It’s the holidays! That means fun things like family, treats, presents. But for many of us, it’s also darker, shorter, colder days. If you are like me, you might be asking yourself, “How are we going to keep the kids busy all day when they can’t play outside?”
Then it’s school vacation! What to do? When you have run out of the art projects, cooking projects and sorting through old toys to make room for new ones, you might be tempted to resort to TV, the computer or handing over your iPhone/iPad. Or maybe you just want to sleep in, and the TV makes a pretty good babysitter between 6 and 7 am.
This can bring up feelings of guilt and questions about how much is too much “screen time”. I recommend a great book on the subject called “Into the Mind of Babes” which helps you sort through some of the best information – and misinformation – out there about the effects of TV on your little ones’ minds. In the meanwhile, here are some of my tips for keeping screen time in check and using media as a positive force in your kids lives.
5 tips for managing screen time during the holidays:
1. Decide in advance with your partner how much “screen” time is OK to have each day. Tell the kids what that is, and everyone needs to stick to it. If the kids ask to watch their second show you can say “we all agreed to one hour a day and you’ve already used that up, sorry!”
Make sure they know that screen time includes TV, computer and digital media players (iTouch, iPad, etc). That can seem obvious to us, but not always to them.
2. Teach your kids the expression “mush brain” from watching too much TV. This will help them realize there is a such a thing as TV overload (my kids have used the expression on their own since I taught it to them!)
3. Don’t only use TV as a babysitter. Make sure to watch special made for kids movies with them during the holidays (we recently watched “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” as a family and had a great time).
Make sure to talk about the movie with them after viewing. Movies can be great springboards for conversations about emotions and things kids think about. (How did Charlie Brown feel when they made fun of him? How would you feel if you had spell a hard word in a spelling bee?)
4. Use TV time for “soft teaching” – let them watch TV, but try to mix up the “eye candy” entertainment with videos about science, nature, language learning or music. Many parents feel good about Little Pim because their kids are having fun “watching TV” but parents know they are learning a new language.
5. Use TV time as a special reward (“after we read these 4 books… “ or “after we clean up your room”).