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Hi, I'm a Kenyan-born, Colorado-based single mom to twins Hodari and Milambu. I turned the challenges of single motherhood into a thriving YouTube community and blog. Here, I offer support and practical advice on parenting, lifestyle, and more. Let's navigate life's complexities together!

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As a single mother of twin toddlers, I know how challenging it can be to balance everything, including work, household management, self-care, and child-rearing. For that reason, I often rely on screens to keep my little ones entertained so I can tackle my seemingly endless to-do list.

However, I have recently noticed some of the negative effects excessive screen time can have on children. When I turned off the TV or told them they couldn’t play a game on my phone, my children would become upset, throw aggressive tantrums, and exhibit decreased attention spans. They would easily get bored while playing and couldn’t pay attention during mealtimes if the TV was on.

These behaviors were concerning and made me feel guilty about allowing my kids to watch too much TV. But I know there is hope. Recently, I started limiting their screen time during school days: they don’t watch TV before or after school. During the weekends, I try to keep them busy with other activities so we aren’t relying on screens.

I have been doing this for a few weeks now, and I can already see a difference. When the TV is off, they find other ways to occupy themselves. They also ask me to play music on the TV, so instead of watching a show, I simply cast a Spotify playlist, and they listen to music while they play.

If you are in the same situation and want to incorporate more screen-free activities, you are in the right place. In this blog post, I will share practical tips that are helping me reduce screen time with toddlers.

Why Screens are Detrimental

Excessive screen time can have negative effects on a child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Here are a few reasons why screens can be detrimental:

  1. Delayed Development – Excessive screen time can interfere with a child’s physical and cognitive development, leading to delays in speech, language, and motor skills.
  2. Obesity – Screens can encourage sedentary behavior, leading to an increased risk of obesity and related health issues.
  3. Sleep Problems – Screens emit blue light, which can interfere with sleep by suppressing the production of melatonin. This can lead to sleep problems and fatigue.
  4. Behavioral Problems – Excessive screen time can contribute to behavioral problems, such as aggression, anxiety, and attention deficits.
  5. Addiction – Screens can be addictive, leading to a dependence on screens for entertainment and stimulation, which can interfere with healthy habits and relationships.
  6. Poor Social Skills – Screens can interfere with the development of social skills, such as empathy, communication, and conflict resolution.
  7. Decreased Attention Span – Excessive screen time can lead to a decreased attention span, making it harder for children to focus and learn.

While screens can be a valuable tool for learning and entertainment, it’s important for us as parents to set boundaries and find a balance that works for our families.

14 Practical Tips for Reducing Screen Time with Toddlers

1. Set Screen Time Limits

To help your toddler develop healthy screen habits, it’s important to set clear limits on screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged 2 to 5 should have no more than one hour of screen time per day. Communicate the screen time limit to your child and stick to it consistently. Use a timer or a visual aid, such as a chart, to help your child understand and track their screen time.

2. Use Screen Time Wisely

If you do allow your child to have screen time, use it wisely. Choose educational programs or games that promote learning and development, and limit screen time to no more than 30 minutes at a time. Be sure to monitor your child’s screen time and content to ensure it’s appropriate for their age and development.

3. Get Creative with Screen Time

Instead of simply letting your child watch videos or play games on a screen, get creative with screen time activities. Look for educational apps or games that can teach your child new skills or engage them in interactive learning. You can also use screens as a tool for creative expression, such as allowing your child to take photos or create digital artwork.

4. Have Other Activities Available

Provide a variety of engaging activities that your child can do instead of screens. This can include outdoor play, arts and crafts, reading books, playing with toys, and imaginative play. Rotate toys and activities regularly to keep things interesting, and involve your child in choosing what to do. Consider having a designated area in your home for non-screen activities.

5. Create a Screen-Free Environment

Designate certain areas of your home as screen-free zones, such as the dining table or your child’s bedroom. This helps create a boundary between screen time and other activities and can encourage your child to engage in other activities during these times. Limit screen time during meals and before bedtime, as screens can interfere with sleep and healthy eating habits. Consider having a charging station outside the bedroom to encourage a healthy bedtime routine.

6. Allow for Boredom

It’s important for toddlers to learn how to entertain themselves without screens. Encourage your child to be creative and come up with their own activities by allowing for boredom. Provide materials such as crayons, paper, and cardboard boxes to encourage imaginative play. Play music in the background to stimulate creativity.

7. Be a Role Model

If you work online as I do then it can be hard to stay off your phone. But as a parent, we play a critical role in our children’s development and habits. We can model healthy screen habits by limiting our own screen time when our children are around and engaging in other activities that don’t involve screens. Use screens intentionally and with purpose, such as video chatting with family or watching educational videos together.

8. Use Positive Reinforcement

Praise and reward your child for engaging in non-screen activities. Positive reinforcement can include verbal praise, stickers, or small treats. Use a rewards system to encourage healthy habits, such as earning a special activity or treat after a certain amount of screen-free time.

Related: 100+ Easy and Engaging Screen-Free Activities for Your Toddler

9. Use Music as a Distraction

Music is a great way to distract your child from screens and promote engagement in other activities. Consider playing background music during playtime or while doing arts and crafts. You can also introduce your child to different types of music and involve them in singing or dancing along. This not only reduces screen time but also helps develop their love for music and creativity.

10. Find Screen-Free Alternatives

Explore new and fun activities with your child that don’t involve screens. This can include attending local events, visiting parks and playgrounds, taking classes or lessons, and spending time with friends and family. Involve your child in planning and choosing activities to make them more engaging for them. Plan regular family outings to explore new things and reduce screen time at home.

11. Encourage Outdoor Play

Spending time in nature is a great way to reduce screen time and promote healthy habits for your child. Encourage your child to spend time outdoors by taking walks, visiting local parks or nature reserves, or even setting up a small garden or plant area in your yard. Make outdoor time a regular part of your child’s routine, and emphasize the benefits of fresh air and exercise.

12. Foster Creativity and Imagination

Encourage your child to engage in creative activities that foster imagination and creativity. This can include building with blocks or Legos, drawing or painting, or even role-playing with dolls or action figures. By fostering creativity and imagination, you can help your child develop a love of learning and reduce their dependence on screens.

13. Involve Kids in Chores

Toddlers love to help and be involved in everyday tasks. You can use this to your advantage by involving them in household chores. Simple tasks such as folding laundry, setting the table, or picking up toys can help your child develop a sense of responsibility and reduce their dependence on screens. Make chores fun by turning them into games or competitions, and be sure to praise and reward your child for their efforts.

Related: 10 Great Age-appropriate Household Chores for Toddlers

14. Make Screen Time a Reward

Instead of allowing your child to have unlimited screen time, use it as a reward for good behavior or completing tasks. For example, you can allow your child to watch a favorite show after they finish their homework or chores. This can help motivate your child to engage in other activities and reduce their dependence on screens.

Final Thoughts

Encouraging your child to engage in non-screen activities is one of the most important things you can do for their overall development and well-being. It’s essential to establish clear boundaries and set limits on screen time, while also offering alternative activities that stimulate their creativity and imagination.

Creating a screen-free environment at home can be challenging, but it’s worth it in the long run. This includes removing televisions, computers, and tablets from their bedrooms and keeping them out of sight during meal times and family activities.

Allowing your child to experience boredom may seem counterintuitive, but it can actually foster creativity and independence. Additionally, modeling healthy habits by engaging in non-screen activities yourself can be a powerful way to encourage your child to follow suit.

Finally, using positive reinforcement, such as praising your child for playing with toys or reading a book, can go a long way in creating a positive and healthy screen-free lifestyle for your toddler. By implementing these strategies and finding screen-free alternatives, you can help your child develop healthy habits that will benefit them for a lifetime.


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screen time

The Ultimate Guide for Reducing Screen Time with Toddlers

screen free activities

Apr 26, 2023

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