Breaking the Screen-Time Cycle: A Mother’s Journey to Engage Her Child’s Mind Through Play

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As a mother to my only child, I’ve always strived to provide him with the best care and opportunities for growth. However, without the support of siblings or extensive external care, I found myself, at times, relying on TV as a quick fix, especially during those moments when I needed a brief respite, like a shower. I’m guilty of admitting that Bluey became my daily babysitter for a 10-minute shower followed by a few chores around the house.

Since then, now with a two-year-old, I have noticed a concerning pattern that makes me sick to my stomach. My son, seeking stimulation, gravitates to TV and the demanding meltdowns that go with it. My frustration as he overlooks the plethora of engaging toys I carefully provide for him. It’s become clear that he has been developing a dependency on screen time, and I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt for inadvertently fostering this habit.

Determined to break the cycle, I’ve embarked on a journey to provide more enriching and engaging play experiences for my son. I researched tirelessly, seeking ways to captivate his imagination and nurture his development without relying on screens.

One of the first steps I took was to set boundaries around TV time, ensuring that it remained a small part of his day. I also made a conscious effort to create inviting play spaces that encouraged exploration and creativity. By introducing new toys and activities regularly, I aimed to spark his curiosity and reignite his passion for play.

But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was to be kind to myself. Parenthood is a journey filled with ups and downs, and it’s never too late to make positive changes. Instead of dwelling on past decisions, I focused on the present and the future, knowing that each day presents a new opportunity to guide my son towards healthier habits.

Now, I build some planning into my day, to avoid the morning battle of expectations. I make the effort to curate a series of toys, activities and house hold items for him to engage with, on rotation, to capture his imagination. I plan, usually the night before, how I will use TV, to build it into our day together for a constructive outcome.

For example, we aim for no TV before nap time and before bed. We also try to avoid it first thing in the morning. I then consider my own requirements for that day. What chores or work I need to get done, how I can use TV (while I’m in proximity to supervise) to get things done. I limit TV time by looking at the duration of shows, and giving notice when the TV cycle is coming to an end. The common call of parents “One more episode and it’s time to turn Bluey off”.

We don’t meet my goals of minimal TV each day, when he’s sick or after a few rainy days, it still seems to be our only reprieve. But today, I’m proud to say that my son’s screen time has decreased significantly. He now eagerly explores the world around him, diving into imaginative play and discovering new interests. While the road hasn’t always been easy, I’m grateful for the lessons it has taught me about the power of play in a child’s development and the importance of perseverance as a parent.

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