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montessori ways to cut down screen time

Do you feel guilty or stressed every time you see a report about the importance of limiting screen time? Do you want to limit screen time, but aren't sure how to wean your child off of their favorite TV shows? The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released guidelines encouraging very limited screen time for children under 5 years old, but if this is something you struggle with, don't feel discouraged.

Figuring out how to best let our children interact with electronics in a world where they're constantly inundated with screens is one of the most challenging parts of being a parent today.

Try these Montessori-inspired strategies to help meet your screen time goals for your family, whatever they are:


1. Get physical

Montessori incorporates freedom of movement from birth. For babies, Montessori forgoes any devices, such as swings, infant chairs and walkers that put baby in a position they cannot yet get into by themselves. Instead, infants spend time on the floor and have plenty of time to practice rolling, crawling and pulling to stand as they get older.

Not ready to toss out the swing? Help your baby get the physical activity they need by giving them lots of free time on the floor. The WHO recommends at least 30 minutes of tummy time a day, and a maximum of one hour at a time restrained.

For older children, free time outdoors is a natural way to encourage physical activity, but it's not the only way. You can incorporate movement into children's indoor play time by using distance games, a common tool in Montessori classrooms.

For example, if your child wants to do a puzzle, try putting the puzzle pieces in their room while you sit with the puzzle frame in the living room. They will have to go back and forth each time to get a piece. This is not only good for keeping them active, but it also challenges their brain as they work hard to remember which piece they were looking for.

Other movement activities include dance parties, placing yoga cards on your child's toy shelf, or putting a bean bag toss in his room. Make sure he has options for movement, whether inside or out.

2. Encourage independent play

One of the most common reasons parents offer screen time is to get a few precious minutes to themselves. But there's an alternative: help your child learn to play by themselves.

If your child is not used to playing independently, introduce it gradually and be prepared for protests. Change is hard, but that doesn't mean that it's not good.

Start by encouraging them to play by themselves for a 10-minute stretch while you're in the same room. Slowly increase the time you expect your child to play independently and they will become more confident and comfortable with it in time. If your child protests, validate their feelings by saying, "You sound so frustrated. I know you want me to play with you right now. I'm going to finish reading this article, but I can't wait to play together later."

It can help to encourage independent play at the same time each day, perhaps after breakfast. Make sure you have some quality time with your child first, where you give them your full attention, so they're emotionally tanked up and ready for independence.

3. Get them started and back away

While we want our children to play independently, sometimes they need a little help getting started. We use this strategy all of the time in the Montessori classroom, especially on the playground. We may get a game of ring toss started, then back out of it and let the children do it on their own.

Or we may spend a few minutes showing them how to build a sand castle, then back away and observe what they create. At home, sit down to draw with your child, then quietly move on to cleaning the kitchen while they continue. Sometimes children just need a little inspiration to get them started.

4. Implement a routine

If you want to make a change, but dread the constant whining for the iPad, try implementing a routine so your child knows when to expect screen time. In Montessori classrooms, children have a great deal of freedom, but it is all within a predictable structure.

Children arrive at school, have a long block of independent work time, perhaps a group time, then lunch and playtime. Because the children know when playtime happens each day, they don't spend the morning work period begging to go to the playground. The expectations are clear and consistent so there is no point in arguing with them.

You can use this same strategy at home. You might decide that screen time will be limited to a family movie night on Friday or 30 minutes after school each day. No matter what you decide, communicate the new rule to your child. They will likely complain for the first couple of weeks, but soon the rule will become the new normal and they will likely stop arguing with the limits.

5. Prepare the environment

Montessori educators consider the learning process to be a three-way relationship between the child, the teacher and the classroom environment.

The environment, in this case your home, must be set up to support your child's developmental needs for active play and cognitively stimulating quiet play.

If you have an outdoor space, observe your child playing there. Are there ways for them to challenge their body with things like climbing, throwing, hanging, or carrying heavy things?

Are there ways for them to engage in purposeful work, like watering plants or sweeping the patio?

For indoors, have toys or activities that are both fun and challenging for your child; rotating what's available can go a long way toward holding your child's interest. The better your home environment is set up to meet your child's interests and developmental needs, the less they will be looking for passive entertainment. Taking these things into consideration can encourage your child to love outdoor play, and hopefully stop begging for screen time and embrace more active play.

If the new WHO guidelines seem overwhelming, take a step back and think of a smaller goal to get you started, whether it's increasing your child's time outside or breaking their iPad habit at the dinner table.

Start small and try these strategies to make the changes you want.

Shop some of our favorite engaging screen-free fun!

Hijinks superhero cape

Hijinks superhero cape

These durable and bold superhero capes are a costume box favorite. Machine-washable and built to last they're the perfect accessory whether they're saving the planet or the playground.

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Wise Elk wooden pixel mosaic game

Wise Elk wooden pixel mosaic game

Easier than a puzzle but just as satisfying, these wooden mosaics are as fun for adults as they are for the kiddos. It comes with five animals and two surprise designs that can be used over and over again.

$20

Father's Factory paper digital camera

Father's Factory paper digital camera

Inspire your budding photographer with the paper digital camera from Father's Factory. The ready to assemble full HD camera gets kids excited to explore the world around them while keeping them in the moment since there's no display to inspect their work.

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We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

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