Last Updated September 8th, 2017

How to Limit Kids’ Screen Time While You Work at Home

How to Limit Kids' Screen Time While You Work at Home

It’s hard balancing working at home with being a parent. Someone always wants something. Even when school’s in session, kids find ways to need you right when you’re trying to be really productive. And of course, they always want permission to watch TV, use a tablet or a computer. But you can’t let them do that all the time. Kids need limits on their screen time. Sometimes that’s difficult when you’re working at home and screens are the easy way to get them to give you some peace and quiet.

This issue has become both easier and more difficult for me as my kids have gotten older. They’re all old enough now that they can play on their own for quite some time, but the oldest in particular likes to play online games where she can interact with friends whose parents never seem to want to let them just come over.

Giving screen time to the kids is, of course, one of the easiest ways to keep them busy and somewhat quiet while I work, but it’s not ideal. Fortunately, there are good ways to limit kids’ screen time while you work at home. Try a few and see what works for you.

Talk About Screen Time Limits And Set Rules

It’s good to get into the habit of talking about it when you’re going to make a rule change such as limiting screen time. The ages of your children will determine how much they have to say, and you can try to come to a mutually agreeable solution. You can set limits per day or week, and consider ways for kids to earn extra time if you like.

One thing you may have to discuss is how much screen time parents have. Since I work at home, I’ve had to explain why the rules don’t apply the same way to me. I work on my computer, after all. If you aren’t following the rules yourself, be sure to have a fair reason why.

One long standing rule we have is that the kids may not bring screens into their bedrooms – except on sick days when I want them to try to keep their germs to themselves. Keeping screens out of the bedrooms means no one can just sit and stare at a screen for hours without being noticed, and they won’t stay up at night watching stuff.

I don’t count homework time against their allowed screen time. That’s school work, and the older the kids get, the more often the computer is required to get their homework done. They’d be upset if that was the only time they could use the computer, and I would consider that reasonable.

Consider Educational Computer Games And Apps

If you want to give your kids a little more leeway on how long they use screens, find some acceptable computer games or apps for them. My youngest adores The Prodigy Game, an online math game, which is nice because she needs a little extra help with her math.

You may also want to give some leeway if your child is building a skill using the computer or a table. My oldest wants to be an animator, so it’s completely reasonable to allow her extra time to work on that skill, just as it would be for one trying to develop an app or do other work that requires a computer.

Don’t give your kids unlimited time with screen just because it’s an educational game, of course. It’s not unreasonable to allow them some extra time if they can convince you of the value of what they’re doing.

Send them outside

Send Them Outside

Many kids these days seem to really resist playing outside when it’s hot out. I suspect it has to do with air conditioning. Why go outside when inside is soooo comfortable?

I aim to get my kids outside during the more pleasant parts of the day – morning before it really heats up, evening as it cools off. In the heat of the day is more difficult, but a nice sprinkler and a healthy supply of Super Soakers really improves their interest.

Consider also whether your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own or with a group of friends while you work. Whether or not this is possible depends on a lot of factors, but there comes a time when it’s really good for kids to be allowed to do things without direct adult supervision. Once they can do that, you may worry, but you can get things done while they’re gone. You can go along and try working on your laptop or tablet if you like or if the kids are too young to go on their own, but if your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own, you’ll probably be more productive at home.

Classes, Camps, etc.

What do your kids want to learn about or do during their spare time? My kids take swim lessons at least part of each summer, and we look at other classes, soccer camp and so forth. There may be signups at various times, both during the school year and in summer, depending on where you live. While I don’t believe in overscheduling kids (they need down time too!), signing them up for something they really want to do is great for keeping them away from the TV or computer and can give you some work time. If the classes are short, you may be better off bringing some work along on your laptop than driving back and forth for drop off and pick up.

Have activities ready for the kids

Have Activities Ready For the Kids

I keep a variety of craft supplies ready for my kids. My kids went through a phase where they constantly wanted to make things with Perler beads. They print designs off the internet for whatever they want to make, and my oldest is allowed to use the iron to press them.

Pay attention to the kinds of crafts and other activities your kids enjoy so you can keep supplies ready for them. The easier it is for the kids to access the supplies on their own, the more they’ll use them rather than watch TV, and the more they’ll let you work.

Board games are another good choice. Play as a family sometimes, but make sure your kids know how to play some games just with each other. Some games are good for a wide range of ages – mine play Sorry together sometimes, for example.

Be ready to help the kids negotiate when they can’t agree on what to do. One time I persuaded my two older kids to play a game called Greed (what they wanted to do) while taking turns playing Mastermind with my youngest. It worked out pretty well, as everyone was doing something they wanted to do.

There will probably still be times when you’d rather let your kids watch TV or play on a computer or tablet. If you plan alternatives in advance, you won’t have to give in as often. As everyone gets used to relying on screens less and less for daily entertainment, it gets easier all around.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 10th, 2017

Are You Overparenting?

Are You Overparenting?

As parents, it’s tempting to give our kids the best of everything. There are so many activities you can sign your kids up for, sports, academics, and all kinds of interests. It’s nice when you can give your kids the things you wish you had when you were a kid.

This can turn into overparenting.

You’re overparenting when you spend so much time running from kid activity to kid activity that you have no time to do other things. Your kids don’t have time to just be themselves, and it’s hard to get them together with friends, because everyone is always at an activity.

Take a look at what your kids do. Do they have time for themselves or are they always in some sort of formal activity? Think back to your own childhood. Maybe that was how you were raised or maybe you had lots of free time to be yourself.

Free time to themselves is one of the gifts you can give your children. They need to know how to entertain themselves. There is nothing wrong with letting your kids play in the backyard or even in the front yard if they’re old enough and the neighborhood is appropriate.

How Many Activities?

It can be hard deciding how many activities are right for your child. Some of it depends on your family and your routines. If you’re running out of time to just relax as a family, you might have too many activities going on.

This isn’t always a bad thing. Kids in theater, for example, are going to have times where all their free time is eaten up by rehearsals and such. Sports can get intense too. If you can break up those times so that between plays your kids have time to be with friends and just relax, those utterly swamped times can be balanced out somewhat.

During the school year, you need to make sure that kids have enough time for homework and downtime. My kids’ school offers a lot of clubs, even at the elementary level, so I tell them they can sign up for no more than one or two. If one is high demand, I’d suggest sticking with just the one.

I do the same for summer, even though there’s more free time. Some things I insist upon – all my kids have taken swimming lessons until they complete all the levels available locally. It’s not a guarantee of pool safety, but it means they know what they’re doing in a pool.

The number also depends on how many kids you have and how far apart activities are. I love the clubs my kids do at school because that means they just stay late. I don’t have to drive them anywhere for most clubs unless there’s a competition.

If you have to drive all over town for various activities for different kids, you will need to keep more careful control over how many activities you let the sign up for. This isn’t just about kids having fun, it’s about parents not being overwhelmed or exhausted.

But My Kids Love Their Activities!

I would certainly hope your kids love their extracurricular activities! You should sign them up for things they want to learn or do when you can, after considering the time and financial requirements.

There comes a time when parents need to tell their kids “no.” It can be about the money. It can be because you didn’t like the time it took from your day. It can be because your kids complained about not having time for friends the last time you signed them up for the activity.

If they really love the activity and it’s reasonable for your family to allow your kids to do an activity a lot, go for it. So long as you take their needs into consideration along with everyone else’s (including you!), it’s not a completely bad thing to let your kids do an activity even when it makes doing other things difficult. Just be sure everyone is on board with the sacrifice required.girl in dress and mask

Activities have value for kids. They’re fun. They learn things they want to do. If you can afford the time and money, I think signing your kids up for some activities is a very good thing. But they shouldn’t be the only thing your kids do with their spare time. Give them time to get silly on their own.

But They’ll Get Bored!

Yes. Yes, they will. That’s a good thing.

Kids should get bored sometimes. That’s how they learn to cope with boredom. If you’re too concerned about it, you can always tell them to go clean their rooms – my kids get quickly un-bored when I make that suggestion.

Remember that if your kids are used to being entertained by other activities, they won’t be able to come up with their own ideas for something to do so easily. That means when they are between activities, you are a lot more likely to get the “Mom, I’m bored!” complaint. A child who is used to playing games, being creative or even just sitting and reading doesn’t get bored quite as easily. Yes, you will still hear the classic complaint, but your child will be more ready to handle quiet times themselves.

Don’t protect them too much from failure either. Let them suffer consequences as necessary. Kids really aren’t as fragile as many parents think. My oldest daughter used to get so mad at me when I told her to do something herself when she’s insisted that she couldn’t. I’m not talking about tying her shoes… that one takes time and practice, and is often frustrating for all concerned.

I’m talking about days when she wanted me to draw a circle for her because she didn’t think she could, or rather, didn’t want to. The frustration was very good for her. How fast would she learn to draw circles if I did all of them for her? She draws quite a bit more than circles now and wants to be an animator. She still gets frustrated, but that comes more from being her own worst critic, something most of us understand.

Let your children suffer frustration, fail at tasks they are trying to learn. Let them be embarrassed sometimes. Children get over these problems more easily if they are familiar. You know that as an adult you fail sometimes, get frustrated and even get embarrassed. You learned to deal with that as a child. Do your children the same favor. Don’t make their lives too easy or overly managed.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 20th, 2017

A Reminder About Water Safety

A Reminder About Water Safety

It’s summer, kids are out of school, and lots of people are looking to cool off in the water, whether it’s in their own pool, a community pool, lake, the ocean, or whatever.

I’d just like to take a moment to remind everyone to keep things safe for your family in and around the water. We had a minor scare ourselves a few years ago, and the only reason it was minor is because I was paying attention when my youngest fell into my inlaws pool. Still really scary, even though I had her out of the water almost as fast as she fell into it.

Our situation was kind of classic. I was following her as she kicked a ball around the pool. Not right along the edge, but the yard isn’t so big that she could kick the ball well away from it, so I was keeping a sharp eye on the activity. When the ball went straight into the pool on one kick, she ran after it without hesitation and fell in.

My husband, in the shallow end of the pool, did not hear the splash as our daughter fell in. He did hear my scream, and swam over just in case I didn’t get her right away, and was able to help comfort the both of us as I held a rather terrified little girl. She was only under water for a moment because I had been right there watching her.

Still, I think about how easily things could have gone wrong. One of the other kids could have distracted me at the wrong moment, completely innocently. I had scolded my oldest for splashing water at me just minutes before, in fact, telling her I was not to be distracted from watching her younger sister.

This accident had quite an impact on my youngest. She had been excessively bold around the pool before she fell in. Immediately after, she wouldn’t go near the pool without an escort, which honestly was a good thing. I had often said that she needed more watching than my older kids, and after this accident, many family members finally agreed with me.

It took years for her to get over the fear of water she had from this fall. Her first swim lessons were a Mommy & Me type, and she screamed so much they almost kicked us out of the class because she was scaring the other kids.

Her first classes alone the following year went only a little better. She still didn’t want to put her face in the water at all, and really didn’t want to be in class. I kept her in classes because friends and family members do have pools, making them a necessity for her safety.

These days, she doesn’t swim as well as her siblings did at the same age, but she does swim. We don’t have the same amount of pool access we did back when she had her accident – my inlaws have moved into a smaller house that doesn’t have a pool.

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning

One of the big things to remember is that drowning doesn’t look like drowning. It’s much quieter than movies would have you think.

We also had a close call with my oldest once, a competent swimmer at the time. I noticed she was in distress and alerted my husband, who was right by her. He thought she was fine until I yelled at him, and then he helped her out. She had gotten a cramp in her side and just couldn’t move almost at all. He was upset that she hadn’t called out until I explained to him why she couldn’t. She was in tears, but otherwise fine afterward, and took a break from swimming until she felt better later in the day. No big deal in the end, but if I hadn’t noticed and hadn’t read an article on what drowning looks like fairly recently before that, it could have been bad.

Keep Your Family Safe Around the Pool or Other Bodies of Water

PoolSafety.gov says that drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children ages 1-4. That’s awful, and so many drownings and other submersion accidents can be avoided if an adult is paying attention.

The usual advice is to have an adult watching the kids in the pool at all times, and that’s an excellent idea. I would add that having one adult paying attention to each younger swimmer or child too young to swim well probably wouldn’t hurt either. I can watch all three of my kids swimming, now that they can all swim, but it was difficult to watch all of them back when my youngest couldn’t swim on her own.

PoolSafety.gov has some other simple pool safety measures you should consider if you have a pool in your yard. It’s vital that kids who live in a home with a pool learn to swim, for example. I enroll my kids at least once every summer in swimming lessons as soon as they’re old enough, and continue until they’ve gone through all the levels. It’s not a guarantee that they won’t drown, but since they have both friends and relatives who have backyard pools, it’s a basic safety measure I consider very much worth adding to my summer budget.

If possible, also consider having a separate fence around the pool, so young children cannot easily get into the pool even if they’re in the yard. A pool fence is not a guarantee kids won’t sneak into the pool area, but it slows them down. A pool alarm may also be a good idea. In general, anything you can do to keep the kids away from the pool without adults, or to alert adults if anyone goes into it, is a good idea. Just don’t trust any solution entirely, as kids are sneaky sometimes.

I feel so fortunate that our accident was so minor. My daughter was scared, not hurt, and for that I am extremely grateful.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 14th, 2017

20 Free Or Cheap Activities For Families During The Summer

When the kids get out of school for the summer, you want to be sure they do more than sit about at home watching one screen or another. The trouble is that things add up really fast if you have to spend much money on them. It’s a big help to know in advance what free and cheap activities are available in your area for your family.

I write various summer activities on our calendar if they take place on a given day or week. This makes it easier to remember what’s coming up. I tell the kids it’s their job to check the calendar and make sure I remember the things they really want to do.

Go Play With Friends

I’m putting this one first because this doesn’t happen enough for my kids or many of their friends. They’re so busy with organized activities, that they don’t often get to just go play with friends. Some of the issue for my kids is that none of their friends are in the neighborhood, and there are very few kids in the neighborhood at all.

Don’t plan everything your kids are going to do this summer. Let them make plans with friends or decide to head over to a friend’s house to see if they can play.

Movies In The Park

Many communities do free movies in the park once a week or so during the summer. These are usually free. The city we live in does them on Wednesday nights in the park, and the same movie on Thursday nights at the pool. I prefer the park, as it’s easier to let the kids run around. Check your city’s website to find out what happens in your area. The movies start once it’s dark enough for everyone to see the screen clearly.

You may need to get there early to get a good seat, and you will probably need to bring your own blanket or chairs to sit on. If it gets cool in your area on summer nights after the sun goes down, bring jackets or blankets to keep warm. Younger children may fall asleep if the movies run much past their bedtimes.

I also make sure to post on my kids’ class Facebook page when we’re going to a movie at the park, because it’s a great way to meet up with friends over the summer. Other parents don’t have to promise to go, but the kids have so much fun seeing which friends show up for each movie. They’ll share snacks, play until the movie starts, and snuggle up if it’s cool after the sun sets.

Cheap Movies At The Movie Theater

A lot of movie theaters now run children’s movies during the summer for a low price. They’re generally in the morning, and tickets should be about $1-2. The movie selection varies from fairly recent children’s movies to older selections such as The Wizard of Oz. Check your local theater’s website to see if they have any to offer and for ticket prices.

Summer Concerts

Communities may also do summer concerts in the park. Once again, you should be able to find out about these on your city’s website. As they don’t need to wait for darkness to begin, these may not run as late as movies in the park.

Summer Reading Programs

Many libraries offer summer reading programs to encourage kids and teens to read. They may offer prizes, and there may be special activities and crafts at the library as well. Check with your local library to learn what they offer.

Barnes and Noble offers kids a free book if they read at least eight books and record them in the Reading Journal. The free books the kids can choose from are listed on the journal.

Kids Bowl Free

If there’s a bowling alley in your area, they may participate in the Kids Bowl Free program. Check the website to find out. You will probably need to pay for shoe rental, but kid can have up to two free games a day.

Splash Pads

Many kids love to play in the water on hot summer days. When you don’t have a pool of your own, and the community pool admission adds up too fast, a splash pad can be a fun option. Water shoots up or sprays down on the kids from various items.

Some splash pads are free to use, while others charge admission.

Summer Food Service Program

No Kid Hungry is a program which serves free lunches to kids 18 years and under at approved sites during the summer. There’s no paperwork required – just show up. Any child can use this program, regardless of financial need, although the hope is that kids who get free or reduced lunch at school during the school year can make it to these sites so they continue to get free lunches during the summer.

To find a site, you can visit the program page on the USDA site, or text FOOD to 877877. Check to see what time each location serves lunch.

Local Playgrounds

Are there any playgrounds near you? Your kids may have a lot of fun playing at them. As they get older, encourage them to range more widely so they get more independent, and consider when they’re old enough to go to a park without you. Kids need to develop independence, and this is one way they will enjoy doing so when it’s appropriate for their age and your area.

Ride Bikes

Riding bikes is a great physical activity for the whole family. You can ride around your neighborhood, around local parks, or run quick errands on a bike. Once again, let them ride around on their own when they’re old enough, responsible enough, and you’re comfortable that your area is safe enough.

Go Geocaching

You can use a GPS enabled device, such as your smartphone, to find geocaches in your area or anywhere you go. You share your finds with the geocache community, and can make your own caches.

Free Admission Days At Museums

While admission to many museums can add up quickly, many offer free days, or are even free regularly. The California Science Center, for example, always has free admission, although there is a fee for parking, movies and special events. There’s still a lot to do there for free.

Check the websites of any museums you would like to go to and see when their free days are.

If you have an EBT card, you may be able to find museums in your area which participate in Museums For All, which gives free or discounted admission to families in the EBT program. Fees can currently range from free to $3 for museums participating in this program.

Work On A Skill Or Project

Each of my kids picks a skill or project each summer they want to work on. This gives me something to tell them to do any time I hear the words “I’m bored.” Mostly they want to make videos for YouTube, and I have rules for them about whether they can show faces, use real names, etc. They also have looked at improving artistic skills, learning to solder and much more.

Home Depot Kids Workshops

Home Depot offers workshops for kids to build small projects. The kits change each week and are free. You may be able to register online, but drop ins are usually welcome so long as there are enough kits. Classes are the first Saturday of each month. Parents must remain with their children. They also have workshops for adults, so if you see something you would like to learn, sign up for it.

Summer Code-A-Thon

Tynker offers a Summer Code-A-Thon to kids with free memberships to their site. It’s a 10 week program with a new project every week. Kids get certificates for completing projects, and the top projects each week get a t-shirt. Child accounts must have a connected parent account to participate.

YouthSpark Programs At Microsoft Stores

If there’s a Microsoft store in your area, your kids may be able to participate in free YouthSpark courses. Activities vary by the ages of your children. Parents must remain in the store for the duration of the event – these are not drop off classes.

Apple Camp

If you have an Apple store in your area, you may be able to sign your kids up for Apple Camp. It’s for ages 8-12, and is three 90 minute sessions. Kids choose their track from what is offered, and spend their time at the camp working on their project.

Use Educational Websites And Learning Games

If you want to work on academics over the summer, make sure it’s fun for your kids. They do forget a lot of what they learn over the summer, making it important to help them use their skills during their break, but this time should be a break.

There are fun sites for kids to keep working on their math skills, for example. My youngest loves The Prodigy Game. It’s a lot more fun for her than the math sites they use through school, although their accounts for those may be available over the summer as well. The basic account for The Prodigy Game is free, but don’t be surprised if your child wants a paid membership to access the extras.

Volunteer

Some places will allow families to volunteer with their children. My kids and I volunteer year round at a local animal shelter, for example. While many animal shelters only allow older kids to volunteer, you may be able to find places you can volunteer with your kids by checking VolunteerMatch.

Be Bored

There’s nothing wrong with kids being bored sometimes. That’s what will help them learn to come up with ideas on their own.

For more ideas, I did 30 Days of Keeping Kids Busy During The Summer a few years ago.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated April 7th, 2017

Are You Encouraging Your Daughters To Be Adventurous?

I came across an interested TED Talk the other day, about how to raise brave girls. The solution is pretty obvious – encourage adventure.

There are a lot of good points, especially about how we tend to make it harder for girls to be adventurous. Think about how often you caution your daughter or hear other parents caution their girls about how they’re playing. Then consider these quotes from the TED Talk.

So how do we become brave? Well, here’s the good news. Bravery is learned, and like anything learned, it just needs to be practiced. So first, we have to take a deep breath and encourage our girls to skateboard, climb trees and clamber around on that playground fire pole.

Second, we have to stop cautioning our girls willy-nilly. So notice next time you say, “Watch out, you’re going to get hurt,” or, “Don’t do that, it’s dangerous.” And remember that often what you’re really telling her is that she shouldn’t be pushing herself, that she’s really not good enough, that she should be afraid.

Third, we women have to start practicing bravery, too. We cannot teach our girls until we teach ourselves. So here’s another thing: fear and exhilaration feel very similar — the shaky hands, the heightened heart rate, the nervous tension, and I’m betting that for many of you the last time you thought you were scared out of your wits, you may have been feeling mostly exhilaration, and now you’ve missed an opportunity. So practice.

The best way to get your daughters to be more adventurous is to take them on adventures. My kids all love climbing rocks, for example. So far they don’t go on very challenging climbs, but they do love the kind of rocks they can just scramble up. Joshua Tree has some favorite areas for them to climb around. They reach some pretty good heights, sometimes to where they have to be told how to get down.

Each of my kids has gone through a time where they were scared to climb up the rocks. That includes my son – he’s the cautious type by nature, but has learned to enjoy a bit of rock climbing.

My youngest daughter finally got more comfortable climbing around on our most recent trip. She was so proud when she finally climbed up what her siblings regarded as a pretty simple rock. To her, it was a scary, steep slope.

This isn’t to say appropriate caution isn’t warranted. We went hiking recently at Whitewater Preserve, and the kids wanted to go wading in the river. The river is neither wide nor deep as these things go, but my husband mad sure the kids all knew to consider how they played in it, because it doesn’t take deep water to sweep you off your feet. Once they each had a feel for it, they played as suited them. It’s a very rocky river, so getting knocked over could be quite painful or even result in a serious injury.

This was our first visit there, and the general consensus was that next time, they’ll wear clothes that are better for getting soaking wet in.

The other great thing about raising more adventurous kids is that they’ll willingly leave the electronics behind for an outdoor adventure. That’s good for everyone.

Brave kids turn into brave adults who can follow their dreams. That’s something most parents want for their sons and their daughters.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.