Monday, May 20, 2013

Five tips to ditch your toddler's TV habit

All the topics we've been discussing this week are great,

Buuuuut, what if your child is already addicted to their screen time?

"Wait, less tv?"

Here are a few of my favorite ways to decrease your child's screen time, whether they've always been into the television/computer/iPad or even if they've just recently wanted more:

1. Make it inaccessible.

One surefire way to make your child want more screen time is to leave your devices out in plain view for them to see each day.  I don't know one kid that would walk past an iPad or smartphone to play with other toys when they know there are fun games, music, and videos to be accessed.  Removing those items from their sight or use can be a great way to decrease the use of screen time.  Out of sight, out of mind - right?

If the iPad tends to be the screen of choice - remove it slowly from the scenario.  It could be letting the battery die and "not remembering" where you put the charger.  It could be "forgetting" where you put your smartphone.  Little by little, if you make it more and more inaccessible, your child will likely ask less and need it less.

{In our household - I've actually turned the "lost phone" situation into a fun, enriching game for my toddler.  Little Man loves it when I direct him around the room to look for it, often asking, "Where phone, mama?"  I'll give him directions with good, descriptive prepositions - "Oh!  Look under the chair!", "How about on top of the table?", or "What about between your tool bench and baby's swing?"  It's a great way to turn the search into a learning game.  And - most times - Little Man will pass something along the way that steals his attention and we'll be off to do a puzzle or read a book and completely forget about looking for the phone anyway.}

2. Don't start in the first place so you won't get sucked in.

Little Man has recently become a master of, "Just one more, mama!  One more!" and "Laaaaast one!"  This doesn't bode well for walking away from the iPad or television.  Each time a program ends, he believes that if he asks for one more, he gets another program - no matter if it was the laaaast one three episodes ago.  I find that I try to avoid the television completely for a few days, so that when we do watch, I don't feel as bad that Little Man gets to watch two or three episodes of Word World (without commercials - lasting a little over 20 minutes each) at one time.

3. Plan ahead.

If we've had a few high screen time days, I will specifically plan different activities the next day to distract my toddler from remembering he wants to play WeeSing on the iPad or watch Daniel Tiger for the zillionth time. {I swear, the song 'Keep trying, you'll get behhhetter!' haunts me in my sleep.}  Whether it's leaving the house completely to go to the park, on a walk, or to run errands or just plain picking a craft or activity that is high interest to do at home, having a planned activity really helps to turn the focus off of watching and back to playing {and learning!}.  I'm a huge fan of scouring Pinterest for ideas, but I also keep toys such as Play-Doh, paint {with brushes, rollers, and stamps}, water beads {with measuring cups to scoop}, dot markers, dry erase markers, coloring books, and stamps as part of our craft storage in the kitchen as just in case toys!  Having at least one high-interest other option to offer when your toddler asks for television can be the difference between a more cognitively and/or motorically stimulating activity versus more screen time.

4. Involve your child in your chores!

I have to tell you guys, when I'm trying to accomplish a chore - it is SO tempting to click that television on, sit my child in front of it, and boom! I'm able to finish my chores.  But that sends the wrong message to my child in so many ways.  First off - it tells him that needing attention when I'm busy buys him a free pass to veg out in front of the TV.  Secondly - it puts all of the responsibility on me and doesn't involve him in doing those chores, which is not the example I want to set in the future.

There are multitudes of lessons children can learn by being involved in chores, and - as a toddler - those lessons are plentiful.  From basic responsibility to new vocabulary to fine and gross motor skills, each specific task has it's benefits.  In our home, Little Man helps with the following chores: feeding the dog, letting the dog out {by helping to hold her leash - not by opening the door for her}, vacuuming, dusting, swiffering the floors {we use an old sweeper with one link taken out of the handle}, putting away clean dishes, putting away his clothes, and many other tasks.  Even if I'm doing a task unsuitable for Little Man to help with at this point- such as cleaning the toilets - simply giving him a spray bottle of water and a washcloth to "clean" the base of the sink or the tile floor nearby gives him purpose, function, and a fun game to play while I'm doing the dirty work.  Most toddlers love this kind of thing, and really only want to be involved with what you're doing.  It takes just a little more time, but it's definitely worth it!

5. Send the right message with your actions.

I'll admit it into the mic - I'm  frequently guilty of this one.  Since we don't have a land line at our house, I keep my cell phone with me at all times, just in case of DH or other family members needing to get to me in case of emergency, or if something would happen where I'd need to immediately dial someone.  A downside to being constantly connected though, is being... well... constantly connected.  If I'm checking my Facebook, email, Twitter, or any other app on my phone all day long, it isn't going to quite make sense to my child's growing mind when I tell him that he doesn't need to watch TV all day long either.  I know it's tough to lessen our own screen time in this technologically connected world, but I promise our kids will be better off if we do.

What are some ways you've used to decrease your child's screen time?

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