“The world is so full of a number of things…”

“The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”  Robert Louis Stevenson

I love this quote for all ages but how true it is for our children.  Yet more and more, in today’s world, we are seeing less curiosity and awe about the world out there and its mysteries and wonder and much more interest in the virtual worlds of fantasy and video games, pop singers and movie stars – all at younger and younger ages.

I spoke with a mom recently who was seeing some behavior changes in her smart, previously happy, cooperative 8-year-old son – now demonstrating more anger and defiance.  When we talked about an increase in screen time, she had to admit – that’s what he begged for, got up too early to do, what seemed to work as both consequences and rewards and the demand for more seemed to be constantly in the equation.

Here are some suggestions to consider if you are wondering how to avoid over-exposure to screen time or find yourselves caught up in too much already.

Keep computers, TVs and video games out of bedrooms and instead in communal family rooms, where the child is visable.

Turn the TV off during meals as well as not answering phones and text messages to recognize the significance of celebrating meals together.

Get in the habit of selecting a few shows to watch during the week and have your child choose, planning them into the schedule versus just turning on TV and watching whatever comes on… and 0n… and on.

When children have playdates, find out how much time is spent only playing video games. No more than thirty minutes taking turns playing is suggested and then move on to something else.

Decide in your family how much and when computer/video games/TV time will take place.  Keep in mind that for children, it is recommended no more than two hours a day of combined screen time (TV,Computer, video games) and for under two -years-old – zero hours.  This agreed upon and confirmed screen time can help eliminate constant nagging and pleading.  Include your children in the decision making.

Remember to count hand-held video games.  Often we don’t realize, if the device accompanies every trip to a friend’s house and each errand you run during the week, how likely your child is racking up quite a few hours of playing time.

Designate as a family, certain days as screen-free days for everyone.  Make a plan together to do other things with this valuable time.

Have alternatives available.  swimming, picnics, biking, “nature treasure hunting”, “junk art”, tent in the back yard, some cardboard boxes, water play. (you’ll be surprised}

Go to the library and get books – then go again and again.  Explore one subject together in your family, perhaps star gazing or insects or transportation.  Get some good chapter books and you’ll all get hooked.

Remember the phrase, “in our family we believe…” when explaining to your children your reasons for limiting screen time. 

The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.”  

 Take in its full meaning for all of us, as families and for our children.  Let’s take it to heart and make sure our children’s world, as simple as it can still be, offers them a number of things to delight in and learn from and be nourished. 

 We will all feel more connected.

If anyone would like some help or more suggestions on how this might work in your family, give me a call at The Parenting Place, 784-8125.  It’s one of my favorite subjects.

Also pay close attention to more info about a presentation on September 13th at Viterbo, The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  It will be excellent food for thought as to how much nature is missing from our present day life and the strong need to reconnect through nature.

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