Unplugged Parenting: Non-Screen Activity Ideas during “in-between” or lull periods

Unplugged Parenting: Non-Screen Activity Ideas during “in-between” or lull periods

So much of our life’s activities are filled with waiting. Think about how much we wait: we wait for a table at a restaurant, to check out from a store, at the doctor’s office, at a carpool pick up/drop off line, in traffic, on the phone with customer service, for a meeting, for our loved ones, etc.

The pandemic has definitely exacerbated the waiting times in just about every sphere of life. For adults, to pass the time, we usually pick up our phone. But what do we do for our kids who do not have the patience nor the tolerance to wait with us?

Depending on their age, we are tempted to let them pick up the i-Pad, phone or any screen activity so they won’t complain, or whine. This is definitely a quick fix.

We know that too much screen time isn’t good for any developing minds. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding screens for children younger than 18 to 24 months, except when video chatting with family. The AAP also recommends limiting screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just one hour a day of high-quality programming like Sesame Street. (Source: https://healthmatters.nyp.org/what-does-too-much-screen-time-do-to-childrens-brains/)

So what are some activities you can do with your children during waiting time? Chances are when you are waiting, you’re not in an area where you and your children can run around. You are usually in a confined space: car, room, restaurant or in a store. This is why you need to be prepared and armed with ideas. You need to be mentally prepare to be pro-active.

  1. Have a bag of toys that be done standing, sitting or on a table. Make sure you have couple of bags of different activities and toys so your children won’t be bored. Reserve these only during wait times so they know they are off-limits any other time and they see them as “special toys”.
  2. Role play. Kids love to pretend and make-believe. Perhaps you know what they like to pretend at home and show interest during these times. Depending on their age, bring finger puppets to role play with.
  3. Talk to them, ask them questions. Have a list of questions prepared that you can ask your children. It’s amazing what they will share depending on what you ask and how you ask them. Show interest, look them in the eye.
  4. Take this time to be a bonding moment. When you’re driving, this is a great time to talk to them and bond with them. Don’t get on the phone and talk to your colleagues or friends, take this time to be engaged.
  5. If you know you will be running a lot of errands and there will be a lot of waiting time, bring some books you can read to them, or better yet, have them read to you if they are old enough.
  6. If there is no way to engage with them while waiting because you’re busy, then having activities they can do on their own such as drawing, coloring, or playing with travel games would be ideal.

When it comes to our careers, we are opportunists. So why shouldn't we have the same attitude about our kids? After all, they are our most captivated audience. So, take these precious moments that seem humdrum, and use them to your benefit to engage with your kids. This season comes only a few times and it’s gone in a flash.

 Be pro-active, plan and have a plan b if the original plan doesn’t pan out. View these “in-between” moments long term: cultivating and developing your children to be well-adjusted and happy citizens.

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