When I think back to my summers at home, goodness gracious I watched A LOT of TV. I’m pretty sure my parents never even considered putting a limit on the amount of time I spent watching TV, just so long as it kept us entertained and occupied. That’s much of the reason I have so many Disney movies memorized. The VCR and a shelf full of Disney VHS tapes were my source of joy for much of my childhood.
Nowadays, especially since starting to homeschool, I’m guilt ridden when my kids eat their lunch with the iPad at the table. Or if they have a movie marathon during the week. Sometimes my guilt erupts and I’ll hide iPads and remote controls and pretend like I have no idea where they are.
Ya’ll when did screen time become such a bad thing? I’ve fallen trap to some kind of belief that more screen time means I’m a terrible, horrible, no good very bad mom. When I’m out of town or even gone for just a few hours, things at home run completely different. As much as I try to lay out homeschool plans and leave organized piles labeled with sticky notes and rules about screen time, I realize that I’m not in control when I’m away. And my husband has his own way of doing things. As he should. But it still irks me a bit when I come back and the kids are on iPads.
It’s not like my kids are digital maniacs who can’t stand to be without their screens. They do just fine without them, and most of the time it’s out of sight out of mind. But instead of losing my mind every time I see them sitting in front of a glowing screen, I’m finding ways to make these screens something I approve of more often. Win-win right?
On our Netflix account I created a homeschool profile and created a list of approved shows. From LeapFrog Learning Factory videos to nursery rhyme shows like Mother Goose Club and lots and LOTS of documentaries. I had no idea my 4-year-old son would be sitting down and watching full-length documentaries on sharks and whales. But you’d be surprised how interested they can get in something when you make it available to them.
My daughter also has been into the shark documentaries and spouting random facts about sharks’ brains. My son even schooled me when he told me I was wrong, Destiny from Finding Dory is NOT a whale, but a shark. I had to Google it but realized he’s correct. Why she speaks whale in the movie I’m not so sure.
Over on their iPads I’ve deleted most games that don’t have much educational value. I’ve still left a couple thinking maybe they’ll improve hand eye coordination or something. But I’ve left LeapFrog Academy on the front page and encourage them to play it. They’re getting the hang of it now to where they don’t need me helping them navigate the system and they can open the app, choose their name and go. My daughter loves browsing around the “My World” page where she collects her prizes for winning games and styles her avatar. My son likes to watch the learning factory videos, especially the counting one with… You guessed it! Sharks!
I thought LeapFrog Academy would be a tool mostly for my son but parts of it are really challenging for my daughter too, and I actually am planning to use it more as one of my homeschool tools, especially on our more laid back days, or for easy fun learning when we’re on the go or in the car.
Despite trying to delete a kids’ YouTube app it keeps finding its way back onto my son’s iPad (thanks daddy!) but we discovered the timer on it, and I am not afraid to use it. So after a set amount of time (usually 30-45 minutes) that app has to “take a nap” and he needs to move on to another app or go play with his toys or with his sister.
And finally, we don’t have a video gaming system but we do have an Apple TV that you can download games for. I downloaded some arcade-style games for a birthday party but after a frantic banning of most of them on my part over the summer, they’re left with one they aren’t afraid to go on without me asking if all of their chores are done and that’s a dancing game. They’ll get up and dance around together and sometimes my husband and I will even join in.
All that to say, screen time isn’t always terrible. Duh. But I felt like I needed to get that all out. Maybe I just needed to get that all off my chest, or maybe you needed to hear that too. Screen time can be educational, fun, and sometimes, just give a much-needed break for mommy.
I’m passionate about getting my children excited about learning. That’s why I’ve partnered with LeapFrog for 2017, to share our journey to making learning fun and inspiring my kids to be the best they can be. LeapFrog Academy takes kids on Learning Adventures that guide children around the islands in My World to explore eBooks, games, puzzles, videos, music, and art activities. Adventures focus on specific subjects and have titles like Get Ready for Preschool; Letters, Sounds, and Rhymes; Math and Science; and Critical Thinking and Problem Solving. You can learn more about the program and sign up for a free trial here.