Too much of anything can be bad. Unlimited time with electronic gadgets may keep your child quiet, but it can cause a lot problems in the future. I am not saying that I have not given screen time to my daughter ever since she was born. I have had my trial- errors and learning. So here am sharing some of my views on no screen time and how do I engage the 20 month old toddler without any TV time.
I know, this is the tech savvy era and I wouldn’t be able to control my kid from having screen time for a long time. But how much ever possible it is; I am simply going to try. I did a cold turkey method and I simply cut her off from the TV time one day. She did her tantrums and cried for her favorite rhymes, but it wasn’t bad. She cried may be for two days asking for TV time. I simply refused and instead turned her attention to something more interesting. I gave her more and more of time myself, I stopped looking at the phone myself so that she would get all my attention. My husband quit watching TV in front of her for few days so that she gets used to the normal of not having the television running. Trust me people, it worked for me.
The major disadvantage of TV time was that she was simply getting glued to it. The cartoons and colors are so fascinating for their eyes. They just forget the surroundings, start watching without even blinking the eyes. It just stunts their imagination and creativity I felt. I couldn’t teach her anything new, she would simply be stuck to the TV. The mistake I did was not creating a boundary or a cut off time for the screen.
Lauren Hale, a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University in New York summed up her findings from over a decade long research that kids and adults who watch or use screens, with light shining in their eyes and close to their face, their bedtime gets delayed, the sleep quality is reduced and the total sleep time gets reduced.
Moving on to the ten things that I do to engage my toddler during no-screen time:
- PLAY OUTSIDE
`It will come to the readers with no surprise that I give my toddler a lot of play time outside. I take her out to the play grounds, parks, or simply outside our house in the patio wherever she can get some interaction with the nature.Squeezing in a walk in the daily schedule can be so rewarding. Teach them about plants, sound of the birds, dogs, bugs etc will definitely help in developing those gross motor skills.
2. PRETEND PLAYS
This can be tricky, a very handful of kids would love to do pretend plays. For boys it can be a bit tough too. Girls will be more interested in pretend plays. So what I do is , I give my kiddo few kitchen utensils to play with or some dolls or some of her play dining set which she uses to pretend play. These are simple open ended games which will help your kid to imagine wildly.
People who follow me in instagram might know this pretty well, i am an ardent reader (well! to my daughter). I did not inculcate the habit of reading may be cause no one introduced books in my life at an early age. So I do not want that mistake to happen with my daughter. I started reading to her when she was few weeks old. Showed her books, took her out to the library story times and got lots of interactive and interesting books for her. The best distraction for her from screen was to show her books. She loved it and loved enacting out her favorite rhymes. This was when she was involved and also started to pick up few new words and rhymes too. It is okay if your child isn’t showing interest, it might take a day or two. At this stage, your priority is to just give him/her more and more ideas in his mind.
4. MOVES AND GROVES
Did you know that dancing is an amazing way to learn rhythm. It can give the mommies some hard core exercise and some fun too. Tune in to your favorite music station in Alexa or Google home or even your phone (just the audio guys!) and start dancing. They will tag along. It not only helps in the physical development but also the mental/cognitive developments too. You can try out freeze dance, open and shut dance, in and out dance, i try a lot with my kiddo.
5. SENSORY ACTIVITIES
Sensory activities are the best. My favorite sensory activity is the ice bucket game to which the entire credit goes to @busytoddler. There are millions of toddler proof game ideas in her page and I love everyone of it. Now, sensory games need not always be messy, it can simply means grabbing a box of spice and smelling it, touch and feeling a bubble wrap, playing with sand, some play dough etc. It can simply mean playing with pom-poms which is readily available at the dollar store. Oh! to talk about the ice bucket game, it is super simple. I just dump a rack of ice on the ground, give my daughter a mug or spoons or sometimes nothing too. She simply carries the ice and play with it. It is again an open ended game which can keep your kids busy for quite a long time.
6. BEING A HELPING HAND
This is something I love. Now, you might think it isn’t a right age to introduce your kids to simple home chores. But you are wrong. You can ask your little ones help in household chores like taking out the clothes from the dryer, take out the clean vessels from the dishwasher, cleaning up the toy room before the bedtime, arranging the books on the shelf, gardening etc. I am not listing the chores which the toddler can take up, instead this is just talking about practical simple chores which your kids would love to be a part of. I felt involving the kids in the home chores which are age appropriate can help in building their confidence and comprehension.
7.ENGAGE IN ART WORK
Let your little one be engaged with the crayons or toddler friendly paints. They will love to do it. I introduced colors and crayons to my daughter a little late.I used to fear if she would draw on the walls or couches. But with the help of Crayola washable crayons, things are easy and fearless. She loves coloring and I don’t expect anything from her but a simple scribble would do the job.
Am a big advocate of library events. they are free and fun place to be with kids. Books are always the best companion for kids. And they would enjoy being with other kids and socialize. The concept of stranger anxiety will also be reduced. I started taking my daughter to the library when she was 5 months old. I could have started pretty early though. You as a mom can learn really cool and fun ways to engage your kids from the librarians, pick new and new books each week etc.
Kids would love being with other kids. Socializing with other kids should start from the beginning. They learn and grow like that right? When I was a kid I used to wait everyday for 4 pm to arrive so that I could gulp my cup of milk which my mom would keep it ready on the kitchen counter and quickly leave to the playground. Play time is super essential. That’s how they learn the art of sharing. How much ever you keep saying “sharing is caring”, every bit of it is learnt when they step outside their comfort zone and meet new people and make friends. They also learn about how to take turns and navigating conflicts. Getting your toddler to play with other kids could be difficult at first but it is not completely not doable. Try few minutes every day, simple walk with friends, playing in the slide or swing could also do the job.
10. ENGAGE IN FINE MOTOR SKILLS
The toddlers are super smart, they pick up things very quickly. The mantra is “repeat the task three times”. Whatever task you do, repeat it a couple of times, they will pick it.
Fine motor skills are essential just like gross motor and cognitive skills. It helps in the hand and finger coordination. To inculcate fine motor skills, I give small stickers to my little one which she holds with her thumb and fore fingers, she tries to stick it on her card board and play with it. Throw a bunch of pom poms on the floor and ask her to pick it up and put it in the bag, inserting Q-tip into a colander etc are simple games which a toddler can play. These are games which help in encouraging the kid to involve pincer grip (which means picking up things with thumb and fore fingers).
Giving screen time or not giving screen time to your kid is a parent’s choice. Whatever works for them is the best for them. I am not here to enforce anything but these are some simple ways in which I keep my toddler away from screen.
Toddlers have very limited patience and super high energies. So balancing them both could be tough sometimes. And that’s when these simple engagements make an entry. Also, make sure you always reward them for their good behavior. My way of rewarding is handing out star stickers or her favorite candy when she does a good job. And playing her favorite rhymes in the phone (just the audio) is another way of rewarding her. In this way, she isn’t going to forget those rhymes and she grasps it pretty quickly.
By the way, these are super simple activities which I make my toddler do and which she enjoys. There could be millions of games which can keep your kids away from screen time. Please drop your valuable comments below and I would love to implement them.