With the dawn of tablets, laptops, smartphones and video consoles, it can seem more difficult than ever to tear our kids away from the screens. The lure of bright lights, nifty graphics and interactivity is addictive for adults and children alike. However, while we like to think of ourselves as sensible and responsible, and able to tear ourselves away to complete other tasks, little human beings are less likely to do so. Given half a chance your rabble will probably spend the entire weekend glued to their Xbox playing the latest shoot ‘em up with so called friends from halfway across the globe. Gaming, screens and being cooped up all day indoors is addictive.
It can be hard to break the screen time habit. Even when the sun is shining, the weather is hot, and the outdoors are screaming to be enjoyed, kids will very often choose to park themselves three feet away from a television screen. Instead, you need to be proactive and think of strategies that will promote a more active lifestyle for your little darlings. Take a look at this essential guide to help get your kids away from the screens and doing something more productive with their time.
Kids love getting attention from their parents. This can be true of positive and negative attention. Of course, you want to make the removal of screen time a positive experience, so you need to encourage your little ones to ditch the gaming for something more engaging. You want to promote quality family time so make sure that you are free at the weekends. The very fact that you are available to kick a ball around in the park with your offspring will fill your kids with joy. Whip out the bikes and head off for a ride around the local vicinity stopping off at the park. You might even want to take a picnic or head down with a disposable barbecue. This simple, free and more active way of living is just what your kids need – they simply need an adult to guide them.
Combine Some Tech With Outside
If a barbecue isn’t floating your kids’ boat, why not coax them outdoors with a smattering of tech? Hoverboards and drones are futuristic bits of kit that have become all the range. Check out the basic hoverboard price and pick up a couple for your cherubs. With any luck they will adore becoming an expert on them, learning tricks and racing one another around the park.
Alternatively, you could invest in a drone. These amazing flying hydrofoil quadcopters look like something out of a sci-fi film and are really a step up from the old school remote control car. With a lot of practice, your kids could be taking the drone for a spin and recording a birds eye view of the flight path. They can then head back indoors for some (controlled) screen time to see the images and video that they have captured.
While it’s great to head outside, sometimes it’s too wet, windy or cold to venture down to the park. Instead, you need an activity to excite your kids and get them away from their social media feeds. Get creative, but do it together. Being involved will instinctively interest your children. They want to spend time with dad and mom so invite them to cook with you, paint pictures or do some mosaic work. If there’s a party coming up, or you simply feel like a lovely dessert that evening, get baking. You can do this from scratch, or you can pick up plenty of packet mixes from the grocery store. With a little bit of creative flair, you could have a three tier carrot cake, or gateau whipped up in no time.
If your kids adore art and technology, get out the lego and set some challenges. Who can make the strongest bridge or the largest tower or the coolest looking spaceship? Lego has been around for decades, and everyone has a tub in their cupboard so get it out on a rainy day.
There’s nothing better than getting out Monopoly or Snakes and Ladders and having a marathon board game session with the kids. Games like Twister can also be fun if you’re supple and don’t mind getting down on the floor! The TV is off, some music is playing, and there’s not a screen in sight; there’s just you, your kids, maybe the family pet and some quality family time to be enjoyed.
Ensure that you encourage good games manners and don’t cheat. Seeing how your kids play a board game or two can really tell you a lot about their attitude and temperament. Make it fun, have some snacks and chat. When everyone has their head in a smartphone, the art of family conversation is lost.
Draw Up A Charter
If you are expecting your kids to limit their screen time, then it’s only fair that you do the same. If you are telling your kids to get some fresh air and hot foot it to the park, but you are staying behind to watch your favorite movie, download some games or check your Facebook feed, this isn’t fair, and your kids will begin to resent you. Set up a formal contract and sign it and put it on the fridge. It shouldn’t be unrealistic but should set out some screen time ground rules, such as no screen time after 8 pm, homework always comes first, and smartphone usage is for one hour a day maximum. If you are all in it together, you can support one another in seeking out alternative forms of entertainment.
Being a parent isn’t an easy job, but it seems even more difficult since the emergence of technology and interconnectivity. Follow this guide and try to encourage your kids to venture outside of their screen cocooned comfort zones. With any luck, you will have enhanced quality family time because of your efforts.
This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.