Imagine that you are at home with your children. You're scrolling through your social media feed while your spouse is working on their laptop. Your toddler and preschooler are watching a children's program on the television and your school-aged child is playing a game on your tablet. Suddenly the power goes out, taking the precious Wi-Fi connection with it. What do you do? How can you keep your family "entertained" without the screens that are relied on so heavily? How long will it be before you hear the dreaded, "I'm bored"? In this blog post, I'm going to address alternative activities to screen time, as well as how to manage screen time when you have children of different ages.

Alternative activities to screen time

  • Pull out the classic toys like dolls, cars, and construction toys like blocks and Legos. A recent study showed that playing with dolls helps a child develop empathy and social information skills, and playing with dolls and cars help spark your child's imagination. While dolls and cars may not be fun for all ages, everyone can have fun building a block tower or Lego creation and build skills like math and problem-solving at the same time. You can also build a fort out of couch cushions and blankets.
  • Channel creativity by doing an art project. Creating art doesn't have to be painting a masterpiece. It can be as simple as using household items to make something new, such as taping or gluing two empty toilet paper rolls together and attaching string to make binoculars. Your child can then use the binoculars for the next suggestion…
  • Go outside! There is much to see by either taking a walk, going to a park or going for a drive. Look for ways to identify nature, animals, insects, colors, letters and words. There are also some fun outdoor games you can play like catching a ball, tag, or I Spy. You can find some fun outdoor activities on this website.
  • Visit your local library. Libraries have tons of fun things for children to do, whether it's storytime, playtime, learning kits that can be checked out, clubs and of course, books.
  • Make time for free play. Unstructured play time allows your child's imagination to develop, helps spark their creativity and helps with problem-solving and social skills. Free or unstructured play can also help your child with his social and emotional skills; see what other benefits free play has for your child in this article.

Managing screen time for children of different ages

Having children of different ages and different screen time allowances can be tricky. Not only do you need to manage how much time each child spends on screens, but what content is on those screens. Here are a couple of ideas for you:

  • Parental controls. Many devices allow you to set up profiles and parental controls. The most common are Apple Screen Time or Guided Access for iPhones or iPads, the Family Safety app for Windows, Xbox and Android devices, and Free Time on Amazon Kindle Fire. You can read more about these parental controls here.
  • Use nap time or quiet time to your advantage. Your older child can have their age-and-content appropriate screen time while a younger sibling naps; this can help keep your younger child's screen time in check.

Hopefully this information has been helpful for you and given you some ideas on how to manage your child's screen time. You can find more ideas about managing screen time with your child in the following articles: