07 Jun Limiting Technology for Healthier & Happier Kids
Is TV bad for kids? If you let your kids watch TV is that the end of their health? I want your family to be healthy and happy and a big part of that is limiting technology for healthier and happier kids.
Don’t worry, this isn’t a post to villanize technology. I am not against technology by any means. My boys watch cartoons and they each have an iPad. Technology can be a wonderful tool, and there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.
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While I don’t believe that technology is the enemy, I do believe that technology has to have its place. Like anything else, it has to be used in moderation.
So today, I’m going to share how I limit the time my boys spend in front of a screen. There are definitely apps out there that help your children to learn to really build on their unique giftings. One of my sons loves geography, and he has different apps that help him to quiz on states and capitals.
You can find apps related to things that your kids are really good at to help them grow.
But like I said, it needs to be used in moderation, and really, you have to examine your own heart to see why you’re handing over your phone or why you’re giving your children tablets.
Why we’re so quick to hand over technology to our kids
One of the biggest reasons we give technology to kids is because we think they should never be bored.
It’s okay for kids to be bored and not have anything to do.
You are not a bad mom if your kids are bored. In fact, I think it’s the exact opposite. Kids’ imaginations need boredom in order to be cultivated and grown so that they can use them properly.
If kids don’t ever need to use their imagination, they’re going to miss out on building the skills to imagine and to be creative.
It takes a little time and practice to get your kids used to using their imaginations and being creative on their own without technology.
Whenever you want your kids to start using their imagination, don’t just tell them to go play. If you tell your kids, “Go play,” it’s not going to work. They’re going to come back in two or three minutes and say they have nothing to do.
You need to give children a prompt.
Give them something specific to do. For instance, you can tell them, “Here are some blankets. Go build a fort in your room. You can use chairs. You can use books to hold the blanket down.”
If you send them into their room to do that, then they have something to do. You’ve given them a starting off point to do something creative without technology.
You can help your kids cultivate their problem solving skills by saying, “Let’s design and build a racetrack.” My boys and I get the pen and paper out, and we’ll draw what they want their racetrack to look like. Then they’ll run and get all of their tracks, and put them together, and they’ll have a race.
If the first curve in the track doesn’t work correctly, they go back to the drawing board and problem solve ways to fix it.
If you give them a prompt first and say, “Hey, why don’t you guys go get your dress up clothes and put on a play about Snow White or put on a play about The Three Little Pigs, but your own style.”
You can give them prompts to do things instead of just saying, “Yeah, go outside and play,” or, “Go to your room and play,” because once you do that, they don’t have anything to start off with, especially if they’re new to using their own imagination.
Limiting Technology Takes Time
After a while, your children will get to the point where they know how to do that themselves, where you’re not going to have to give them a prompt, but to start with, give them some ideas.
If you’re not sure of any ideas, check out my Pinterest board for kids. Google kid activities. Be available for your kids to bounce ideas off of and be the one to really initiate that kind of play. You’re going to find that they will jump on these idea and to move forward with play without technology.
Give your kids a timer and schedule.
Give your kids a timer. I do this a lot in the summer with my kids because my husband and I own a business. In the summer, there are days when my boys go to their grandparents’ houses, but most of the time, they come with me.
I make a little schedule for them. It may say, between 10:00 and 10:15 – draw a picture, then between 10:15-10:30, go ride your bike down to the mailbox and back. I give them short periods of times to do different tasks.
This really has a twofold purpose for me. First, it helps them to use learn time, they don’t ask
“how long is it until we go home?” Or, “how many more minutes until lunch?”
I put a picture of what the clock is supposed to look like at the time that they do these things. So say 10:00, the picture of it will show as 10:00 and it’ll say read a book, or at 10:15, it’ll have a picture of what the clock looks like and then it’ll say go out and play catch or go build a racetrack outside.
Then there’s lunch time or quiet time, so they’ll lay down, even if they don’t take a nap. Sometimes they do, but if they don’t take a nap, they just have quiet time.
Second, this method gives them something to do in a really short timeframe, so maybe 10 minutes for each project or even less. You just have to figure out what works best and how long it takes for your kids to do something. If it takes them 15 minutes to read a book, then schedule that out appropriately.
I try to alternate sitting activities and active activities, or indoor and outdoor activities. That way, they don’t get so tired or the same old thing. I don’t have them draw, do math, and read a book consecutively. We might go down to get the mail and then walk around the building or go play catch, and then I alternate that with things that they can do inside.
Limiting Technology on Rainy Days
Even if they can’t go outside, say if it’s raining, there’s tons of indoor activities that you can do with your kids.
It all starts with that first idea of giving them a prompt.
Instead of just saying, “Go play,” you can say, “What’s your favorite animal? Let’s draw a picture of your favorite animal. Let’s look up information about it.” You can make up a math quiz. Siblings can make up a math quiz for each other.
My boys are loving that right now. They both really like math, and so they’ll create little problems like eight plus two, or four plus seven, and give it to each other, and then once they have fill it out and then they’ll grade each other.
If your kids are a little bit older, five, six, seven, eight, they can do stuff like that. In fact, they enjoy doing stuff like that. They see their teachers grading them and they want to do the same thing to their siblings.
Another thing that you can do is go to the library and find some nonfiction books to learn about subjects that they’re interested in. There are books in your local library in the kids’ section that are nonfiction where they can learn about things.
For example, my kids were at my parents’ house the other day, and they wrote this little report on an animal. I think they went to McDonald’s and they got some kind of a National Geographic, it was like a stuffed animal and it had some information about it, so they wrote these little animal reports.
They drew a picture and then they wrote some lines about the animal. I’m sure that took at least 15 minutes, a half an hour, they colored it and all that kind of stuff.
It really just depends on what your kids enjoy, and what they’re good at, and what they’re gifted at.
If you have a child that is really good at building, they can write about buildings or construct things.
Like I’ve said, my son loves geography, and he was given a book that has all of the flags of the countries in it. It’s a pretty thick book and it has a picture of each flag, and so he started this project where he is drawing each country’s flag, and he’s putting them in a notebook. He’ll spend hours doing that because it’s something that he enjoys.
Another thing that you can do inside is read, read, read, read, read.
I can’t stress the importance of reading for kids.
If you take away their iPads and you give them a book, let them pick it out. That’s the thing that I found has definitely been the most beneficial tip for me.
Whenever I go to the library with my kids and we go down to the kids’ section in our library, I let them pick out books. We find out what the limit is. They usually get four or five books each, and then I pick out one or two that I think are just a little bit above what they’re doing so that they can grow in their skills. But, once they’ve picked out a book, they’re going to be more excited to read it because they’re the ones that picked it out.
You do not have to entertain your children 24/7.
Another reason why we give iPads, and phones, and tablets to our kids is because we think that if we don’t entertain our kids, then we’re never going to be able to get anything done.
Or if we don’t entertain them, then we’re being bad parents.
But, there is something to be said for letting kids entertain themselves and letting them come up with ideas, and games, and fun activities for themselves that really brings their imagination to life.
For instance, I mentioned earlier that we have a playground area at our office for our boys because they spend a lot of time at work with us. They will go into that playground and they’ll create hills in the gravel for hours.
They’ll be so imaginative and creative, and they’ll come up with all these different games. They act out things. One is the race car driver, and one is the pit crew, and on it goes. They have all these different games that they will play for hours because they can entertain themselves.
Now, I want you to imagine them playing in the dirt and compare it to a couple years back. My kids went to Santa Claus and my older son asked for this Hot Wheels toy. It was called The Ultimate Garage, and it had all these different spots for cars to park.
I couldn’t ruin his idea of Santa Claus, and so I went and bought this toy at the last minute.
He played with it for maybe 15 minutes.
It was not even an hour and he was done with it.
I got this toy thinking that I at least get a couple hours of him entertaining himself, but whenever you let them come up with their own ideas and their own games, you’re going to find that they entertain themselves (for free!) and they learn how to do that naturally.
Invite Your child into your life.
Instead of trying to entertain our kids, what we need to do is to bring them into our lives. Instead of sitting them in front of the television so you can make dinner, let your kids help you make dinner. If you’re making spaghetti, give some to your toddlers and let them make designs on your fridge.
Sure, you’re going to have to clean it off, but they’re going to be right there with you. They’re going to be spending time with you and they’re not going to be in front of the television.
With babies, you can let them play with food in their highchair. Give them a handful of spaghetti in their highchair, and let them play and chow on it.
There are different things that you can do to bring your kids into your life instead of just sitting them in front of the TV.
Think about going outside, pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, older kids can help weed and plant flowers. Toddlers can throw rocks and play in the dirt. You can pack the baby on the carrier while you’re doing things outside.
Bring your kids into your life instead of just trying to entertain them with technology while you get your chores and errands done.
Limiting Technology During Family Time
It’s really good to reintroduce screen-free family time. Now, I’m not just talking about family nights, but every single night. One thing that is so important is to eat dinner together. There are so many benefits that have been reported for kids whose families eat dinner together, things like:
- better academic performance
- higher self-esteem
- having a greater sense of resilience
- lowered risk of substance abuse
- lessened risk of teen pregnancy
- a lower risk of depression
- a lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
There are also benefits for families.
It gives you more time to talk. You can use open-ended questions during family time whenever not everyone is just sitting on their phone, but they’re actually communicating with each other.
Whenever you ask an open-ended question, for instance, instead of asking, “Did you have a good day?” You can ask, “What was your favorite part of the day?” Or, “Who did you eat with during lunch?” Or, “What was one thing that you did today that showed others the light of Jesus?”
Those are things that make kids start thinking, and then you really end up hearing more about their day than just, “Oh, it was fine.”
It’s about getting to know the people that you live with, and becoming a close-knit family, and having fun, and reintroducing fun into your life. That can happen eating dinner together.
What Kids Need
Seeing that list of benefits, really tells me that kids need time to talk to their parents.
And it doesn’t just have to be at home. It can be in a restaurant. You can take your kids to a restaurant and teach them how to act in a restaurant. My boys are five and six. When we go places, they order their own food. They speak to the waitress. They know how to act there.
We do not take their iPads into restaurants because that’s our family time. That’s the time we have to talk to each other.
It’s okay if it takes time to get to all these steps, but whenever we limit the screen time, what we end up seeing is a rise in the time that we get to spend with our kids and getting to know them even better.
I’m just going to end this post with giving a few of tips on what you can do to really limit that screen time.
We’ve talked about why it’s important and I’ve given you some tools already, but I want to give just a couple quick things so that you can go and put this into action. I love that you are here, but it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t put it into action, so here are some ideas:
Put down the remote
Put down the remote, or your laptop, because I know a lot of people watch television on their laptops. I know because I’m one of them. Put it down.
Save television for after your kids go to bed. Turn off the TV until they go to bed. To be honest, there’s tons of stuff on there anyway that I don’t even want my kids seeing. Even if they’re just playing on the floor, I don’t want them seeing stuff that comes on television.
Let that be an after bedtime activity. Let family time be a screen-free time. Put down your phone, especially whenever you’re eating dinner. I hate to see families out at restaurants, and the mom and dad are on their phones, and the kids are on tablets, and nobody is even talking to each other.
I was on Facebook or Pinterest, and saw this idea of a cell stack. Everybody puts their phones on silent upside down in the middle of the table or on the counter in the kitchen whenever they’re eating dinner, and nobody has their phones on.
Anything can wait an hour. Anything can wait half an hour.
If you and your spouse put your phones down, your kids are going to realize, “Hey, my parents aren’t on their phones. They want to spend time with us.”
Whether they say it or not, I don’t care how old your kids are, they want to spend time with you, and they want to know that you want to spend time with them.
Usually, it’s difficult to take tons of technology outside. Go outside. Get out in the sunshine.
If your schedules don’t permit you and your family to eat dinner together, like maybe your husband works late and doesn’t come home until the kids are in bed, then be creative. Maybe your dinner time or at the table time can be during breakfast every morning.
If everybody is at breakfast in the morning, you can get up a little bit earlier to have half an hour or 40 minutes to make breakfast with your family, and eat breakfast together, and start your day off as a family.
Make dinner time special
The last tip that I want to give is something really simple. It’s to make dinner at the table special.
This is something that my family has been doing. We sometimes put candles out. We use the nice plates. Yes, I let my five and six-year-olds use the glass plates that we have.
I put flowers on the table. Sometimes we put place mats. Basically, we set it all up really nice.
I like to use the nice dishes and we make dinner time special. We put out stuff on serving plates and we do those kinds of things because I want my family to feel special every day.
Since I have nice dishes, I’m not going to put out paper plates or I’m not going to put out their little plastic plates because I want them to know that they’re special to me. Yes, this is a little bit extra work for me to do dishes afterwards, but it’s important to me that they feel special.
Reap the Rewards
Once you start limiting technology in your life, you’ll find that your kids limit screen time themselves because they want to be with you.
They would much rather help make dinner than be on their iPad.
They would much rather be outside playing with you than watching TV.
Remember technology isn’t a bad thing, by any means. My entire business, this blog, the podcast, it’s all online and it’s all in front of a screen. So I understand the use for it, but it has to have its place and it has to be used in moderation.
Know that it’s okay to take screen time and limit it down for your kids so that they can really grow their imaginations and so that you can grow as a family.
I hope that you enjoyed all of these tips, thanks for visiting the blog and I’ve left some links to other resources for you as well! Check them out below!