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A Parent’s Perspective: School Breaks & Limiting Screen Time

The holidays are upon us for a lot of schools, and for some parents, this is a time to make incredible memories and spend quality time with our children. For others though, it can be a stressful time, wondering how on earth you are going to entertain the kids!

As parents, we all want what is best for our children, but sometimes figuring out what is best is the most difficult part. With social media being so prominent in our modern lives, we can’t help but compare ourselves. Maybe I should do more craft with my children? Maybe we should get outdoors more? Am I helping my child to learn enough? Should I be limiting screen time?

Depending where in the world you are, you might have quite a lot of time with no school, and we all want to ensure that we can help our children get as much value from the holidays as possible.

I have three children, aged eight, five, and four. I also work here at Edmentum International full time. Many parents will be able to relate to my lack of time, and my desire to keep the peace amongst their sibling rivalries! Therefore I hope that some of my tips below for balancing “what’s best” may give you hope for surviving the holidays.

School may or may not provide your child with homework or projects for the holidays. If they have, you won’t want your child spending the entire time working, but if they haven’t, you’ll probably not wish for your child to go throughout the holidays without picking up a book or pen and paper. Your child may even be fortunate enough to have access to some kind of online learning platform such as EducationCity or Exact Path. So how do we find the balance between encouraging them to continue their learning and limiting screen time?

We have an unwritten rule in our house, if the children want to lose themselves to the television, PlayStation, or Nintendo DS, then they have to do something that will help them to grow first. This can be any of the following:

  • Reading
  • Creativity (writing, drawing, coloring, crafting, Lego)
  • Physical activity
  • Education
  • Time outdoors

If they come to me and ask for cartoons on the TV, I will simply ask them to choose one of the above first and they will. I try to avoid telling them what to do because they need time to explore their own interests. If they aren’t too sure where to start, here are some ideas they might like.

Blake, my eight-year-old son, is likely to choose to read an informative book about cars, write a story, or go for a run up and down our street in a bid to run as fast as the cars.

My five-year-old daughter, Emily, is more likely to make a card for a family member, follow along to Cosmic Kids Yoga, or put on some music and have a dance.

However, my four-year-old, Ellis, would head straight to the garden to do some digging, water the plants, and count the bees, or he’d build something with the Lego or get out his coloring book.

Quite often they get so lost in these activities that they forget all about their request to watch a movie.

All three of my children are lucky enough to have access to online learning platforms, which is good news for me because I don’t have to worry about trying to be a teacher and keep them learning. My only task is to remember where I put their login details! Many of these platforms, like EducationCity, are so fun and engaging that my children will happily spend hours after hours on them, and it is great that they are so motivated, but, if like me you want to be a little cautious of screen time, then anything between 20-60 minutes is quite sufficient.

One way of limiting screen time is by bringing the online activities to life. If your young child is working on maths, consider encouraging them to use objects from around the house to aid their counting such as fruit, toy cars, or leaves from the garden. If they’ve been set an online task to practice adjectives, see if they can get adventurous with describing their favorite toys or cartoon characters to you.

For older children, they may not be too impressed with having to use all of their screen time as educational time. Agree to compromise, if they spend 20 minutes working on their algebra, they earn themselves 40 minutes on their Nintendo Switch. When the 40 minutes is up, they have to do a further 20 minutes of any of my above suggestions before earning another 40 minutes watching random YouTube channels.

If your child is really into gaming, why not set them a task of designing their very own educational game? They’ll need to write their plan, draw their characters, do some research on what questions to ask, explain what controls to use, they could even video themselves acting out the game they have designed. If they do a great job, send it to us or tag us on social media. Who knows, if we love it too, we might just make their idea a reality!

Comment below with your best tips for managing screen time over the school holidays.

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