Video games are addictive. Once kids get started, it is hard to ask them to stop. More and more parents are concerned about kids’ screen time. What is the best way to limit the screen time or get kids off screen? Do you force a hard stop? or do you give a warning? Are they happy to stop? Can you do it without kids complaining?
Here are 10 ways I tried to move my child from games to some off screen activities. I found the key to a successful stop is actually NOT to stop. Instead, try to extend kids’ interest in the game to something else, that is related to the game.
1. Create a challenge based on the game he is playing:
At one point, my son liked to play Tiny Tower a lot. It is a simulation game, where players create and manage businesses in the tower. I actually spent a lot time playing with him and we were a good team managing the “business” together. In addition to talking about business management in general, I also created some off-screen games for him to practice skills he learned at school (such as math). All the games are to answer questions about the on-screen game.
Here is one of the math problems based on Tiny Tower I created.
2. Bring game characters off screen:
You can either ask the kids draw the characters on paper, or make a 3D model with play dough. Here are some angry birds my son and his friends made on balls.
3. Bring the game off screen:
Since the boys like playing Angry Birds, borrowing the idea from Simply Styled Home, we collected cardboard boxes, made two sling shots. The boys had a blast playing Angry Birds for real.
4. Perform the task in real world:
While playing snowflake, instead of trying different ways cutting the paper on the screen, we took out some real paper, and cut some snowflakes. Instead of seeing the cut paper unfold on the screen, we were able to unfold them in our hands.
5. Lead kids to apps that guide outdoor activities:
6. Use an app that requires moving:
Fetch with Ruff Ruffman is a math app that makes kids move. You print out the answer sheets and hide them. Kids have to search around to find the answers and scan them into the app to find out if it is the correct answer. It is like a scavenger hunt.
7. Act out the story:
While reading The 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, my son gathered all the hats he could find in the house, and while I read the book, he acted the whole book. Many games have stories built in now, you and your child can act out the story together.
8. Search for relevant activities:
9. Extend app activities:
10. Use apps that incorporate hands-on activities:
Apps like KidScience and Curiosity School provide guidance on hands on science experiments. Work with your child, perform the experiments by following the instructions in the app. We made this water wheel based on the instruction in Curiosity School.
What do you do to get kids off screen from games or apps?
For younger kids, you may consider use device features to limit the screen time. It is a set up just requires couple clicks. You can find step by step instructions in How to Set Screen Time Limits on iPhone and iPad.
You may also like 10 Art Apps Encouraging Off Screen Creativity and 9 Apps Making Outdoor Science Study Fun.