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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.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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