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How I Reduced My Kids' Screen Time and Increased Their Creativity

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

“Just one more show!?!”, my 7-year-old shouts at me. And I dread what’s coming next – I’m going to refuse her request, she’s going to keep screaming about it and hide the remote from me. My younger daughter is going to cover her ears and worry about the yelling. And I’m going to feel more exhausted by the second. Or start screaming back.

Deep breath, Mama, deep breath.

More often than not, this was the end of the workday routine at my house. Was this battle worth the 45 minutes of quiet I had leading up to now while I prepared dinner after a tiring day of work? Was there another way to do things? Hmmmmm…….

Something had to change. A moment came along when I stopped to reflect on what was happening and what I wanted to happen (it’s hard to have those moments to reflect on life as a parent, isn’t it?!).

I didn’t like the melt downs my kids had when the tv was turned off (what’s happening there? Those monsters are NOT my children.). I didn’t like how our short amount of time together, Monday to Friday, was filled by tv/dinner prep, eating dinner (while people were still grumpy about the tv battle that had just happened), bath time, stories, bed time. Repeat the next day...

I thought about how I did want to spend this time:

  • Relaxing and decompressing after a busy day

  • Time to play, so they can use their imaginations and creativity

  • Having conversations about the highs and lows of their day at school

  • Reading or writing for pleasure (building those skills at the same time)

  • Enjoying dinner time together - talking, laughing, expressing gratitude

It comes down to the fact there are only a few hours in the day that we are together Monday – Friday and I want this time to count. This time each day adds up to the overall experience of our family time and the memories of our children’s childhoods.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” - Annie Dillard

First step was to cut out tv Monday to Thursday. It was eating up a significant chunk of time and often ended in an argument. I talked to the girls ahead of time, giving warning when the new routine would start. I explained why I wanted to make this plan (all the reasons above) and that they could look forward to some tv on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

We talked about what they could do instead when they came home from school – toys, art, books, playing in the basement. (This is important – we often expect our kids to be able to find something to do on their own but giving them guidance initially helps to get them started and then later they easily think up new ideas on their own.)

I thought about everything I know as a Kindergarten teacher for creating a learning environment that has toys and materials organized and displayed in a way that encourages play that can focus on certain areas like, building, reading, writing, art, drama, science, and math. Then I thought about how I can apply these ideas to our home.

We already had a basement playroom full of toys but I reorganized it to match these ideas. You can read about the re-org here.

There were also popular toys kept in the living room that I had organized.

The greatest effect came from an art box I created to stay in the kitchen.

Most days the girls would come home and have a snack in the kitchen while I made dinner, then pull out some paper and markers from the art box. They draw imaginative pictures and stories, regularly asking, “how do I spell….”.

I found over time the ideas got more and more creative. Sometimes they cut up paper, glue things together, go to the basement to get additional materials, e.g., washi tape, stamps, popsicle sticks.

There were some complaints at the beginning and they still sometimes ask if they can watch a show or play a game on the tablet when they come home from school but I only have to say, “Not today, would you like my help to find something to do or do you have an idea already?” and they usually chose something on their own. (See my list of suggestions, HERE, if you are looking for ideas for your kids!)

A year later and I’m very happy with how things are going!

I hope you got some new ideas for reducing screen time and increasing creativity in your own home.

If you would like more suggestions and you live in the Toronto area, I’d love to help! Read about my in-home consultations or upcoming workshops. And subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

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