8 Ways to Keep Screen Time at Bay: For Children, and You!

Eight ways to cut screen time (JCH Edits)

  1. Instead of Saturday morning cartoons, try Saturday morning books. Get new books from the library and place them out where your child(ren) can find them easily before you go to bed Friday night.
  2. Make bedrooms a screen-free zone. Your child(ren) and you will sleep better, and it will keep TV to family rooms where if you do have some screen time, you are more likely to do it together.
  3. Choose ONE time a week to watch TV or a movie as a family. That way screen time becomes a rare, but social experience. Turn the TV off for the rest of the week.
  4. Make car rides (both long and short) about music and games, not staring at the TV screen. Find a few ideas for car ride games here for school-age children, or here for babies and toddlers.
  5. Hide your screens! Tuck TVs behind doors, slide laptops and tablets out of sight. The more it takes to get to them, the less they’ll be used!
  6. Count how many screens you have currently. How can you make that a smaller number? Do you really need all of the ones that you have?
  7. Turn the TV off for meals and snacks. That way the focus can be on the food and more importantly, the conversation. Young children learn social emotional cues and reach important developmental benchmarks through talking and spending time with you, their parents or caregiver.
  8. If your child goes to an early care and education or school-age care program, ask about their policies and practices regarding screen time. Take a look to see if TVs, computers, tablets, or video games are present. If they are, be sure you know how they are used and that teachers are aware of your expectations for limiting screen time for your child(ren).

Need more ideas? Try these:
10 Steps to Screen Proof Our Homes
101 Screen Free Activities

These are only a few ideas– share yours!

5 Ways for Families To Give Back: This Season and Year-Round!

WhatWorksDecember

Whether you are a mother or father, a grandparent, a caregiver, an educator, or a family support professional, teaching the children you care about to care for others is one of the most valuable lessons they will ever learn. Here are some great ways to get started this holiday season! 

  1. Volunteer: From serving food at a soup kitchen to walking dogs at your local shelter, volunteering your time and energy is the best way to show children what it really means to give back. Have children help you pick a charity or organization to support and talk together about what you can do to help! Guidestar.org and charitywatch.org are great places to find a worthy cause.
  2. Donate with Purpose: Don’t just donate your money, bring kids in on the process!
    – Ask children if they want to donate part of their allowance to a charity of their choosing and talk about how the money will be used.
    – Help kids plan a fundraising event of their own to raise money for a charity they want to support. It can be as big as a school-wide book drive or as small as a cocoa and cookies sale for your family members.
    – Collect items to donate, such as warm coats, school supplies, or food, so kids can tangibly see and understand what they are giving people in need.
  3. Craft for a Cause: Whether it is men and women in our armed forces, people in hospitals or assisted living with no family, or children waiting to be adopted, there are thousands of people who never receive a holiday greeting. Surprise them by making something especially for them! Have younger children draw and decorate cards for any holiday or celebration, any time of the year! Older children can pick a more complicated craft, or a yummy treat to bake. Choose a group and spread a little homemade cheer!
  4. Share your Celebrations: Even if you don’t celebrate a holiday this time of year, it can be hard to be alone amid the constant barrage of familial celebration. Invite a lonesome neighbor, co-worker, or family friend to a dinner or a family celebration. Talk with your children about why you are inviting someone to join your family and about how sharing our lives with others can create joy.
  5. Extend Your Family: One of my favorite traditions growing up was to help another family in need by buying them gifts from their “wish lists.” Many non-profit and business organizations collect and provide such wish lists for community members to fulfill this time of year. Buy presents for a whole family, or a single child. This is another great activity to do with children. Talk about who the gifts are for, let them help pick out items and wrap gifts together. Do a local search to find a family in your area and really bring the meaning home.

These are only a few ideas for giving back to your community this season. Please share your ideas and traditions for giving back!

Play to Learn

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1. Go for a nature scavenger hunt. Have a list of specific things to look for, or just point out what you notice in nature along the way. Talk about what is outdoors but not from nature (cars, buildings, etc.)

2. Have a nature “treasure hunt.” Send kids to explore a contained outdoor area and find a few things from nature to come back and share, (flowers, rocks, leaves, bugs, etc.). Talk about what they found and why they picked their items.

3. Have some quiet time to draw or paint what you see outdoors—get creative! Or paint nature itself—collect leaves, stones, and sticks to paint, or arrange them into a work of art.

4. Snowy out? Bundle up and go outdoors to talk about how the snow feels, tastes, looks. Or bring some in to see what happens—why does it melt? What changes?

5. In autumn make a leaf pile! Take turns jumping in, or talk about how the leaves feel, how they are different than in summer, spring, or winter.

6. Pick a tree, or natural area near you to observe throughout the seasons. Check in together at different times through the year to see how it changes, how it browns in summer, turns colors in autumn, goes bare in winter, etc.

7. Get a little messy! Find some mud to play with and see what you can make with it, how it feels, what happens when you dig into it or pile it up.

8. Collect flowers or leaves to press and keep. Talk about what is not okay to take from nature, and why.

9. Start a garden! Let the children help choose what to plant and help care for it. Talk about why and how things grow and the process of their growth over time as you observe. Discuss what you could do with the flowers, vegetables, etc. once they are fully grown.

10. Have some outdoor water play, either with a sprinkler or blow-up pool or in a sensory table. Get out the rubber duckies, the boats, and the buckets, and plan to get wet! Talk about what the water feels like. Why do we need water? What does it do for us? For plants and animals? What are some things we do with water? Brainstorm!

These are only a few ideas for outdoor play. Post your unique ideas to share with fellow early child care professionals and the families they work with!