The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen use to 1-hour per day of high-quality programs co-viewed with parents for children ages 2 to 5. So what should you do instead?
Here are some tips for keeping the weekends screen free and low cost for your young children.
You may have heard about the APA recommendation for screen time for young children. If you’re the parent of a toddler like me, you’re probably wondering what you can do on the weekends that will keep everyone entertained and screen-free for all but 1 hour of the day. I know it’s tough, and you shouldn't beat yourself up if you watch an episode or two of Peppa Pig. She’s adorable.
There are so many fun activities that are low or no cost that you can do at home with your toddler that will also help him hone early skills that are developing at this age. Play can be a great time to work on fine and gross motor skills. Talking about patterns and doing matching activities are a jumpstart on math concepts. And of course, reading, singing, and talking are important components of early literacy. Try out some of these activities in between visits to the library for storytime and Hands on Art.
Get in the Kitchen
Let that baby stir dry ingredients, smell veggies, and sample what you are making. Check out books like Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park and spend the afternoon acting out scenes with your own kitchen tools and trying out the recipe from the book.
Read Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by Bob Barton and create a sensory bin. Fill a Tupperware with dry beans and dollar store dinosaurs and go on your own dino hunt.
Play Dress Up
A bowl becomes a hat, a sheet becomes a cape, and random articles of clothing transform us into different characters. Children love expressing their moods through whatever they put on. Read Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine or Maggie and Michael Get Dressed by Denise Fleming.
Make a Mess
Buy cheap paint and get out a cardboard box. Put your toddler in a pull-up, put him inside the box and let him go to town.
Clean Up Time!
I’m going to enjoy this while it lasts, but for now, cleaning up is fun. Fill up a shallow tray with water and dish soap, give that baby a sponge and some things to “clean”--plastic dishes, fruits and veggies, whatever you have. Who doesn’t love bubbles?!
Putting toys away is a constant activity, but having my little superhero pretend to be the Flash while speedily gathering toys, or tossing soft things into the toy box in a makeshift basketball game makes it a bit more fun.
You knew this is where we would end up, right? You can check out 60 books from the library at one time. Here are some of our favorites for interactive fun.
- Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter.
We love this silly book and always share many giggles while reading it.
- Get Out of My Bath by Brita Teckentrup.
Ellie needs help getting ready for her bath and your toddler will enjoy going through the motions!
- Warning! Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehraupt
He loves setting the trap at the end, and always wants to try again.
- Can You See What I See: Seymour and the Juice Box Boat by Walter Wick.
I loved Where's Waldo as a child, but the busy pages are tough for my toddler. Try the Can You See What I See books featuring Seymour for a fun seek and find that is perfect for younger children.
- I used book tape and my (lacking) drawing skills to make a small clear chameleon mirrored the book A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni. My child is still enjoying placing this free, simple character on every surface to watch him change colors and patterns.
- Wordless books. Try The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Something about the expressive animals really appeals to my child. He loves “reading” to me by telling me what is happening in the illustrations.
No matter how you choose to disconnect from the screen, your child is going to love spending time with you. You don't have to create elaborate games, take extravagant outings, or even have a background in education. You already have all you need--love for your children and a screen-free Saturday. There is plenty of adventure right at home!