I didn’t want her to compare herself to other kids her age and think that she wasn’t smart enough because she was a grade behind. I talked to my mom about whether she had a choice to start me “early” or not. The conversation was enlightening: she did have a choice and she was considering sending me when I was four about to be five. She had talked to a few other moms and found out that those who sent their child to kindergarten “early” regretted it. Some kids even repeated kindergarten. The moms who waited were glad. The decision came down to maturity.

child-reading

One teeny tiny year makes a big difference in maturity between a four and five year old. Attention span, self control, and emotional and social development change much in these years. A child is usually considered a “big kid” at five years old. They are showing greater independence and they begin to gain better control of their emotions.

It makes sense. Why push your child when they are not emotionally ready? I continued this conversation with my mother in law. She was saying the exact same things. I talked with friends who have kids who are only a year ahead of my daughter. They agreed with the maturity issue.

Finally, my hubby and I decided that we would wait. We are going with the state’s cutoff date. We don’t see the need to push our daughter at this stage in the game. It doesn’t mean that we won’t teach her certain things because it’s at a different grade level. It just means that childhood is such a short period of time. This is the time where we want to foster a love of learning. We want to make learning as natural as possible. And for us, a kindergarten curriculum at age four is simply too much.

Feel free to weigh in, what was your deciding factor for starting your child in kindergarten and at what age?

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