How we manage screen-time at home

How we manage screen-time at home

Jun 19, 2023

When my eldest son (now 14) was younger, mornings before school were a constant battle. He’d wake up super early, the screens would go on but somehow getting to school on time was chaotic.

After my youngest son was born 5 years ago, I started to analyse our days. If you’ve read about our journey before, then you’ll know that I began to simplify how I parented after a tough pregnancy and subsequent fourth trimester. One of the ways I did this was by implementing a simple daily rhythm.

I implemented this daily rhythm in stages and one of the first things I did was adopt changes to our mornings.

Change always begins with an awareness that something isn’t working.

My moment of clarity came with the realisation that the stress, rush and chaos we all felt each morning before school was benefitting no one. I was often tired from sleepless nights, which definitely affected my overall mood.

But with that being said, I didn’t want to be the ‘shouty’ mum who nagged the kids and told them repeatedly to hurry-up. I didn’t want my children’s lasting memory of the school morning to be one where they saw me stressed.

Start observing your current before school rhythm, without judgement

Whether you truly realise it, you probably have some element of rhythm already. It just might not be working for you.

When I first observed our mornings, I realised:

  • TV time was too distracting. Whilst it felt like a good idea when my eldest son woke up early and I was exhausted from being up all night with the baby, it wasn’t doing us any favours

  • My son struggled to find his backpack, shoes and hat because there was no organised system.

  • I was often hurriedly checking the school newsletter for any important events

  • Breakfast was rushed. My son couldn’t reach any of the plates, bowls etc because of the layout of the kitchen so he relied on me to do everything. This wasn’t always easy with the baby.

Change starts with small steps. So little by little, we changed our morning rhythm: simply starting with turning off the TV and replacing it with a morning basket.

5 Ways to Reduce Screen-Time

Experts recommend a maximum of an hour of screen-time per day for children aged between 2 and 5 which is all very well and good, but I think we’ve all been in a position where TV just feels like the golden solution!

Here’s the thing though, the more screen-time your child gets, the more they want. It becomes a battle and before you know it, the TV gets switched on before breakfast and becomes background noise for the rest of the day. However, not all TV is terrible: There are TV shows that are educational (Super Simple Songs for example), ones that help your children learn new skills or even help them relax (Cosmic Kids Yoga).

I recommend that you stick to one TV session per day. Ideally this would be in the afternoon after a full day of playing. Perhaps before dinner and the evening routine so that there is a clear cut-off point. Make screen-time part of your daily rhythm so your children know when they CAN watch TV. 

  1. Establish a simple dail rhythm: having a predictable rhythm to your days at home will help your children understand when they can watch their favourite shows. During weekdays, mine watch TV in the afternoon when I am preparing dinner.

  2. Get outside more! There are so many benefits to getting outside and one of them is being away from the temptation at home.

  3. Set an example: children learn from what they SEE rather than what you say to them. If you want your child to be less addicted to screen-time, monitor how much time you spend on devices yourself. This can be tricky, particularly if you are working from home but point one ( a simple daily rhythm) should help you establish more structure around screen-time use.

  4. Download audiobooks: these are such a good alternative to screens. We have a Tonies audio story box at home and the children just love choosing their own stories to listen to.

  5. Remove the triggers! Where possible, locate your play space away from any screens. If this isn’t an option, move the TV remote and any devices out of sight during set durations of the day.

What are the exceptions to this?

The aim here is to reduce screen-time rather than make you feel guilty about it! There are absolutely days when we watch more TV – sick days or days when extreme exhaustion hits being examples of this.

Every Friday, we have a fun family film night which does take the younger children over the daily recommended limit. Balance is everything and it is just as important to create lovely memories together as it is to stick rigidly to a rule.

It’s also perfectly okay to have different rules in place for the weekends when you don’t have to rush out of the door to make it to school or work on time. You might also want to opt for a ‘Slow Sunday’ or a ‘pyjama morning’ where you take things at a slower pace - screen-time could easily be included with this.

When you do need to TV save the list of educational shows below. They are all available via YouTube – you can turn on the YouTube Kids App to avoid automatic video play which makes screen-time so much easier to track.

Educational Shows to add to your watchlist

  • Cosmic Kids Yoga

  • Alphablocks

  • Numberblocks

  • The Wiggles

  • Jack Hartmann

  • Super Simple Songs

  • Super Simple TV

  • The Bumble Nums

  • Bluey – Official Channel

  • Art for Kids Hub (preschool art lesson playlist)

  • Cbeebies

  • ABC Kids

  • Puffin Rock

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