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.


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.


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.


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.


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

You might also like:

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school 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 summer-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 strollerWooden 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.


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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?

Happiest Baby: Baby sleep solutions designed by the experts

Created by renowned pediatrician, baby sleep expert and (as some might say) lifesaver Dr. Harvey Karp, Happiest Baby has been helping new parents understand and nurture their infants for close to two decades. Building on the success of his celebrated books and video The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block he's developed groundbreaking, science-based product solutions that conquer a new parent's top stressor—exhaustion.

WSEL Bags: Dad-designed diaper bags that think of everything

WSEL stands for work smart, enjoy life—an ethos we couldn't agree with more. Founded by a stay at home dad who struggled to find a diaper bag that he not only wanted to use, but one that would last far beyond the baby years, these premium, adventure-ready backpacks are ideal for everything from errands to week-long getaways.

Codex Beauty: Exceptionally effective sustainable skin care

Codex Beauty's line of sustainable plant-based skin care blends the science of plant biology with biotech innovations, to create clinically proven, state-of-the-art products for all skin types. They're all vegan, EWG and Leaping Bunny verified and created in collaboration with Herbal Scientist Tracy Ryan who uses concepts dating back to the 8th century leveraging plants like sea buckthorn and calendula flower. Not only are we totally crushing on the innovative formulas that are in the packaging but we're in love with the sustainable sugarcane-derived tubes as well.

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

Keep reading Show less

100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

From Adelia to Ziggy.

Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play