Keeping Kids Occupied With Tech: The Right Way

Katie-Pennington-Kids-Technology

It’s hard for kids to stay occupied during the winter. Being stuck inside during a snowstorm is rarely fun for anyone, especially bored kids! In my home state of Michigan, snow is unavoidable and is often the reason why kids don’t want to venture outside. Of course, they would rather hold an iPad in front of the fire instead of freezing their toes off sledding.

I love technology and I embrace the endless possibilities it brings to the classroom. However, we must be mindful about how children use technology. Although it can enhance their communication and hand-eye-coordination skills, it may inhibit other skills. Here are a few ways to implement proper technology use with the kids.

Determine What Needs to Come Before the Technology

Screen time is a privilege, so you must establish your child’s responsibilities beforehand. Let your child know what needs to be accomplished to earn screen time. If you have a young child, something as simple as putting their toys away can help them learn about responsibilities. If your kids are older, having them make the bed or dust the furniture can help as well. Both ways will establish technology as a reward for finishing chores, not something that gets taken away if the chores aren’t done.

In addition, you may want to implement technology-free family time for everyone. You can set aside time each day for no texting, internet surfing, social media checking or email sending to talk about how everyone’s day went. You can also plan a technology-free evening such as a game night or a walk in the park.

Set Time Limits

Too much exposure to a screen isn’t good for anyone, especially young children. According to Psychology Today, too much exposure to electronic media leads to delayed cognitive development in young children. Although technology can do wonders for your child’s education, it’s wise to set a time limit. This can vary depending on their age and self-management level. A recent report from CNN provides some guidelines about how to limit media use for young children.

However, the guidelines for older children and teenagers vary depending on the child and the parent. You can factor in how much sleep they should be getting, their homework load and their maturity level. If your child can self-regulate the technology use on their own, you can give them more flexibility. If you believe your child doesn’t have the self-discipline to regulate use, you may need to step in.

Use Controls

Some video game consoles and smartphones have parental controls built in. These can allow you to restrict internet access, restrict the ability to make purchases and restrict downloads of games with mature ratings. Some devices can be programmed to shut down after they have been powered on for a certain time period.

Technology is a wonderful, but challenging tool. The world is changing so quickly, and therefore it may be hard to accommodate our parenting skills to keep up. We didn’t have all this technology when we were growing up! But I can assure you these tips can help you navigate the complicated mix of parenting and technology.

3 Ways to Succeed at Family Meal Time

3 Ways to Succeed at Family Dinner

The start of the school year means a shift in the way you family operates on a daily basis. One of the first things that may fall off the wagon once September hits, is your evening meals together as a family. We’re all aware of the benefits of this time together. It strengthens the family unit. It’s correlated with higher GPA’s, lower risks of depression, and may even boost your toddler’s vocabulary more than reading aloud.

That all sounds great, but it’s still difficult to make it happen! With jobs, after school activities, sports, the logistics of the evening hours can be challenging to control. Here are a few ideas to help you make more of your evenings dedicated to this important event.

Don’t Set Yourself Up For Failure

The first rule of thumb when starting a new habit is to not bite off more than you can chew. All puns aside, don’t set yourself up for failure by mandating that your entire family must be seated at the table at 6pm each evening. That doesn’t sound fun or reasonable! Instead, start with finding a few nights a week where calendars align. Then, make the most of these nights together. Over time, you can hope to increase the frequency. But by starting small, you’ll be able to succeed in your goal, giving you the boost you need to continue on with the habit.

Dinner of steak and potatoes

Get Creative

If dinner time just won’t work for your family, why not change the hour of the day you spend together. Mornings may seem hard, but even spending 15 minutes together at the table while you eat your breakfast can change the course of your day in a positive way.

You could also consider taking the dinner in shifts. You may have a child running out the door while another one is returning home. Think of your kitchen having ‘open hours’. Keep meals simple–a crockpot is great–that will allow for multiple eating times. Strive to eat with somebody at each meal. You may not be able to all gather for the meal; but eating with at least one other person in your family will certainly work.

Find Shortcuts

Is the hardest part of dinner making it? If you’re like me, there are days after work that I don’t feel like cooking, eating, cleaning up. The process can seem so daunting that it scares people away! Don’t let it. Figure out what part of the process is hardest for you. Hate to plan and shop for meals? Consider getting a weekly food box delivered. Can’t seem to muster the energy to cook after a long day? Fire up that crockpot before work. Hate doing dishes? Assign the task to a person who’s not doing the cooking!

With the right mindset and a large dose of creativity, you can find ways to make family meals a tradition in your home. Stay positive. Cook and enjoy the foods you love.

What are your best secrets on dining together as a family? Send them my way!

Plate with fish