Choose Less Screen Time and More Time for Family Fun

When adding up the televisions, computers, smartphones, iPads, iPods and portable game systems in an American home these days, “you’re likely to count more screens than rooms,” says Sandra McKinnon, a family life program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.


All these screens add up to ever-increasing screen time for children, McKinnon said.


“Typically, children spend more hours a week with screens than in school. However, we can help our children — and ourselves — spend some time away from those fascinating moving images that can take up so many hours of the day,” McKinnon said.


The ISU Extension specialist offers the following tips for choosing less screen time and enjoying more family time.


·         Get physically active. “Get your children — and yourself — up and on your feet instead of getting sleepy in the comfy chair or on the couch. Create your own music and make up your own dance moves. Both you and your children will feel much better after just a few minutes of activity,” McKinnon said. “Physical activity boosts energy and even can make everyone’s brains a little sharper, which can help when it’s homework time.”


·         Turn chores into family fun time. “Have a laundry folding party on your living room floor. Or, make chores into games. See who can dust his or her side of the room first. The chores will get done faster, and everyone will get to spend valuable time together. It’s about the time spent together, not how well the chore is completed,” said McKinnon.


·         Create real life adventure. “Create your own TV shows and video games or make a fort, tree-house or tent. Use sheets and blankets to cover the dining room table. Bring stuffed animals and books into your fort. You can read together and make up stories,” McKinnon said.


Family time is important, and family time away from the screen is very important, the ISU Extension specialist said.


“Time away from the TV gives you more time to talk with your children — time to learn about what is going on in their day-to-day world. Follow your child’s lead when the screen isn’t on. You’ll be amazed what new games you’ll invent when you have a chance to imagine,” McKinnon said.

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