“Mom, can you add more time for me?”
This question has been on repeat in my house this summer. In my attempt to limit my kids’ screen time, I’ve set automatic timers that shut down their devices when they’ve reached their limit. It’s built-in accountability for them and me.
But inevitably, whenever their device shuts down, they ask me to add more time. I wish I could say I never cave, but that would be a lie.
Sometimes I’m busy trying to get a work project done and need a few more minutes of peace and quiet. Other times I don’t feel like being the “playtime police” and keeping them entertained and ensuring they don’t tear each other’s eyes out.
It’s a struggle I hear from many of my friends. Especially as our kids hit the preteen stage, their natural bent to play and imagine goes downhill, and we have to work harder to keep them engaged.
So is there any hope? How do we set healthy boundaries around screens and keep them entertained? Here are a few ideas.
Limit your own time on screens
Ouch. This one is hard but perhaps the most important step of all. Like it or not, our kids follow our example, so it’s up to us to lead well.
As I’ve navigated this summer of working from home with my kids underfoot, I’ve had to set clear boundaries around my time on screens. At the start of each day, I try to communicate with them when I’ll need to work on my laptop. I’ve also scaled back on my social media schedule so I don’t feel tied to checking my phone every hour of the day.
Another idea might be setting your own time limit on your devices to be accountable alongside your kids. Whatever you choose, remember they’re watching you and following your lead.
Partner with other moms
One thing I’ve found helpful this summer is reaching out to moms who have kids the same age as mine. We’ve arranged to trade regular play dates with each other, and it’s made a huge difference in keeping our kids off screens. (We have a standing rule in our house that screens are turned off when friends come over, with a few small exceptions.)
There’s something about having a friend visit and see your house through different eyes that makes those old toys and games seem fun again. Is there a mom near you who would love less screens for her kids too?
Create responsibilities and incentives
Some of you are really good at this one. You have charts and stickers to track chores that earn a certain number of minutes on screens. I wish I could say I was this disciplined, but I struggle to keep up with elaborate systems for more than a day or two.
In my house, I’ve established certain basics that need to be done in the morning before they can access a screen—cleaning up after breakfast, brushing teeth, etc. Even then they don’t have an all-access pass. They need to ask permission, and their screen time might be delayed depending on what that particular day holds.
Be a kid alongside them
You want to know something crazy? My kids actually prefer playing games with me over sitting in front of a screen. They’ve told me this with their own mouths.
I know we mamas have a lot of tasks to get done, whether we’re working from home or simply trying to fold the laundry. But don’t be afraid to set aside time each day to be a kid alongside your kids. Play a round of Monopoly or Uno. Go outside and run through the sprinklers. Ride your bikes to a local park. Build a blanket fort and read a book.
The best way to get your kids off screens is to set aside your own screens and join the fun.
Here’s to building summertime memories that last!
And speaking of getting your children off screens, our Summer Fun Activity Pack is a great way to engage your kids in something that will keep them entertained, exercise their brains, and help them learn more about God and the Bible. Download it today!