Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

Playful Parenting: Bringing Play to Every Day

My kids (ages 3 and 10) often have complete meltdowns when I ask them to turn off their screens. What are your tips for a calmer transition away from devices?

Erin Walsh

Erin is a Minneapolis-based parent, speaker, educator, and writer. She is also the co-founder (with her father, Dr. David Walsh) of Spark & Stitch Institute, aimed at using a deep understanding of brain science to develop practical strategies for raising connected and courageous kids, online and off.


Erin Walsh : Part of it is about acknowledging with your children that transitioning away from screens is difficult. It means stepping away from a high dopamine environment (dopamine pings our brain to feelings of pleasure, accomplishment, and motivation) to the lower dopamine environment that’s day-to-day life. This is even harder when we’re asking them to transition to a dreaded activity, like a chore or washing hands before dinner. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask them to do hard things, but consider creating an enjoyable ritual to ease the transition. Maybe it’s a 2-minute dance party once the screen is put away. Or have your child choose a picture book for you to read to them. In my experience, reading a short book with my child takes way less time than having a completely unregulated power battle.

Another issue is that we often call to our kids from another room asking them to turn off their screen. From their perspective, this rarely breaks through the immersive world they’re playing in. Then we get agitated and wrench it out of their hands and everyone is angry. Instead, try taking two minutes to save 20 minutes of outburst. Sit down with them for the last two minutes of screen time. Engage them with real human questions about what they’re doing. As you gain their attention, remind them that it’s almost time to wrap up. As a bonus, you get to learn more about what they’re watching or playing.

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