How to reduce screen time for kids (and what to do instead)

Raluca Loteanu February 15, 2017
17 people like this post
how to reduce screen time

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I recently wrote about why we should think twice about letting small children watch TV and I got feedback from a lot of parents saying that they know that TV time is not good for their kids, but they have no alternative. Sometimes it seems that TV is the only solution for getting some quiet time in the house and allowing parents to do other chores or just get some rest. And finding solutions about how to reduce screen time is not so easy!

This is why I decided to gather here some ideas that could help you to reduce screen time for your kids or even to eliminate it completely if you have young kids (under 3). Our son is now 3 years old and he is not watching TV at all, but occasionally he has some screen time using our phones or my tablet. I try to reduce any kind of screen time as much as possible because I know that at his age there are a lot of other activities that are much more beneficial and can help him develop his creativity and learn new things. If you want to reduce or to eliminate the screen time for your kids, I hope that the ideas on the below list will help you do this because I truly believe it is worth the effort.

The first step: reducing screen time

If your child is used to a lot of screen time every day it could be difficult to make a drastic chance immediately. So the best way to start is to reduce the time spent in front of screens and to improve the quality of the programs. In my opinion, watching TV is the worst form of screen time. There are a lot of inappropriate programs on the TV and there are usually accompanied by lots of commercials, so the negative effects on children’s development are easy to understand.

Finding better alternatives for screen time

If you don’t want to eliminate screen time completely, you could try to make a better selection of the programs. There are some easy changes that can have a very good impact on the child:

– replacing the time spent watching cartoons on TV with time spent watching animation movies on DVDs: the difference is that you have full control over the content, you can easily monitor the time spent in front of the screen (example: the child is allowed to watch a short movie on DVD per day; it is easier for the parent to end the screen time when the DVD ends instead of ending it when the child watches a cartoon program)

– replacing the time spent watching movies on Youtube with time spent using a learning app: the movies on Youtube are a popular choice for a lot of parents but they have some big disadvantages like the lack of control and the commercials. Also, the time spent on Youtube is a passive time because the child only watches movies without being engaged in any way. So if you still want to allow screen time in front of a computer (or tablet) it is better to purchase a quality app with some educational content instead of just letting your child watch movies on Youtube.

The two alternatives mentioned below imply some costs for buying the DVDs or the apps, but in time I totally think these investments are really worth the effort.

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Gradually reducing screen time

Replacing TV time or Youtube time with better alternatives is the first step, but using better options doesn’t mean that the child can spend hours in front of the screen without negative effects. So the next step would be reducing the screen time. The truth is that this step could be difficult for parents too because it’s more challenging to handle a child when he is not watching TV. The good part is that the benefits of reducing screen time are really important and you could see an overall improvement in your relationship with your child once you start to reduce screen time.

You can even make a schedule with your child and decide together how much screen time is allowed every day. For example, if your child is having now 3 hours of screen time daily you can gradually reduce it to two hours, then only one hour and so on, following a schedule you agree in advance. Because most of the arguing and crying is related to the moment when the child must stop the screen time, you can set together an alarm on your phone to let you both know when the time is gone. (Example: if you want to allow your child 30 minutes on the tablet, you can set an alarm after 25 minutes. When the alarm rings you inform the child that he only has 5 minutes left and you snooze the alarm. When the alarm rings again it’s time to end the screen time.)how to reduce screen time

Enforcing rules can be difficult at the beginning, but I am a great fan of respecting rules and, most of all, teaching kids how to respect them, so I think firm rules about screen time can be a solution. If the child has a difficult time understanding the limit, you would need to be supportive and help him manage this frustration by explaining him over and over again why this rule is necessary. After a time, you will see that it will no longer be difficult for him to follow the rule.

How to reduce screen time for long-term and what to do instead

One of the most important things about all the rules we decide to implement in our home is being consistent about them. To really make a change is essential to know how to reduce screen time for long-term and how to find a way to adjust the daily schedule to this change.

I read a lot of articles about reducing screen time, but they were all focused on activities that parents can do with children instead of letting them watch TV. From my point of view, the problem is not that the parents don’t know what other activities they can do, but that they need some time for doing chores or resting, so some play ideas aren’t really helpful.

This is why I decided to show you a different approach on how you can reduce or eliminate screen time and still be able to do chores or have some quiet moments. Here are some ideas for reducing screen time for kids that could allow you to do your things too:

– Involving the kids in all the chores

It may seem very difficult at the beginning, especially if the child is not used to it, but I can assure you from our own experience that it’s possible to involve even young kids in daily chores. Sometimes they aren’t really able to help, but at least you can keep them busy giving them some tasks and allowing them to be part of everything you do.

Example: When you cook you can ask your child to help you with some simple tasks: giving you ingredients, mixing them, washing dishes. If you have a young child who cannot help very much you can just make a dough from water and flour and allow him to play with it on the kitchen table while you cook.

– Being a role model

Many of us are telling our kids about the negative impact of too much screen time, but we spend several hours daily in front of our phone screens, TVs or laptops. This is why I believe that for really teaching our kids to avoid too much time on screens it’s important to be ourselves good examples for them.

One good idea for reducing screen time in the family is to make a common effort that will imply that all the family members should reduce the time they spend in front of the TV or the laptop. The kids will certainly be happy to have more quality time with mom and dad and setting this example could really make them want to do it too.

– Using audiobooks

To return to some more practical ways of reducing (or even eliminating) screen time, one of the most useful ideas is to use audio-books with stories for children. They don’t have the negative effects of the screens but still can keep the kids engaged for a long time. If you don’t want to spend money on audiobooks, you can borrow them from the library. So you can have a lot of new audiobooks every week for free.

– Using special activities

I wrote before about all those articles with play ideas for parents to try with their kids instead of letting them watch TV and I promised to focus on ideas that encourage independent play and allow the parents to have some time for their own schedule. Here you can find four ideas of special activities that you can try with your child instead of screen time.

The main rule of “special activities” is that they are not available for the child on a regular basis. This makes them more interesting and allows kids to focus more on them when they get the chance to have them. To implement “special activities” you need some special boxes that you will keep in a storage and you will only give to your child on particular moments when you need time for yourself or for doing some chores more rapidly.

These activities are far more beneficial than screen time and you only need to prepare them once and then use them anytime you need.

1. The quiet time box – this is a box containing toys, books or activities that your child likes; you can choose to put in it whatever you think that will keep your child busy for a long time (I use often activity books, stickers, puzzles and little games)

2. The sensory tray – this box contains a sensory activity; depending on your child’s age you can make different trays (there are a lot of great ideas on Pinterest, I like most the sensory trays with a lot of rice and other small items that the child needs to search in the tray)

3. The special Lego time – almost all the kids I know like Lego, so your child probably does too. If so, you can choose a special Lego set, put it in a separate box and offer it to your child only on particular moments

4. The kinetic sand box – another idea that can keep kids busy for long periods of time is a box full of kinetic sand and some tools for it. (this can become a messy activity for young kids, so it’s better if you can either try it on the terrace or in the backyard).


I hope that all these ideas would be useful for you and will help you find ways of reducing the screen time or even eliminating it. I already have two friends who have tried these ideas and had great results, so I truly believe they could make a change!

If you have any other ideas, I would be glad to find them out and add them to the list!how to reduce screen time

 

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Raluca Loteanu

If you find yourself on this blog I invite you to discover us as the happy family we are, who look with optimism and joy at life. If you want to contact me, you can find me on email, I gladly respond to each message.

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Comments (28 people commented this post)

  • avatar image

    Rachel Lavern

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    My son is an adult now but he was only allowed to watch television for a few hours on weekends. He did n't even miss it because we kept him busy with other activities.
  • avatar image

    Samantha

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    Great tips! We try to limit screen time but it can be difficult sometimes.
  • avatar image

    Jessi

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    I just kick my daughter outside lol. Not really, but she loves to be outside so she spends a lot of her day there. And I do have her help me with chores. She may not be very good, but she is learning.
  • avatar image

    Kathiey

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    Thanks for the good ideas. I will put some of them to use with my grandson:-)
  • avatar image

    Alexandra

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    "the problem is not that the parents don’t know what other activities they can do, but that they need some time for doing chores or resting, so some play ideas aren’t really helpful." Exactly! So glad to see that acknowledged. Legos keep my grands entertained for a long time.
  • avatar image

    Carrie Ford-Coates

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    Great tips. We only do 1-2 episodes of her tv show that is on Netflix. This has no commercials and the episodes are under 30 minutes for a show.
  • avatar image

    Krysta

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    These are such great suggestions for non-screen time activities. My nephew gets quite a lot of screen time so I'll be sending this post to my sister for sure! It's nice to have some ideas on what I can do with him when I visit!
  • avatar image

    Belle

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    These are such great tips and will really benefit parents like me! Belle |
  • avatar image

    Twinkle

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    Really helpful.
  • avatar image

    Ivonne

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    Excellent ideas to get kids from the 'boob tube'!
  • avatar image

    Amber Myers

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    I should probably reduce screen time but to be honest, I don't do it that often. My kids are still active enough so I don't worry about it much.
  • avatar image

    Shani | Sunshine & Munchkins

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    Good suggestions! I try to limit my kids screen time by not having cable or anything like that. Instead, we have DVDs, Netflix and Amazon Prime. This way, I can say they get one show or two shows and then they are done and I know exactly what they've been watching. Most of their favorite shows are education anyways so that helps me feel better about allowing them screen time.
  • avatar image

    Criselle Anne

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    These are great tips! I don't have kids yet but I'll sure pass this advice to my momma friends.
  • avatar image

    Sam

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    I love this! I try and be on top of screen time, but sometimes life gets the best of me and I give in. I do like the idea of putting on a DVD or something that gives me full control of what it is they're watching!
  • avatar image

    Shelby Bromley

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    Great timing, I've been thinking about screen time! My 17 month old doesn't care to watch tv or videos for too long but I know he will want to soon enough. I love your suggestions for other activities to do instead.
  • avatar image

    Andrea Broom

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    My mom totally applied this when I was young to me and my brother.
  • avatar image

    Chava Mazal

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    This is great. I'm amazed by how many people allow their kids what seems to be unlimited screen time.
  • avatar image

    Krysti

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    These are all very great tips! I'm so glad I grew up in a time we preferred to play outside.
  • avatar image

    Jenn @ Love My Blog

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    Great tips. My son is 4. He's not into tv that much thankfully but I can see that changing in the future. I'm gonna try to get him to enjoy alternative activities as much as possible.
  • avatar image

    blair villanueva

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    This might be sound silly but, telling a kid that your TV is current not working is also an effective method. Or there is no electricity for that time. It works on my little sister, until she did care with TV at all :)
  • avatar image

    stacey veikalas

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    Love this with 3 kids its always a struggle to get off the electronics. We are huge fans of productive things too like audio books ! Super list and some new things I will have to try!
  • avatar image

    interNationalcaty

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    Great blog. My brother and his wife limits TV to only the weekends and they get about two hours. They prefer them reading or playing outside
  • avatar image

    Krystal // The Krystal Diaries

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    I think less TV time is so important for kids. I don't think it's good when children and babies are too dependent on TV to entertain them.
  • avatar image

    andrea

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    These are incredible ideas! We have struggled in our house with our teen son being an avid gamer. The struggle is real and thanks for sharing these very doable tips
  • avatar image

    Meagan

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    It gets harder the older they get to reduce it.
  • avatar image

    Ritika Chakrabarty

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    I love the kinetic sand box! I'm pretty obsessed with kinetic sand as an adult too! I watched a video somewhere of how to make the kinetic sand instead of buying it - thought that was a neat way to occupy kids!
  • avatar image

    Joscelyn

    February 21, 2017 Reply
    I don't like my children watching too much television either. There are so many more productive things to do, so we usually redirect them if they've been staring at a screen for a while.
  • Cum abordam noi timpul petrecut in fata ecranelor ⋆ Raluca Loteanu

    February 21, 2017 Reply
    […] am scris un articol pe blogul meu in limba engleza despre cum putem limita (sau chiar elimina) timpul petrecut de copii in fata ecranelor si de atunci am avut ocazia sa particip la mai multe discutii pe aceasta tema in care am descoperit […]

Leave your comment

Comments (28 people commented this post)

  • avatar image

    Rachel Lavern

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    My son is an adult now but he was only allowed to watch television for a few hours on weekends. He did n't even miss it because we kept him busy with other activities.
  • avatar image

    Samantha

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    Great tips! We try to limit screen time but it can be difficult sometimes.
  • avatar image

    Jessi

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    I just kick my daughter outside lol. Not really, but she loves to be outside so she spends a lot of her day there. And I do have her help me with chores. She may not be very good, but she is learning.
  • avatar image

    Kathiey

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    Thanks for the good ideas. I will put some of them to use with my grandson:-)
  • avatar image

    Alexandra

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    "the problem is not that the parents don’t know what other activities they can do, but that they need some time for doing chores or resting, so some play ideas aren’t really helpful." Exactly! So glad to see that acknowledged. Legos keep my grands entertained for a long time.
  • avatar image

    Carrie Ford-Coates

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    Great tips. We only do 1-2 episodes of her tv show that is on Netflix. This has no commercials and the episodes are under 30 minutes for a show.
  • avatar image

    Krysta

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    These are such great suggestions for non-screen time activities. My nephew gets quite a lot of screen time so I'll be sending this post to my sister for sure! It's nice to have some ideas on what I can do with him when I visit!
  • avatar image

    Belle

    February 17, 2017 Reply
    These are such great tips and will really benefit parents like me! Belle |
  • avatar image

    Twinkle

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    Really helpful.
  • avatar image

    Ivonne

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    Excellent ideas to get kids from the 'boob tube'!
  • avatar image

    Amber Myers

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    I should probably reduce screen time but to be honest, I don't do it that often. My kids are still active enough so I don't worry about it much.
  • avatar image

    Shani | Sunshine & Munchkins

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    Good suggestions! I try to limit my kids screen time by not having cable or anything like that. Instead, we have DVDs, Netflix and Amazon Prime. This way, I can say they get one show or two shows and then they are done and I know exactly what they've been watching. Most of their favorite shows are education anyways so that helps me feel better about allowing them screen time.
  • avatar image

    Criselle Anne

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    These are great tips! I don't have kids yet but I'll sure pass this advice to my momma friends.
  • avatar image

    Sam

    February 18, 2017 Reply
    I love this! I try and be on top of screen time, but sometimes life gets the best of me and I give in. I do like the idea of putting on a DVD or something that gives me full control of what it is they're watching!
  • avatar image

    Shelby Bromley

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    Great timing, I've been thinking about screen time! My 17 month old doesn't care to watch tv or videos for too long but I know he will want to soon enough. I love your suggestions for other activities to do instead.
  • avatar image

    Andrea Broom

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    My mom totally applied this when I was young to me and my brother.
  • avatar image

    Chava Mazal

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    This is great. I'm amazed by how many people allow their kids what seems to be unlimited screen time.
  • avatar image

    Krysti

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    These are all very great tips! I'm so glad I grew up in a time we preferred to play outside.
  • avatar image

    Jenn @ Love My Blog

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    Great tips. My son is 4. He's not into tv that much thankfully but I can see that changing in the future. I'm gonna try to get him to enjoy alternative activities as much as possible.
  • avatar image

    blair villanueva

    February 19, 2017 Reply
    This might be sound silly but, telling a kid that your TV is current not working is also an effective method. Or there is no electricity for that time. It works on my little sister, until she did care with TV at all :)
  • avatar image

    stacey veikalas

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    Love this with 3 kids its always a struggle to get off the electronics. We are huge fans of productive things too like audio books ! Super list and some new things I will have to try!
  • avatar image

    interNationalcaty

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    Great blog. My brother and his wife limits TV to only the weekends and they get about two hours. They prefer them reading or playing outside
  • avatar image

    Krystal // The Krystal Diaries

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    I think less TV time is so important for kids. I don't think it's good when children and babies are too dependent on TV to entertain them.
  • avatar image

    andrea

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    These are incredible ideas! We have struggled in our house with our teen son being an avid gamer. The struggle is real and thanks for sharing these very doable tips
  • avatar image

    Meagan

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    It gets harder the older they get to reduce it.
  • avatar image

    Ritika Chakrabarty

    February 20, 2017 Reply
    I love the kinetic sand box! I'm pretty obsessed with kinetic sand as an adult too! I watched a video somewhere of how to make the kinetic sand instead of buying it - thought that was a neat way to occupy kids!
  • avatar image

    Joscelyn

    February 21, 2017 Reply
    I don't like my children watching too much television either. There are so many more productive things to do, so we usually redirect them if they've been staring at a screen for a while.
  • Cum abordam noi timpul petrecut in fata ecranelor ⋆ Raluca Loteanu

    February 21, 2017 Reply
    […] am scris un articol pe blogul meu in limba engleza despre cum putem limita (sau chiar elimina) timpul petrecut de copii in fata ecranelor si de atunci am avut ocazia sa particip la mai multe discutii pe aceasta tema in care am descoperit […]
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