By Melissa MacDonald creator of Zipboom Educational Toys
Many parents will agree that there is more time being dedicated to learning on screens at school, so holidays can often be challenging to try and set limits on the amount of time we allow our children to be on devices.
When deciding on the amount of screen time, I’ve often referred to reputable websites to help guide me in decision making. Two of these websites include Raising Children and The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network.
Both websites provide practical and functional information to parents on the benefits of limiting children’s screen time. Some of these benefits include:
- Too much screen time can have detrimental effects on a child’s sleep patterns. The light omitted from the screens can hinder a children’s ability to fall asleep. Less sleep has been linked to weight gain and mood and behavioural disorders.
- Too much screen time can impact a child’s ability to socialise and form positive relationships with others. Play is the basis of learning in Early Childhood so therefore, providing more opportunities for children to engage positively with others would outweigh the need for screen time immensely.
The Health Advice for children aged between 2-5 is a daily limit of no more than 1 hour. Children aged 5-17 should have no more than 2 hours screen time per day. Having two children aged 10 and 12, I follow this advice. It is a tricky situation for parents to navigate though. I believe there is a time and a place for devices, so I’m not the parent who will say that I don’t use one with my own children. However, I find getting creative about screen free time provides the perfect opportunity to teach and engage children in how to converse and behave with adults as they grow. It helps develop their imagination and creativity and builds their ability to play.
Some helpful ways to reduce screen time could be:
- Set some family rules around the time spent on screens daily.
- Have screen free days in the week.
- Dedicate time in the week to have meals around the table without devices.
- Encourage and engage you children on the content they view.
- Set an alarm or timer when on devices.
- Avoid screens in bedrooms or study areas around your home.
Limiting screen time is a topic I feel very strongly about and seeing children out and about during school holidays is both wonderful and energizing. However, I can’t help but feel that more and more children are placated with devices while at a restaurant, coffee shop or even camping. It is a missed opportunity for learning and engagement and is part of the reason I created ZipBoom to help parents make screen free time easy and fun.
Previously a teacher, I utilised my early childhood expertise and worked closely with a few developers to bring to fruition a range of educational toys. ZipBoom includes a series of magnetic games (coffee shop, camping, road trip), a journal with a subscription for young kids and a travel tote bag/ table to store them in.
So, with at least six screen free hours a day at our disposal these holidays, how can you help your kids build their ability to play, lessen the obsession with a screen and create more memories as a family? Here are a few of my proven ideas:
- Get a local library membership. We spend at least once a week at the local library. Children are given endless, free opportunities to not only borrow a broad genre of books, but also have free access to audio books. Local libraries also run free workshops for children during school holidays. Areas include robotics, craft and even STEM.
- Take a drive with your kids to a park or if you’re lucky enough a National Park. Car trips are the perfect opportunity to play games, laugh and sing with your children. Pop on a podcast and play a quiz. Aim for a park or even better a National Park as the destination. Fresh air, exercise and adventure are all fun and free, giving you a chance to build lasting memories with your family.
- Check out your local council. Often councils run free or low-priced options such as skateboarding, kayaking and other fun programs for kids.
- Pack a picnic and head to the park. Meeting friends during holidays gives your child the chance to play and get outside and encourages exercise. Grab your scooter or your bike and make a morning of it.
- Market hopping . Get behind small businesses by finding markets in your local area. There is often live music and a variety of stalls for you and your children to explore.
- Family Games Night. There are so many hidden benefits in playing games with our children. Teach them cooperation, taking turns, learning how to lose, all while strengthening your family’s relationship. Studies have shown playing games can help to increase brain function and reduce stress.
- Let them be bored. And remember that sometimes boredom is the basis of imagination.