Tips for Reducing Screen Time for Young Children

Growing up in the ‘2000s, I got A LOT of screen time between cartoons and the internet. But I can say that in my toddler years in the ’90s I was pretty screenless. In comparison, kids today get way more than I ever did when we take into account tablets and phones. Screens are just way more accessible today than ever before. That’s why today, I’d like to share with you my top Tips for Reducing Screen Time for Young children.

Before I became a mom, I was, of course, the perfect mom. I had all these ideas about how I wouldn’t let my kids have too much screen time, eat only healthy foods, etc. And then after I had my first child, reality hit me hard. I realized just how hard it was to keep a toddler busy for 12-16 hours a day. Especially when you live in Canada where 6 out of 12 months are freezing cold.

But even so, I was determined to make sure screens were not a default. And to be honest this is still a work in progress in my home. Not only because of the weather but because I am a full-time working mom and sometimes screen time is the easiest way to ensure I can get work done.

Doctors recommend that toddlers under 2 have no screen time and that children above the age of 2 get a maximum of 2 hours a day. They recommend this for many reasons. But being a busy mom I can admit to having those days where my kids definitely had a healthy dose of screen time in a day. Sometimes, just to save my sanity. But I have made it a priority over the past several months to make screens a last resort or even a non-option on some days. Here are my top tips for reducing screen time for toddlers.

1. Participate in 1000 Hours Outside challenge

Accountability. What I love about this challenge is it gives me a sense of accountability. Anytime we have a sunny day I feel the pull to take my children outside to enjoy nature. The idea of this challenge is to match time outdoors with screen time. The average child gets around 1200 hours of screen time a year. What if we reduced that by spending more time in nature? I love nature and so do my kids, so we really enjoy our intentional time outside. You’d be surprised how much time your kids will spend outside if you just let them.

1000 Hours Outside has so many fun resources and ideas to inspire time outdoors. They also have a fun app you can download to keep track of your time and earn badges as you collect hours outside!

2. Practice Montessori Style Play

The Montessori approach is basically creating environments and providing materials where your child can play and learn independently. This is a work in progress in our home.

There are many ideas, especially on Pinterest, that can help you create the perfect environment for your toddler to initiate play on their own. Creating a station with open-ended toys and throwing toy rotation in the mix is a perfect start.

I love this article from Montessori in Real Life. She goes through her whole house and shows how she has created the perfect Montessori space for her child. I am definitely taking notes from here!

3. Unplug

This tip can be as easy as unplugging your TV for a certain chunk of the day. If it’s unplugged it’s easier to ignore. Some parents, I’ve seen, take it a step further by just not having a TV where it’s most accessible. Sometimes this means only having one in the parent’s room and not the living room.

Whatever your style, it can make it easier to say no if it’s out of reach.

4. Stick to a Routine

Toddlers LOVE routines. Transitions are hard for kids and are probably the cause of most tantrums. But when a child knows what to expect it makes the world of a difference.

Related: The Importance of Routines for Children

If your child is used to screen time, I wouldn’t recommend just cutting it off cold turkey. I mean you could if you wanted, but the reality is that we live in a world where screens are a part of daily life. Instead of saying NO all of the sudden, work it into their routine. Let your child know what to expect and how long the TV will be on and most importantly, what they can look forward to once the TV is off.

Writing down your routine or making it visual is very helpful for building consistency. Download our FREE editable routine chart here or check our daily responsibilities shore chart here.

5. Use a Screen Time Checklist

This tip kind of goes along with making a routine. But what I love about screen time checklists is it makes screen time something that needs to be earned. You can teach your child from a young age that there are more important things to get done before screen time.

I have actually made a screen-time checklist that I use with my children. This PDF is editable so you can customize it however you’d like. This checklist is a daily checklist your child can use to earn a maximum of 2 hours of screen time a day OR less if you want. After all, it’s customizable to fit your needs.

You can get it here in my shop

6. Set an Example

I think we are all guilty of it or at least I know I am. I find that the minute I have some free time or need to “relax”, I immediately reach for my phone. But what if we reached out for a book instead? Or a puzzle? The truth is that our kids will mirror what we do. If they see us reaching for screens every chance we get, most likely they will want to do the same.

What if we instilled in them a love for these things? Who knows, maybe when they’re older they will develop better boundaries for screens than we ourselves have.

7. Communicate with Your Team

This tip is so simple yet so crucial. One of the challenged I face is when I have to work out of the home and my kids stay with my mom or their dad. This is when they get the most screen time for different reasons. In the beginning, it was a huge area of stress for me. But, I realized that communication with my mother and husband was important to get the message of why we needed to reduce screen time across.

Now, the expectation is clear. Everyone knows what shows are off-limits and what the time limits are. Is it perfect? No. But having everyone on the same page, for the most part, makes it 10 times easier to stay on track.

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