Making a Screen Time Fast Work for Your Family

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A couple weeks ago, I had posted about our family’s journey to eliminating screen time. We are now two months without screen time, and the change in Junior’s attitude and speech quality has been nothing short of exceptional. We just returned from a road trip in which we spent 24 hours in the car over 4 days, and the kids did not use any electronic games or toys. Junior played with Play-Doh for four hours. Four hours. A couple months ago, I wouldn’t have thought he were capable of 4 minutes on any one activity. Ask Junior if he wants the iPad now, and he says  “no, it’s bad for my brain.” He is SO much more regulated and able to cope with life better. The several times I have turned a show on since we completed the fast has ended in a major meltdown within a couple of hours.

Several people have mentioned that they would like to try the screen time elimination, but don’t know where to start, because the thought of removing screen time from their child’s world is overwhelming. Here are some tips on making the transition a little easier:

1. I highly recommend the book, “Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades, and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time” as it gives all the reasons behind the why and how of screen time influence on children’s brains and it also outlines the entire screen time fast.

2. For the first few days, I suggest coming up with activities to keep the kids out of the house. The first few days are the hardest part of the withdrawal period, and if kids are out being active, they won’t be as tempted to ask for a show or the iPad. Go to the playground, take the kids bowling, go for a hike…just make sure you have a few days of being out of the house for the most part.

3. Have fun activities scheduled for a while. For the most part, I’m not a fan of scheduling out activities, but for the first week of the fast (after a couple days of being out of the house), it helps to have some activities scheduled. I had several craft projects set up, as well as some science experiments, board game time, and recipes to make together.

My Favorite Screen Free Games and Toys

Believe it or not, there are more ways to entertain kids out there than just video games, iPads, and movies. Here are some of my kid’s favorite things to do:

  • Legos
    • If your kids prefer less open-ended activities, there are many “Lego Building Challenge” ideas on Pinterest.
  • Wooden Blocks
  • Magnetic Blocks
    • These magnetic blocks are one of my all-time favorite toys. The kids learn a lot about 3-D shapes, can build impressive structures, and Junior even sticks them to his cochlear implant magnets :)
  • Art Supplies
    • Keeping a good stock of paper, paints, crayons, markers, watercolors, stickers, glitter glue, and scissors make for hours of creative fun.
  • Car Races
    • Even my 8 year old daughter loves building Hot Wheels tracks!
  • Outdoor Toys
    • Inexpensive things like sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and little shovels are outdoor staples to have on hand.
    • Sandboxes, ride-ons, and water tables also keep kids having fun outside.

Even if you’re overwhelmed with the thought of starting a screentime fast, I promise it will be worth it. I didn’t know how I was going to do it–after all, I needed the break and I thought that the iPad was the only thing that would calm Junior down in a meltdown (which were happening multiple times a day). Now that the screens are gone, the meltdowns have ceased as well and I realized that the devices I thought were helping the problem were actually making it worse.

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6 Things I’m NOT Doing So I Can Enjoy My Kids’ Childhoods Instead

childhood

I know it’s cliché, but kids really do grow up too fast. Tater turned 8 a few weeks ago, and I was having a Mommy Meltdown about my baby growing up, and how on earth did this happen, and so on. I kept thinking about the last four years since Junior was born, and how stressed and busy I was, and how I just wanted a break–until I looked back and realized how much I missed because I was so anxiously awaiting the day that life would calm down. Life never really calms down, the challenges just become different. But, it really made me consider how fleeting time is, and how I really just need to enjoy the kids every single day. They will never be as young again as they are today. So, here are 6 things I’m not doing, so I can enjoy my kids’ childhoods instead:

 

1. Not Glued to My Phone
Technology is one of those double edged swords–phones and computers are useful and often necessary, but it’s also easy to become a slave to our devices. Instead of making it a point to check my phone for messages, emails, or anything else during the day, I’ve been putting it away and only checking it when the kids are in bed. My goal is that I’m never looking at a screen when they come looking for me.

 

2. Not Out and About All the Time
We have had a ridiculous amount of appointments since Junior was born 4 years ago. Several days a week, we are out of the house most of the morning, and once we get home it’s time to do school, cook, clean, and otherwise get caught up on life. I never feel caught up, and it’s stressful for everyone when you’re always trying to play catch up.

A couple weeks ago, we had no therapies or doctor’s appointments planned for an entire week, and I had forgotten how blissful it is to be home. We were able to play, do art projects, do school and get all the household chores done without feeling stressed. I’m moving our schedule around so we’re home more, so I can spend more time playing than driving.

 

3. Not Thinking About Tomorrow
I’ll admit it–I’m terrible when it comes to living in the present. I’m always thinking about the next thing…tomorrow, next week, my to-do lists, my life goals–that I often forget to be in the present. Right now. I want to enjoy my kids’ little faces while they’re still little, and not look back and regret that I didn’t fully enjoy the time with them. Instead of thinking about the next thing when I’m with them, I’m trying to stay in the moment–thinking about what I have right here and right now. What do I see? What do I hear? I just want to soak it all in and create memories in the now.

 

4. Not Spending Too Much Time On Meals
How many times have I heard “Momma, can you play with us?” while I’m trying to make dinner? Too many. I have to tell them later, but of course later never happens because too soon it’s bathtime and bedtime and tomorrow. So, I’ve started incorporating more slow cooker and freezer meals into our weekly menu so dinner is healthy and yet quick. My mom always used to tell people that it didn’t matter if she spent 20 minutes or 2 hours on a meal, as long as everyone was full and happy. Luckily, there are tons of healthy crock pot recipes that are a snap to prepare. (My slow cooker black beans and chicken tacos are always a family favorite.)

 

5. Not Forgetting to Have a Plan
Not so much a schedule, but in order to get the most out of our time, I’ve found it to be helpful to have a bit of a plan for the day. I may plan breakfast, outdoor play time, art project, lunch, school time, and a movie. Nothing too specific, but just a guide so I’m not standing around at 2pm wondering what on earth we did all day.

 

6. Not Ignoring the Little Moments
My doctor’s office has a sign that says “Never forget to enjoy the little blessings of today. Someday you will look back and realize they were the big blessings.” I love that. Right now I may take for granted when Junior wants me to pick him up and carry him to the car, or when Tater reaches up to hold my hand in the parking lot, but someday I’m going to look back and miss those little hands and that soft hair, and those sweet little voices.

Years from now, I’ll be wishing for “just one more day” with them being little, so I intend to enjoy that “one more day” right now.

 

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Top 10 Posts of 2015

It’s somehow 2016, and I know I say this every January, but how on earth is last year already over?

Our family had a pretty good year altogether–if you don’t count a rocky December, but I’ll talk about that in another post. Our year consisted of several road trips, lots of school, and some pretty exciting milestones from Junior.

Here are my Top 10 Posts of 2015…which post was your favorite?

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.

7.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


5.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.
Niagara Falls and Upstate NY with Kids

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3,

30 Minute Chicken Tortilla Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.
10 Reasons Having a Child with Cochlear Implants is Awesome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
1. Sharing Secrets…A Look Back at Diagnosis Day

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Mix and Match At-Home Date Night Menus

Date Night

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Mix-and-Match At Home Date Night Menus

Having time  to spend together without the kids is really important to my husband and I. But, it’s often easier said than done. In recent years, my husband and I have been trying to do at-home date nights once a week. We put the kids to bed a little early, have dinner, play a game or watch a movie, and have a yummy sweet dessert. We look forward to these evenings all week long, and many times they’re even better than a night on the town!

Whether you don’t get out too often because of finances, sitter availability, or just time, here is a mix-and-match at-home date night menu for the best date night you could possibly have under your own roof!

1. Dinner

  • To-Go From Your Favorite Restaurant
    • One parent picks up dinner while the other puts the kids to bed
      • Sushi is our favorite pick up, but pizza, BBQ, and Chinese are all good options as well
  • Meat and Cheese Tray with Fresh Bread and Dipping Sauce
    • We have a little local Italian deli that sells the most wonderful salami and cheese. We pair that with some fresh Italian bread, and a balsamic/olive oil mix. Sometimes we’ll add in some dried fruit and jam.
  • Nachos
  • Appetizer Night
    • We’ve done potato skins, mozzarella sticks, carrot and celery sticks and chips and dips.
  • Romantic Dinner for Two
    • You know…the kind of meals that need nice tablecloths and candles. Things like Fettuccine Alfredo, Filet Mignon in Red Wine Sauce, and Shrimp Scampi

2. Activity

  • Play a Board Game
  • Watch a Movie
  • Start a New TV Series
    • Our Netflix subscription has allowed us to watch through several new favorite series including Warehouse 13, Psych, Chuck, White Collar, and Burn Notice.
  • Do a Puzzle
  • Discuss your hopes and dreams
    • Okay, I actually laughed hysterically as I wrote this…because my husband is not a talker and he would rather be chained to a wall without food or sunlight than have to have a “feelings” chat. But, I’ve heard that some husbands enjoy this…can’t say I’ve ever met one, but that’s the word on the street.

3. Dessert
You can’t have a successful date night without dessert. Something delicious and sweet finishes up the evening nicely.

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7 Christmas Traditions Your Kids Will Always Remember

Christmas Traditions

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Christmas is that time of year when life just seems to slow down and speed up all at once. It slows down because you’re taking in all the sights and sounds and smells, all the while speeding up because it seems to go from Thanksgiving to Christmas in like three days.

My parents always made Christmas special for us…not because they spent a lot of money on us, but because they spent a lot of time on us, making memories, and starting traditions that I have passed down to my own family. Here are the 7 things I look forward to most about the Christmas season with my family.

1. Christmas Light Nights
A simple internet search will likely yield a nice list of the best Christmas light displays in your area. We have 4 or 5 specific places we go every year, and it’s just fun to see how people go all out for the season. There is one home near us that has over 100,000 lights, and another home that boasts life sized gingerbread houses and a “real” Santa who gives out a little toy to each child that visits. We don’t usually tell our kids the evenings we’re going…I make a simple dinner to enjoy in the car and off we go once my husband gets home from work! The kids get excited to guess when and where we will be going.

2. Packing Operation Christmas Child Boxes
Tater (7) especially loves finding little treasures for other children as we pack our Operation Christmas Child boxes. We always choose the “Track Your Box” option so we can see where our box goes, and pray for the child that received it. Tater knows that Christmas is about giving, and packing the shoeboxes is a tangible reminder of that.
(See my post on shopping for an Operation Christmas Child Box on a Budget)

3. Decorating Our Tree
Every year, I buy one ornament for each of our children that has a meaning for the previous year. Sometimes it’s an ornament of a child’s favorite character, a new milestone, a new sport, or a token from a family vacation. Every year that we decorate the tree, we look back on each ornament as a special and treasured memory.

4. Decorating Sugar Cookies
This is probably the most anticipated of all our family traditions. We have a set of trusty Christmas Cookie Cutters that we have used for the last 10 years (they’re older than our kids), and buy every color sprinkle imaginable, along with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and shredded coconut. We cut out the dough, decorate the cookies, then bake them. We don’t use frosting, but if we did, we would bake the plain shaped cookies first, then decorate them. Lots and lots of laughter on Sugar Cookie Decorating night.

5. Christmas Movie Nights
We always have to watch Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, and after the kids go to bed, A Christmas Story. We whip up some popcorn, maybe grab some leftover sugar cookies and hot cocoa, then sit in front of the warm fire and enjoy the show together.

6. One Christmas Eve Gift
This tradition goes back several generations in my family. After church on Christmas Eve, we come home and the kids open one gift. It’s always a pair of Christmas pajamas to wear that night (I prewash before I wrap them), and a new book about the birth of Jesus. We read our books after the kids are snuggled into their new jammies, then it’s lights out!

7. Christmas Communion
This is a special tradition from my husband’s family that my he carried on after we got married. On Christmas morning, after a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and tangerines from our tree, but before we open stockings and gifts, my husband leads us in Communion with some bread and grape juice to help us focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and to thank the Lord for our blessings. The best of which cannot be found under a tree.

This Christmas is going to be a little different because of family health issues, but it’s still such a wonderful time of year that I cherish. My husband gets some time off work so we can spend a lot of family time together, and we make wonderful memories each and every year. I love that our kids want our time more than anything, and these traditions help us make the most of that time.

What are your favorite family Christmas Traditions?

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