I recently asked on Facebook what everyone’s biggest struggle is right now. Hands down the greatest parenting struggle during this pandemic is keeping kids off their devices or, at the very least, reducing screen time. I have had the same struggle with my 2 boys. Since so many of us are in the same boat, I decided to put together a list of some fun and easy ways to reduce screen/device time.
First, let me define what I mean by “screen time.” In my house, I am focusing mostly on gaming devices, like a Nintendo Switch, and endless hours of watching YouTube, but for others, it can be playing on an iPad or computer as well. I am not including television in my definition of screen time because movie nights are great ways for families to bond, and no one can resist a good Harry Potter marathon on a rainy day. Second, I am not saying take it away completely. Kids need that social interaction and escape from reality. Plus, it’s fun. They don’t, however, need to be on it morning until night.
I have come up with some fun ways to reduce the need and hopefully the interest in never-ending gaming. Some of these ideas will work for you and some won’t. Some may work one week and not the next. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make it work perfectly either. These are just some suggestions to hopefully help with a struggle we are all feeling right now. If you have any other ideas, please feel free to add them to the comments section below!
Fun and Easy Ways to Reduce Screen Time
Last summer, my boys and I created activity jars. Each one had a different theme such as Rainy Day, Games, and Day Trips. We worked together as a family to come up with fun ideas. Then we wrote each idea on a small piece of paper and placed them in the jars. Each day or several days a week, we picked from a jar and had to do what the paper said. It was so much fun and gave the kids more control over what we did that day.
Device Free Daily Rewards
I have to admit that I am addicted to my device too, my iPhone that is. Every day I have to check social media as well as play Disney Magic Kingdoms, but this gave me an idea. On Kingdoms, players get daily rewards for playing each day so why not implement the same concept but in reverse. For each day, your child is device free, they get a reward. Now I don’t mean buy them something. It can be ice cream, a movie night, or even picking what to have for dinner. As device time becomes less frequent, you can even switch to streak rewards so every 3 days without using a device equals a reward.
Before going on any device have your kids get BINGO! I included a sample above but you can make one that works for you. Your child has to get BINGO in any design you want before they can play on a device (don’t be afraid to choose the full board option). With using BINGO, everyone wins!
If BINGO is too much or not a great choice for your tween or teen, then create a checklist of MUST DOs for each day. The list can vary each day if you want, and they can be different for each child. The list can include many of the items on the BINGO board above like chores, exercising, and being kind to others.
Remember when kids went to school and we got those cute coupons for Mother’s Day that said “Good for one hug”? Well, let’s take that idea and tweak it. You can make gaming coupons that the kids have to use in exchange for playing time. (You can also just use simple raffle tickets.) This can be done in two ways. First, they can get a set amount of coupons each week and once they run out, that’s it for the week. Second, you can have them earn the coupons by doing tasks around the house. You can add to the fun by having them make their own coupons. This builds creativity and graphic design skills.
Bring the Game to Life
I think the kids will really like this one! Instead of getting on a device, encourage them to bring the game to life. Have them create their own Fortnite world in their backyard or use boxes to simulate Minecraft. The possibilities are really endless. They can even invite some friends over for an epic battle!
Pay To Play
I have seen a lot of moms get creative during quarantine and one the best was having kids “pay” for things. Now they didn’t use real money of course but it’s a great concept. Pull out that old pretend money or Monopoly money and have them earn it. You can make a list of ways to earn money like chores or activities. Then come up with a price for using a device. For instance, it can cost $20 for 30 minutes of playing time. Hey, they even learn some math and life skills with this idea!!
Getting outside is a must in the summer! I have found that once I get my kids outside or on a hiking trail, they forget all about their devices and games. They get back to basics and just have fun. Encourage them to build a fort, ride their bike, create a hiking path, or even design a pond like my boys did. This will help build their confidence while enhancing life and problem solving skills.
If all else falls, just pull the plug on the WiFi. It may sound mean but it works. We could also use a little break from devices sometimes and that includes social media.
Those are just some fun and easy ways to help reduce screen time. What what do you do in your house? Tell us in the comments section below and we may add it to this post!
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