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Turning off screen time made me a better mom

Sometimes the things we things are the quick fixes are actually what are holding us down.

Turning off screen time made me a better mom

Those close to me know I have never limited screen time with my kids—in fact, I'd likely have rolled my eyes at the suggestion of cutting back.

My daughter loves Mickey Mouse. She has learned every episode by heart. She's not even 3 years old yet and she can pick out a Clubhouse episode on the DVR by name (I swear she can read sometimes.) I saw so many benefits to kids television shows. I mean hey, they've come a long way since we were little.

She will sing along, count numbers, and help Dora find her way. Never once did I chalk up behavioral blips to screen time. But in the back of my heart, I knew. I would hide the Amazon Fire Tablet. Avoid eye contact with the DVD player in the car. Subconsciously I've been safeguarding spaces.

Last year we needed to go from Atlanta to Miami by car. We packed DVDs for the car just in case and had the tablet ready to go; backup battery and all. But heading to the car, I told my husband not to hand the 'book'—as we call it—until necessary. "Once it's in play... it's in play." I was worried about her eyes being locked on a screen in a moving car for so long.

We didn't hand it over until nearly eight hours in, 30 minutes from our stop to see grandparents in Tampa. We never plugged in one DVD. She was having plenty of fun looking out the window, taking naps and singing songs to us.

Because of the nature of the trip, and Thanksgiving being in there, we barely even turned on a TV. She was behaving like a champion but I still didn't connect the dots. "She's getting so much attention. She's thrilled!"

Then one Wednesday morning, a few days after we arrived back home, she was watching her shows and not listening. Lost in my frustration, I blurted out "No TV for the rest of the week!" She sobbed.

I wasn't sure where it came from. I wasn't even sure she understood what that meant.

I texted my husband. "No TV through Friday." "Ok," he replied. Probably confused and worried about how his early morning coffee time would pan out without a screen.

Over the next several days, something magical happened. Our daughter started to play much more than she ever had before. She played dress up and sang songs into her microphone. She pretended to cook in her little kitchen, and acted out stories with her dolls. She was also being noticeably kinder to her baby sister.

Sure, she asked to watch some things, but only once a day. Sometimes she would cry a little. Sometimes she would just accept the fact that I said "not today." Naps even resurfaced. Bedtime had never been easier.

My mind was blown.

All of this time, the fights, the melt downs, the whining, had been linked to her screen time. A thousand people could have said that to me. A thousand people could have sent me YouTube links about the importance of letting go of screen time. I wouldn't have believed it was such a quick fix. I probably still wouldn't have wanted to turn the TV off.

But, it not only changed my daughter—it also changed me as a mother.

When I stopped depending on the television for her entertainment, I was able to get more done in less time. I wasn't waiting for an episode to finish before we could leave the house. I wasn't fighting to turn off the shows so we could sit down for dinner. All that time negotiating episodes was spent coloring together instead. I became more enthralled by her childish play. She even started talking to me more.

Motherhood can look easy. But it's exhausting and down right hard. In my mind, Mickey was my liferaft to keeping things together. I needed the TV to babysit when I wanted to wash dishes or get ready for the day. But those things were actually easier once I clicked power off.

Sometimes the things we things are the quick fixes are actually what are holding us down.

I'm still figuring out exactly where we fit in the managing screen time world. I love her knowing the characters like friends, and having a Minnie Mouse birthday cake. I love how she dances along to the hot dog song—nothing is cuter. But nothing compares to seeing her imagination come alive when she's not relying on a screen.

Explore some of our favorite screen-free creative play products in the Motherly Shop!

Wise Elk magnetic fishing game

Wise Elk magnetic fishing game

Solo or in pairs, this charming magnetic fishing game builds focus and concentration in the form of good old fashioned fun.

$20

Lovevery block set

Lovevery block set

With countless ways to play, this brilliant science-based system of 70 heirloom-quality pieces (in 18 different gorgeous hues) unlocks STEM concepts like math, physics, and engineering, along with higher-order planning and problem-solving. Prepare to thank this one for hours of screen-free entertainment.

$90

Janod wooden play kitchen

Janod wooden play kitchen

Meal prep can be made a little easier when little ones have a place to "work" right alongside you. This clean, modern wooden kitchen set from Janod isn't your typical colorful eyesore and features an oven, a microwave, a cupboard, 3 knobs with sound effects, a stainless-steel sink and a clock to keep them busy.

$152

Hijinks super hero cape 

Hijinks super hero cape

Like all of Hijinks mix and match dress up pieces, this cape is built to withstand whatever rescue mission your super hero can throw at it. Prepare to save the day, toss it in the laundry and save the day again.

$45

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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There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

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I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

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For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

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Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

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$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

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The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

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Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

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Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

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Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

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There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

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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.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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