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The Dangers of Excessive Screen Time for Preschool Learners: How to Ditch the Screen for Old Fashioned Play

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you know how highly we regard play in the development of young learners. (If you’ve missed our previous blogs on the topic, you may read them by clicking here and here). Yet, as important as play is for little learners, it is becoming increasingly difficult to encourage children to forgo digital entertainment for old-fashioned play.

More concerning are recent studies indicating screen time is affecting school readiness. According to research conducted by the University of South Australia, overuse in screen time, in absence of quality playtime, has a substantial impact on child development. Children are arriving at preschool severely unprepared and in need of interventions such as speech therapy and physiotherapy due, in part, to excessive time behind screens.

The issue is particularly apparent in South Australia, where 22% of children are considered developmentally vulnerable. While the numbers are concerning, experts insist the rates can be improved by reducing screen time and increasing the amount of time children spend in play.

According to the Department of Health, screen time for children age 2 – 5 years old should be limited to 1 hour each day, and this includes televisions, tablets, computers and other electronic devices.

If you’re wondering how to encourage your child to skip screen time for regular play, here are some helpful tips:

Model Proper Behavior

Your words hold little weight if you’re demanding your child give up digital entertainment while you scroll through social media on your phone or tablet.

Be the example for your child. Voice how much better you feel when you walk away from the screen. Put your electronics away during mealtimes. Show your child what it looks like to occupy time in ways that do not include electronics.

Set Boundaries

Set limits on when family members can…and can’t…engage with electronics. Many parents start by keeping devices off the table during family meals and before bed. Start small and work your way up to longer periods without electronics. Offer access to screens in small increments (30 minutes at a time with long breaks in between sessions). Be sure to put all electronics away two hours before bedtime.

Enjoy the Outdoors

So much good comes from spending time outdoors. Not only is fresh air beneficial, but outside play is a great way for children to strengthen their gross and fine motor skills.

Enjoying the sights and sounds of nature can be soothing to little minds that are overstimulated by too much screen time. Build outdoor time into your daily routine by playing games in your yard, taking a daily walk, or exploring a local park.

Embrace play-based learning by going on a nature scavenger hunt. There are hundreds of free scavenger hunt cards online that you can download and print to take with you on your adventure (we love this one from Inspiration Made Simple).

Read, Read, Read

If there is one activity that helps children most in their educational development, it is reading books. Read to your child every day. Read multiple times a day.

Read with your child. Use different voices for different characters to make the story more engaging. Raise and lower the volume of your voice to draw them into the action. Ask them questions about the story and encourage them to predict what might happen.

And, once again, model the behavior to your child. Let them see you put down your device in favor of a good, old-fashioned book.

Encourage Organised Sports

Being part of a team can boost a child’s self-confidence, build strong gross motor skills, and improve emotional and mental development.

Sports allow children to interact with others and learn important social skills as well as problem solving and independence.

Ban Screens from Bedrooms

Recent research conducted by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne found that 43% of children take electronic devices to bed with them, and 26% reported sleep difficulty related to screen time.

Set the boundary that screens stay out of the bedroom. Remove televisions and keep phones, tablets, and gaming devices in the main area of the home. If necessary, many internet providers offer parental controls allowing you to shut off access to the internet during nighttime hours.

Provide Plenty of Play-Inspiring Toys

You are not required to entertain your child every moment he or she is off electronics. Independent play is an important part of learning and children need to know how to entertain themselves for extended periods of time.
Offer plenty of engaging options during electronic down time. Blocks, puzzles, action figures, Legos, and single-player games can provide plenty of play-based learning opportunities.

Reducing screen time isn’t always easy, and you can expect significant pushback if you try to go “cold turkey”. Consider making reduced screen time a whole-family event, with everyone committing to a gradual reduction. Start small and slowly increase the amount of time spent doing things other than staring into an electronic screen.

You may just be surprised at the positive affects you see in your child…and yourself.

For any more information, call Clovel Childcare and Early Learning Centre, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. For any information about our Educational Programs, give us a call at 02 9199 0294 or fill in this contact us form.

Thanks for reading,
Clovel Childcare
1300 863 986

Additional References

ABC Quality
Family Zone
University of Michigan
Mayo Clinic