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We quit screen time completely—and it saved our kids

Spoiler alert: It ended up making a tremendous difference for our entire family.

quitting screen time

How much time our kids spend in front of a screen is something we have almost always been “strict" about in our household.

Generally speaking, we're not big TV watchers and our kids don't own tablets or iPads, so limiting screen time for our children (usually around the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines) has proven to be a reasonable practice for us.

It wasn't until this past summer when I started working from home full time that I found myself stretching an hour to an hour and a half or allowing just one more episode of Pokemon so I could get in a few more emails quietly. (#MomGuilt)

I also realized that I wasn't counting when we passively had the news on in the background as TV time and that we weren't always setting a stellar example for our kids as we tended to use our phones during what should have been family time.


Even on the days when our children weren't directly watching TV, they were still exposed to some sort of screen—and I started to notice it in their behavior.

They both started to repeat some things that they likely heard on the news and in some of the (G-rated) shows that we thought were appropriate, but realized were not based on our family standards. And during the very few times that we did allow some kind of game playing on one of our devices, it was meltdown central as soon as their time was up.

Ultimately, screen time had somehow turned into an activity that got worked into our day simply because we allotted the time for it. It just became part of our daily schedule.

That's when I decided to go cold turkey.

No more TV. No more devices. No more screens.

Spoiler alert: It ended up making a tremendous difference for our entire family.

We live in a digitally-driven and media-focused society, and I'm finding it harder and harder to monitor what my children are consuming.

I can put as many limitations and restrictions as I want on what my children are being exposed to, but I found myself spending so much time doing so that I wondered, What's the point?

The funny thing is, almost 100% of the time, my kids would rather participate in an outdoor activity or use their creativity through indoor play than spend their time watching TV, anyway.

So my plan was to stop offering it up as an option and after the first week of implementing my strategy, I realized they didn't even notice. Rather than work it into the day, we just filled that old TV time with other activities.

This meant that sometimes the kids were “bored" and had to use their imaginations to make up a game. It also meant that I couldn't always count on TV time to get things done and I had to rearrange my schedule a bit.

It was amazing to see the immediate shift in their behavior—they became calmer and the defiant behavior significantly decreased. They were more creative with their time and energy, and watching them pick up a book instead of begging to watch a movie was a proud mom moment.

It was also obvious that my husband and I needed to take a look at our own media consumption and lead by example. We need to work, so we couldn't cut out all forms of screens, but we put some major restrictions on our digital use as well.

Instead of immediately grabbing our phones in the morning, we spent the first few moments of the day connecting with each other and being more present while we got the kids ready for school.

Instead of watching the news, we used that time to enjoy breakfast as a family and waited to turn on the TV or get our dose what's going on in the world until drop off was complete.

We set guidelines around phone use in the evening and we made it a point to put our phones down when one of the kids asked a question or needed our undivided attention—especially during meals.

We had quiet time in the evening before bed and even found some family games to play. Once we realized that our son's nightmares were no longer a nightly occurrence, it wasn't hard to figure out why.

It has been several months since we made this change and while we do occasionally enjoy a movie night or spend a good chunk of a Sunday watching football, it is a rare these days that our kids are exposed to screens.

If they ask, we suggest a different option and typically have to put our agenda aside and engage with them for a bit of time. As soon as we do, they forget about that game on the iPad or show they were asking for five minutes ago, and we get an opportunity to tap into our childhood through play which we've really enjoyed.

The result of cutting screen time out of our lives has been getting to enjoy more quality time together. That they are far more important than anything that a screen has to offer and that we don't have to become overloaded with media, even in a media-driven culture. And I would even go as far as saying—it has saved our kids and our family.

Cutting back on screen time, mama? Here are some of our favorite ways to keep kiddos busy without devices.

Dough Parlour play dough

Dough Parlour play dough

With its silky soft texture and delicious, fun scents, we're totally obsessed with Dough Parlour's 100% natural and non-toxic play dough. Hours of creative fun you can feel good about.

$22

Hijinks costumes

Hijinks costumes

Set the stage for creative role play by stocking the best costume box in town. The quality machine-washable costume pieces from Hijinks invite kiddos to happily immerse themselves in their own world.

$45

Cubika World Africa

Wise Elk cubika building set

Sometimes you just need a break from LEGOs. This building kit comes with small wooden blocks and mess-free glue dots that create a safari scene.

$18

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

14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Rae Wellness: Essential daily supplements to help you shine from the inside out

Rae Wellness is a women-led company with the belief that nurturing your mind and body isn't just essential—it's your power. Their collection of daily supplements leverage vegan, non-gmo, high quality ingredients to help you "shine from the inside out." With formulas to designed to fuel your calm, sleep, energy and more, consider them your daily dose of self care, mama. Even better, 5% of every purchase goes directly to Girls. Inc., the non-profit organization that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold through direct service and advocacy.

Beyond Yoga: Luxuriously soft athleisure you'll want to wear 24/7

Whether you're lounging or lunging, the butter-soft activewear from Beyond Yoga is designed to support women to live fully and confidently. Their thoughtful, California made pieces are crafted with every woman's shape in mind, complementing curves and laying comfortably on all body types.

The Dairy Fairy: Feminine, functional intimates for nursing and pumping mamas

As any mama who has wrestled herself into a less than sexy, over-the-top utilitarian nursing bra knows, it can be quite the demoralizing experience. Add to that the annoyance of having to switch out to a completely different contraption in order to pump hands-free, and it's even more of a let down (pun not necessarily intended.) Frustrated by this all-to-universal dance, founder Emily Ironi made it her mission to create an all-in-one bra that not only works for moms, but celebrates them. Her line of pretty, feminine intimates for nursing and pumping combine function with aesthetics to keep you looking and feeling your best as you rock new motherhood.

Milkful: The Dairy Fairy's size inclusive sister company

Part of the Dairy Fairy's mission was to create a line of nursing and pumping bras that would make women feel comfortable and confident. Since launching in 2012, Emily heard from many women of different shapes and sizes, asking, "why doesn't this come in my size?" Adding sizes to the line didn't quite feel like enough. Instead, she set out to create an entirely new way to support their specific needs during such an important time in their lives. Thus, Milkful's line of size inclusive nursing and pumping intimates was born.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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If your little one is going as a lion, coordinating is as easy as breaking out the khaki!

Here's how Halloween unfolds in most households I know: Mom spends weeks—even months—planning the perfect costumes for little ones. Then Halloween creeps up and they realize they need an outfit to coordinate with the kids' get-ups. What's a mom to do?!

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