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Screen Time Alternatives

Is it just me or does no one take pictures of their kids playing video games, watching movies, or vegging out on their phones on Saturday mornings? Screens have never been highlighted because they were a moderate part of life after sitting in class all day or used as entertainment on the weekends.

These days our kids aren’t asking for screens for entertainment.  Screens are required for much of their learning.  Whether your child is enrolled in online courses or watching endless hours of their teachers, many parents would rather not add up the amount of time that’s being consumed with a screen in front of their children’s faces.  When virtual learning is done, the conviction to turn the screens off is stronger than ever.

For parents like myself, I think it’s because we grew up in a different time and we know there’s a better way.

So, what are we to do?  Will they be bored and whine and not know what to do with this new habit? Likely, yes.  Will they grow and get over it and find new ways to spend their time? Also likely, yes.

While screens exist in our house they have limits.  I’ve never gone screen-free with my kids because the reality is, screens happen.  I need way more grace over guilt in my life!  

Whether you’re at home working with a toddler underfoot or wanting to limit the screens your kids consume after virtual school, here are some helpful ideas:

  1. Overwhelm them with books.  Go to the library often and put it on your schedule.  I love reserving books online so they’re ready for me when I arrive.  Reading lists from The Read Aloud Revival and Sonlight offer great recommendations from picture books to high school reads.  Purchasing a Kindle Paperwhite means I’m comfortable with my son having a tablet in his room to read knowing all he can do is just that!  I place books in each room of my house and place them in piles on the coffee table, kitchen table, and in their bedrooms.  
  2. Create an environment that isn’t focused on screens.  Purchase a hammock you can throw up in your yard, under your deck or between two trees.  Get out puzzles and games from their hiding places in the basement.  Move the TV out of your main living area.  Whether your kids are at the Monopoly Jr. level or Settlers of Catan enthusiasts, choose a game and  play together.
  3. Replace would-be screen time with audio education.  Whether you’re listening to books, audio series or podcasts there’s a lot to learn through our ears!  One series that we love is Jonathan Park.  We downloaded the app and have spent countless quiet hours listening while the boys play with Legos or if we’re a road trip. There are so many podcasts to choose from these days it can be hard to decipher which are best.  A few that are in our library include Brains On, Smash Boom Best, Kids Bible Stories and The Past and the Curious.
  4. Get outside. Everyone seems to be outside more these days and I love it!  If this is new for you, let and Reserve America be your guide.  Biking and hiking are both hits with my boys.  Camping has become something we all love and from our entire travel-filled summer, camping in South Carolina with a pop-up was definitely one of their highlights. Find a mountain bike trail, do a day hike or find a campsite and then go explore!
  5. Try something new. Do you have a local rock climbing gym in your area? Maybe an indoor ropes course or trampoline park? Go explore. You’ve got no excuses this year as to why you can’t!

When the screens do happen, get smart.  There are so many fun and sometimes educational YouTube Channels.  Mark Rober makes science relational and fun while Dude Perfect is a great family channel where you know your kids will be watching funny, ridiculous, and always clean content.  To grow in your kids’ knowledge of the Bible, The Bible Project is a great resource too!  Minno, Pure Flix, and RightNow Media are streaming services that have family-friendly Christian content.

Give it time if this is new to you. Give yourself grace. Be patient, but know in the end you may just be cultivating a new rhythm and new normal for your family that you’ll end up loving.  A tradition of spending more time outside, more time learning new skills, more time together, and less time huddled around a screen.  Pick one potential idea above and commit to it this week.  Try it for a month then report back to us.  We can’t wait to hear what changes you see and what memories your family makes together!

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