Big fatty mcfat disclaimer: I don’t think you are a bad person if you let your kids watch TV. So whew. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about alternatives to screen time. We all learned last year (the year before? mommy memory) that screen time for kids under two years of age should not exist. No no. A big no no. And after two should be limited. The average kid watches like 2-4 hours of TV a day. Not a good stat. Why? It affects their brain development, it inhibits imaginative play, it pacifies them, it gives them lots of images and ideas you may not want in there, it curtails their communication with siblings/you/care provider, and the list goes on.
But why do we think we cannot live without it? Why does everyone have these HuffPo articles being like “hey, it’s okay if your infant watch TV so you can just breathe a little” or “I’m a guilty parent too, but my kids are just fine”? Because our kids are clamoring constantly? Don’t play by themselves? Can’t be left unwatched so we can shower/screentime ourselves/poop? Because you can’t fry anything on the stove while holding your babe in the sling? Because we need them to zone out so we can have a break?
I get it! I have two kids under three (now three) as well. Maybe it’s their personalities, or maybe it’s because they don’t know any different, but we don’t use screen time. Period. And they self-entertain, they read lots of books, they play lots of I-don’t-know-what-he’s-shouting-but-it-sounds-like-O-Sacred-Head-Surrounded games. They also tantrum and freak out too so maybe when I have more I’ll do less. Why knows.
When my kids are too little to be left along, I put them in the bathroom with me so I can shower. In a pack & play, or strapped in bouncy. I make little nests for them on the floor in the kitchen so I can cook. I freely use babyjail (said pack & play). Little ones nap twice a day (or protest nap, or sling nurse nap depending on age), bigger ones have quiet time once a day and a nap. I set up a babysitter at least once a week (thank you, family members) so I can run errands that I can’t do with two (or simply don’t want to). I still shower (sometimes), blog (lots), socialize (some), sleep (kinda), and sew (yes!). You can too.
My list of how I survive without the electronic babysitter screeny thingy.
1) Play with them to jump start the game, and then leave them on their own so you can do your thing.
Yes, you have to prime the pump. So when SuperBoy’s got a new board game (thanks, Tia Momo for the penguin game. He loves it.), I sit there and play a few rounds, showing him the basics. If he goes off and changes the rules in subsequent play, that’s fine, but at least he has a baseline of how it could go. The sandbox in the back? I will sit for a few minutes and show him how he could dump all the sand inside the bucket and then dump the bucket on his toes. SweetPea loves stacking her Melissa & Doug hand-me-down block stackers. But sometimes she needs reminders on where her stackers are, or a little direction toward the bookshelf in the kitchen so I fry something. Or stand in the corner eating ice cream. You know.
2) Books on CD or tape from the library. Ahmazing for long car rides, quiet time inducements to stay in the bedroom, and that 4pm horror hour when I need to start dinner and everyone’s crabby.
Lately it’s all Curious George Goes to the Doctor. That’s almost 20 minutes. And if you show your kiddo how to turn the page when they hear the chime, you’re golden! SweetPea isn’t that into it, obviously at 15 months, but she hums along and makes her version of a solo breakout when we’re listening to Vered or Scythian.
3) Reading books–even when they’re tiny–to them, at them, with them.
Books books books. SuperBoy started a quiet time when he was probably 18 or 20 months in his crib with his books. He can self-entertain for a very very long time. Throw some baseball cards in there, and it’s hours. SweetPea isn’t as into books, so I’m not sure how this will pan out as a self-entertainment mechanism, but am hoping for the best!
4) Busy baskets set throughout the house in strategic places.
In my sewing studio, I have one basket for each kiddo so in a pinch I can work and they can run around playing with their busy basket contents. For him? Baseball cards & musical instruments. For her, stacking blocks and an array of teething toys. They run like wild turkeys around the room, adjacent room, and hallway, strewing stuff everywhere. It’s fair game. So long as I can still do a little work. Ditto to the kitchen.