Let’s face it, I’m just not going to be a “no screen-time” kind of mom. Things have escalated too far; there’s no going back. I bought an iPad so that I could work remotely, and it’s now owned and operated by a tyrannical two-year-old. And I have no. idea. how. that. happened.
What I do know is that when my daughter starts asking for her “iPas” in her sleep, it’s time for a tablet cleanse. Here are five tried and true ways to enroll your toddler in a much-needed break from electronics.
The thing is, this particularly habit was created by me over time, so I fully believe it’s only fair to remove it with time as well. The best way I’ve found to do this is to set small limits over a two-day period before fully removing the tablet from use. I start by setting a timer and next introduce a screen limit for the day (keeping it realistic). YouTube Kids has a built-in timer setting in the parental controls that allows you to lock them out after a certain amount of time. There are also apps that allow you to lock the entire tablet when the time limit is reached.
The short toddler attention span works largely in your favour here. For the first few times you have to enforce those time limits and boundaries, make sure you have a seriously awesome alternative ready. I’m talking new sticker book, trip to a new park, a fun new craft or sensory activity, visit a local farm for a day, go to the zoo, swim at the local pool, play a new game together… anything to take the focus away from what they’re losing and get them excited about what they’re gaining.
If you’re working from home like me, or have other children and responsibilities, it can be tough to devote your undivided attention, no matter how much you want to. But the truth is, there’s nothing more alluring to our kids… not even a screen. On weeks when I plan to do a cleanse, I make sure I have little work planned, no appointments scheduled, and that the house is relatively clean. This makes it much easier to devote my time solely to my daughter.
One of the best tricks I’ve discovered came about due to pure and utter laziness. The iPad battery had drained, the charger was somewhere in our car, and instead of going to get it, I simply explained to my daughter that the battery was dead and I didn’t have the charger. To my surprise (and a bit of disappointment that I hadn’t tried this sooner), she simply accepted it and moved along to the next thing. So, “lose” your charger somewhere inconvenient, explain to your toddler that you don’t have it, and employ distraction as necessary.
Like with any set of rules, it’s important to know when to break them. If your little one gets sick and needs rest, you need to wait in the doctor’s office for an inordinate amount of time, or any other reason that warrants quick and easy distraction, don’t feel guilty if you have to pull out the trusty iPad. There’s no shame in using something, with limits, when necessary. When at home during these cleanses, I like to defer to a short, educational show or movie instead, that way I have control and know there’s a built-in time limit on how much she’ll be watching.
We’re all human, and there are going to be days and weeks where time gets away from us, and convenience wins the day. But, when you feel things have gone too far, taking a break from mobile technology can strike a much-needed balance in your household and leave everyone feeling healthier and happier.