Screen-Free Week: A Beginner’s Guide to Unplugging the Kids

Screen-Free Week: A beginner's guide | Disciple Mama

National Screen-Free Week is Coming!

National Screen Free Week will be May 4-10 in 2020, and no matter how much screen time your kids usually get, I hope you’ll join me in making some changes to your family’s screen usage for a few days (at least)!

My husband and I are doing our best to practice screen-free parenting with our kids, so you may be wondering how I’ll do anything different than business as usual with my kids during Screen-Free Week.

The fact of the matter is that the changes I make for Screen-Free Week this year will affect me more than they’ll affect my kids. My pledge for Screen-Free Week 2019 wasthat I would not use my phone for social media (even my Disciple Mama accounts), games, or other entertainment while my kids were awake. I wanted to use Screen-free week as an opportunity to ‘detox’ from all that screen-time and focus on more important things.

I haven’t decided what my pledge for Screen-Free Week 2020 will be, but I’m sure it will be similar–I want to take the week to be extremely intentional about being present in the moment with my kids and with my husband (and with whomever else may be around).

What is Screen-Free Week?

Try Screen-Free Week: A Guide for Beginners | Disciple MamaScreen-Free Week is one week (the first week in May) that many families turn off their entertainment screens and focus on other things. You can read more information, as well as access many resources at screenfree.org.

The main reason that Screen-Free Week (originally called “TV Turnoff Week” was started was to help kids get back to the creative play that’s so essential to healthy child development.

Why participate in Screen-Free Week?

Play is essential for our kids, but as Christian parents focused on the discipleship of our kids, first and foremost, we can take the reasons for Screen-Free Week even further! Turning off the screens (or at least reducing our kids’ time with them) can increase their opportunities to spend time with God.

Screen-Free Week can also help your family spend more quality time together.

If everyone participates, you may be surprised at how productive you can be without all those media distractions!

Maybe you’ve been struggling with your kids’ screen usage and you’re thinking about going permanently screen-free with them (or at least screen-lite). Screen-Free Week is a great time to do a trial run and, if you decide to take the plunge, you’ve already gotten through the toughest part of the media detox!

There’s never going to be a better time to try it than now, and I mean that in more than just a carpe diem kind of way. This time of year (at least here in Michigan) is when the weather is just starting to improve to the point where it’s awesome to be outside, and we have a few great months of sun and warmth ahead of us before the long winter hits. This is the time to drop screens! That way you’ll be used to finding alternative entertainment before you and the kids are hibernating in the family room for the winter.

Benefits of Reducing Screen Time

Girl on a climbing wall | Disciple MamaThe benefits of reducing screen time for kids are pretty intuitive, actually, but here are some that will affect the whole family (more information is available from the American Academy of Pediatrics):

  • BMI increases with each hour per week of screen time in 2 year olds.
  • Parental screen use is the best predictor for child screen use.
  • Parents who are on their screens less interact more with their children.
  • Reducing screen time facilitates more face-to-face interaction

Conduct a Screen Time Audit

Still not convinced?

There’s time between now and Screen Free Week to conduct a screen time audit. Doing this will give you an idea of how your family is interacting with screens and how much time they’re spending with digital media during a normal week.

If you like what you find, great! No changes necessary! But, for many of us, conducting this sort of audit can be really eye-opening and may lead to setting new goals or limits for our kids’ screen time.

You can keep it really simple and just track screen time, or you can track as many activities as you like.

Want to try it? Start today! I’ll send you my really simple Digital Media Audit Chart (otherwise known as a screen time chart), so you can print it out, customize it for your family, and get at it!

The idea, as always, is to be intentional about parenting our kids. To do that, it’s a great idea to know exactly how their time is spent, and then make sure that those activities line up with our family core values. If they don’t, make whatever changes are necessary to bring the ways your kids spend their time  into alignment with those values.

No Screens for a Week?!

Are you ready to try it? If you’re going to take the plunge, you may be wondering how to reduce screen time for toddlers without causing tantrums or giving up your peaceful 5 minutes of morning shower time.

Well, I can’t guarantee a tantrum-free transition to no screens (and I don’t think I’ve had a peaceful shower–except when my husband is home to watch the kids–since 2015). But, I do have a few tips for keeping the peace.

  1. Toddler playing in sand with a shovel and bucket | Disciple MamaShake up the routine– If screens are a regular part of your preschooler’s routine, do something different (and I don’t mean something small) the first day. So, get crazy! Go to the zoo. Make a blanket fort and read your 2 year old’s favorite book 8 times in a row. Go for a spin on the tricycle around the block. Just shake up the routine enough that the usual screen time isn’t missed.
  2. Include your child/ren in your tasks– Teach your children how to help you unload the dishwasher, give them dishcloths to “fold”, or tie aprons on everyone and have them help you dump ingredients into bowls (or, give them whisks and water and let them stir).
  3. Spend more time outsideOutdoor play works wonders, especially if your kids have been cooped up a lot during the winter. Head outside early and often, and your kids won’t be likely to ask for their screens.
  4. Check out this post for more screen free activity ideas!

Participate in Screen-Free Week!

Take the plunge and go screen-free (or at least screen-lite) during National Screen-Free Week next year! Save the dates: May 4-10, 2020! Start planning now, and you and the kids will find that going screen-free can be a blast!

Keep reading!

Check out: Great Screen-Free Activities You Can Do at Home

and: The 10 Best Low-Tech Toys for your Preschooler

Give Screen-Free Week a Try! Tips and Tricks for surviving (and enjoying) Screen-Free Week | Disciple Mama

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