It’s a challenge that just about every parent faces these days—your kids staring at the screen instead of taking part in family holiday activities. The good news? There are quite a few things you can do to help limit the whining and ensure they still have a fun and memorable experience. Here are ten ways to keep your kid from staring at the screen during the holidays.
1. Set Rules from the Beginning
When it comes to limiting screen time, it is important to set rules from the very beginning. Explain that you know they’re off from school, but clearly communicate what you expect them to do before getting on a tablet or video game system each day. Print out a checklist that makes it simple for younger kids to follow along or leave a note on the refrigerator. When they know what they have to accomplish before they can have screen time, it often gives them incentive to get through those other tasks quickly.
2. Use Parental Controls
Next, make sure you use a form of parental controls to limit overall screen time. Both Android and iPhone come equipped with quite a few options for making this happen, but there are plenty of age-appropriate third-party apps, too. Some phones for kids even offer the ability to limit the amount of time spent in specific games or video streaming programs.
3. Make Use of Timers
Another tip is to make use of timers. Explain to your child that they only get thirty minutes or an hour of screen time before they have to do something offline. For example, maybe that’s thirty minutes of video games followed by playing outside for an hour. The exact length of these time chunks will depend on the age range of your kids, but it is definitely a good trade off for both of you.
4. Offer Other Fun and Engaging Activities
Perhaps the easiest way to keep your child from engaging in too much tech time over the holidays is to give them other activities that pique their interest. For example, designate a night just for building and decorating a family gingerbread house. Or take time to bake and deliver cookies to the neighbors. The more interested your child is in these new traditions, the less disappointed they’ll be that they aren’t in front of a screen.
5. Include Your Kids in Holiday Preparations
One reason why a lot of parents see their kids turning to screen time is that they forget to include their children in holiday preparations. The truth? It is usually quite easy to get the little ones engaged in what you’re doing and give them a reason to put down the tech. Decorating the house, preparing meals, cleaning for guests, wrapping presents, and other tasks are all simple when you make it fun.
6. Use an Activity Jar
As children get older, they really want a say in how they get to spend their time. While they would likely love to make all of it in front of a screen, that just isn’t healthy. But meeting them in the middle is easy with the use of an activity jar. Write a few tasks, chores, offline activities, etc. on popsicle sticks. Place them in a container and have your child choose one. Alternate doing one activity with thirty minutes of screen time. Sometimes, they’ll get so caught up in what they’re doing from the jar that they’ll forget their not on tech.
7. Follow-Up with Punishments for Breaking Tech Rules
With the chaos of the holidays, it can be difficult to follow-up with punishments for breaking tech rules. Part of keeping your kids from staring at a screen over the holidays means setting clear boundaries and ramifications for not following them. Yes, this is extra tough when you’re trying to get everything together for a family event, but it is key for teaching young minds about responsible tech use.
8. Remember to Balance Types of Tech
It is also important to remember that not all tech is bad tech. Just as many adults use their smartphone to learn about new subjects, some of your child’s screen time can be for educational purposes. Set a goal to balance out one educational app, show, or media with time spent on a video game or watching cartoons. There are tons of great eBooks for kids that help encourage reading or immersive museum experiences for older children.
9. Understand New Item Excitement
Even adults get excited when we receive a new item that we’ve really wanted for a long time. If your child gets a new video game or tech toy over the holidays, make sure to give them a little bit more leeway to enjoy that specific item. By doing this, you’re helping push off that fear and anticipation of seeing what this new item is all about. In the end, this will help keep those disagreements to a minimum and ensure they’re willing to cooperate with other aspects of your family tech guidelines.
10. Put Up Tech Items While Guests Are Visiting
As a final option, you can choose to physically put up the tech while guests are visiting for the holidays. When an item is out of sight, it is easier for most kids to opt to find something else to do instead of being tempted to enjoy more screen time. So, put those phones, tablets, and video game controllers in a different room or somewhere else to help reduce frustrations. What if a visiting cousin or friend brings tech along with them? While this will vary from one family to another, make sure to talk to the other child’s parent and explain your household rules.
Wrap Up: Getting Your Children to Limit Screen Time During the Holidays
We can all agree that today’s tech options sometimes make it hard to parent your children. That said, these ten tips are all designed to help you limit that screen time over the holidays and ensure everyone enjoys a memorable season.