Written by Eva Benoit
Technology has a funny way of grabbing onto kids and not letting go. The addictiveness of phone games or online videos can capture even the most inquisitive and interested minds. However, alternatives to screen time can often be pretty pricey. Fortunately, there are several budget-friendly ways to cut back on technology.
Why Limit Screen Time?
Many parents may wonder why they need to limit screen time at all. For starters, children benefit more from unstructured play than they do from screen time. Television shows and video games are limiting, and they don’t offer much room for the imagination. When children are encouraged to create their own forms of play, they blossom. Moreover, too much screen time is linked to several negative outcomes, according to the Mayo Clinic, including poor sleep and appetite, weight problems, and issues socializing, among others.
One of the very best alternatives to screen time is outdoor play. Getting outside has so many positive impacts on children. Kids who play outside are more likely to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity per day. They’re also getting a healthy dose of vitamin D they need to develop healthy bodies and brains.
If your kids aren’t interested in the outdoors, there are several ways you can encourage them to get into nature. An outdoor playground can draw your kids outside. Focus on a simple set that won’t need much maintenance to keep costs low. However, make sure you do plenty of planning so your playground is something they will thoroughly enjoy. If that doesn’t work, you can also get your kids into organized sports. The price of participation is usually manageable if you go through a school or neighborhood team. Sports equipment and gear can get expensive, so remember to look for deals, savings, and cashback offers online when you’re shopping.
Embracing the Arts
Creative hobbies, such as music or art, can be a great, low-cost way to get kids to spend less time online. You can buy an inexpensive set of colored pencils and a sketchbook that will last for ages. You may need to replace supplies over time: Keep your eye on sales to find the best times to stock up. If your child is interested in music, there are plenty of budget-friendly ways to get them an instrument. Secondhand beginner instruments are very low-cost. If you’re willing to find a way to move it, you may even be able to find a piano for free on local selling boards. Moreover, some music shops also offer rent-to-buy options, where the money spent on the rental can eventually go toward a step-up instrument.
A Good Book
One of the most cost-effective ways to limit screen time is to encourage reading. If you have a local library, you can check out books for free, making this an enormously budget-friendly option. If your child wants to own a particular favorite, second-hand bookshops are plentiful. Even a brand-new book once in a while can probably fit into most budgets, and an eye on sales will make treating your child to a new book a special (and affordable) treat. If your child isn’t already a reader, diving into a good book together can make all the difference. Look for recommendations of children’s stories that also appeal to adults, and take turns reading pages or chapters to each other. This will boost their reading skills and serve as valuable family time.
On Productive Screen Time
Unsure how much to cut back? The AAP has released a tool you can use to come up with your family’s screen time plan. Generally speaking, keep the screen time productive and educational. Discourage your children from spending lots of time on mood-worsening social media sites or lost in YouTube binges. Instead, focus on screen time that the family can do together, such as playing multiplayer games or watching television shows everyone enjoys.
Remember: You need to teach by example. Limiting screen time for your children won’t be effective if they don’t see you put down the phone as well. Plan plenty of outdoors activities as a family, and ensure they see you finding non-tech ways to fill your downtime. Reducing screen time is good for anyone of any age. By cutting back as a family, you can all reap the benefits.
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Dr. Liz Matheis
Dr Liz Matheis and her team specialize in assisting children and their families with Anxiety, Autism, AD/HD, Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Struggles