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How to Enjoy Quality Family Time, Screen-Free

Do you ever find yourself fighting for your kids' attention? Of course, the thing that keeps them from paying attention to you is... their smartphone. We know how negative the effects can be. You're missing out on precious quality family time. Smartphones are interrupting one-on-one interactions. Not to mention how compromising it is for the kids' health to be exposed to screens for prolonged periods (here's how to combat that).
You and I both know that neither politely asking nor assertively demanding to put that phone away is going to help. What will, though? Here are 5 tips to help you build a plan to combat the screens.

1. Set Screen-Time Limits

Kids using smartphones on the lawn
Once you set the limits, declare them and stick to them. With your older children, you can negotiate and agree on a timeframe that is accepted by both parties to avoid conflict. For the younger ones, try to split the time throughout the day, as they find it more difficult to resist urges, and a strict hand will only lead to conflict and more resistance from their side.
Meet them in the middle: if they tend to reach for their phone to rest after lunch, allow them to use a portion of their designated screen-time after lunch. Keep them posted every 10 minutes on how much time is left for the day. 

2. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

smartphones put away in basket
When the phone is near, but you KNOW you're not allowed to touch it, your willpower is on the line. Don't put your children to this test, as it requires many mental resources. It will be much easier for everyone to put them away and forget they exist.
Phones won't nag the kids so much once they are away from the disturbing notification sounds that trigger anxiety. And you won't have to constantly play cop too! This means you could also throw a sheet over the TV if you'd like. You could also make a small morning ritual in which all of you put the phones away together in a basket and have breakfast together without screens. 

3. Involve Them in Your Daily Activities

grandparents and grandchildren riding bikes
Don't leave the kids to entertain themselves. Children, especially the younger ones, love to imitate grown-ups, so see how you can involve them in your activities if you haven't got anything planned just for them. For example, they can help with meal preparation, gardening, or even hanging the laundry to dry. And you can help with building a fortress in the living room! Challenge yourself not to be concerned if they accidentally spill juice or make a little mess - this is a learning curve for both of you. 

4. Spend Time Outside

grandparents and grandkids sitting in nature
The great outdoors is as stimulating as their phone and is much much healthier. One of the reasons why kids are so attached to their small-screen devices is that they are very stimulating. There are endless varying sounds and constant movements on the screen, keeping them trapped in a loop, waiting for the next stimulus. Spending time outside rather than inside (if possible) is all the more stimulating, with added health benefits. 
Here's a list of light activities outside:
  • Easy hiking trails
  • Tennis
  • Going to the beach
  • Having a picnic in the park (extra points for cooking outside)
  • Campout and bonfire with s'mores
  • Taking a pedalboat on the lake
  • Shopping together at the farmer's market
  • Going to the library and picking a bedtime story together.

5. Create a Challenge

kid and grandma playing chess
If you feel your children can handle it and it won't create too many conflicts, create a healthy challenge or competition for the time you'll spend together. This is a good way to keep them occupied and help them develop skills while strengthening your family bonds. Here are examples for inspiration:
  • Learn how to skate on rollerblades
  • See who can score the most jumps on the jump rope
  • Fold an origami project the fastest\ most accurately 
  • Can we build a treehouse together in 48 hours?
  • Who can draw the largest side-walk drawing with chalk?
  • Learn how to bake macaroons or any other challenging pastry.
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