How We Did A Screen Time Fast

Back in the early spring sometime, Em was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. She had a string of extreme behaviors that were just beyond what Derek and I felt like we could handle, and beyond what we thought was normal, and so we took her to an occupational therapist to get some tools and education on how we could help her. After the therapist was done talking to me and observing Em, she had diagnosed her with sensory processing disorder, and gave us some tools on how we could best help her. 

One of the major takeaway tools that I took from that was, after dinnertime we were to not let Em look at any screen, of any type. The idea was that it was just over stimulating her brain way too much, and that it was a big cause of some of the negative sleep behaviors we were experiencing. 

Once we implemented no screens before bed, and saw how impactful that was to her sleep (which is still not perfect, but so much better), I thought, "Man, what would happen if we just cut screens out all together?"

At this point it was summer vacation which actually made it really easy to manage the screen time fast and not feel like I was dying as a parent. We would wake up around 8-9 in the morning, and eat breakfast, and then by the time that I got my kids fed and dressed, we were heading right out the door for swim lessons in the later part of the morning. 

By the time we got home, we were eating lunch, and getting the house cleaned up, so it was mostly the afternoons that we had to learn how to navigate. If you're a parent who is struggling with too many screens, I would first say that you need to identify what time of the day is when your kids are on screens, and then decide what you can do to change that. 

For me, it was becoming a messy mom. What the heck does that mean? It means that I became okay with all things paint, play-dough, slime, letting the kids play with their toys in the kiddie pool outside, all the things that used to annoy me, that I would hate cleaning up, I decided to let them have at it. I had realized that I had deprived my kids of these experiences, and once they were introduced, it would keep them hooked for hours! Literal hours. Even something as simple as markers and papers. 

I came to terms with the fact that I would rather spend 20 minutes cleaning up a paint mess and washing my kids in the bathtub (which will eat up even more time that your kids aren't on screens), than I was with having a short tempered child who was becoming increasingly irritable and more spoiled with each passing day. 

When I say screen free, I should say that it was limited to the time that I was watching the children while Derek was at work. There were times on the weekend when I would let them have something for a little bit, or we would all watch a movie together on the weekends, but just aimlessly letting our kids navigate Youtube Kids or playing games on their Kindles was completely wiped out during the week while Derek was at work. 

The results to this were almost immediate. We personally didn't experience huge meltdowns and tantrums from withdraws or anything because we were able to simply replace the activity with things that the kids thought were more fun: slime, paint, markers, etc... 

When the summer was over and we got back into a preschool routine for Em, and Jay's normal school routine, we reintroduced letting them play on phones, but it really is pretty minimal. They usually use them now for about 20 minutes right before dinnertime when I'm getting our food ready, and they're both exhausted and want to veg out. For us, this has been fine, and we haven't had any problems with tantrums like we had in the past. 

I've gotten questions like, "What about my kids who literally will never independently play? I just need a break to get work done or chill out!" I recently learned just a week or two ago that Em is super jazzed about playing in the playroom on her own, if I'm at least in the room. The conversation looks like this:

Mom: "Alright, let's go play in the playroom. I'll go sit on the couch and get my work done and watch you play!" 
Em: "You watch me play?!"
Mom: "Yep, I'll watch while I get my work done!" 

And then we go in the playroom and I get my homework done, or work on the blog for about an hour or so while she just plays and has a great time with her toys. I don't like to pull this card too much but: My daughter is missing parts of her brain and was able to come to the realization and make this work. I'm confident that it's not beyond the realm of possibility for any neuro-typical child. It may take work and practice, but it is possible. 

Your kids just want to be around you. Your kids just want to see you seeing them. Your kids want to have have sensory pleasing activities. 

Some of my favorite sensory activities for kids are: 
Painting little wood projects from Target (Available almost every season with different themes, found in the dollar spot
This bucket of premade slime (bought for our kids for Christmas) 
Printing pictures of their favorite character to color- These are our favorite crayons

For a lot of these activities, like playing with the slime, playdoh, and water beads, my kids love hiding their character toys (peppa pig, paw patrol figures, etc...) in them. This sounds messy, but nothing has been damaged on our end so far. They find it wildly entertaining to cover their toys in the slime and playdoh and then dig them out, or burry them in the bucket of water beads and then search to find them. This makes the play more interactive and keeps it going for a longer stretch of time. 

For setup, the kids usually play at our coffee table, and I sit on the couch. I'll mostly get work done while they're playing, but I'm also present to answer questions, help when needed, and just be a body in the room with them so they don't feel like they've been ditched. I've found being in the room with them, as opposed to trying to hide in my room has actually been more peaceful, and has led to less whining then when I've tried to do otherwise. 

This is simply our perspective, and what has worked in our home, but hopefully something will resonate with you, and work for you and your kids as well. 

1 comment

  1. Thanks for the tips! I need these, wish I had read this list before Christmas break...with the kids at home for 2 weeks and all about tv!