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Should I use Screen Time as a Babysitter?

There is a constant debate among moms about using screen time as a babysitter. But I think as we talk about it we miss the point of the conversation. Moms want to do what is best for their kids, but sometimes they reach the end of human capacity and limits.

Just because something wasn’t possible in the 1800s doesn’t always mean it was the best. We didn’t have antibiotics then, but no one is suggesting we go back to that. So the argument that we would be better off raising our kids pre-toys and screens always seemed a little off to me. However there are enough studies showing excessive screen time for kids has negative effects, I also don’t want to offer it without limits.

Everything in life is about balance. So here are some questions I ask myself to help me balance my choices.

Could I honestly be a better mom if I get a 20 min time out?

Our kids aren’t the only ones who need a time-out. If your options are to let your kids watch tv, or yell at your kids. I think the better option is to let your kids watch a little tv. It isn’t bad to be human and have limits. As believers, we are called to embrace our limits, and live within them.

(Postpartum Moms especially need to be patient with themselves …)

Can I call in a backup?

Is there anyone other than a machine you can ask to watch your kids? Assess honestly. For all of us, this answer will be different. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. If you have a parent or friend who is able to come to hang out with your child for an hour or two so you can take a shower or a break then call them in before asking tv to help! But a lot of us ask this question and have no backup to call in.

How long does my break need to be?

Plan ahead how long you need to regroup. It’s so easy when the kids are quiet to lose track of time. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been letting them watch an hour and it’s only been 15 min. Other times 2 hours slip by and I think it’s been 15 min. Set yourself a timer or note the time.

Then ask yourself what is going to let you feel most refreshed. Don’t waste your kid-free time. Allow yourself to savor it. Take the shower you’ve wanted. Sit and sip your coffee slowly. Take a minute to start a load of laundry. Don’t put extra pressure on yourself to perform, use it as a time-out!

What’s the best thing I can set before my kids?

If you’ve answered all these questions and decided screen time is the best option. Make sure what you’re setting before them is the best option available. I’ve learned not all shows are created equally. Some are so stimulating that my kids will act crazy the rest of the day when they watch them. For other shows, it inspires their creativity and is like a visual read-aloud! (I’m not proposing you do a 2D experience– unless you want to then knock yourself out.)

These are some shows my kids have liked, they don’t make them act crazy, and I’ve researched them to find out it’s a common experience for parents! Here are some shows you can use guilt-free screen time as a Babysitter.

  • Wild Kratts
  • Bluey
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Stinky and Dirty
  • Trash Truck
  • Mr. Rogers Neighborhood
  • The Gruffalo
  • Tumble Leaf
  • Curious George Movies
  • Winnie the Pooh Movies
  • (Old) Little Bear
  • The Snowy Day
  • Guess How Much I Love You
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • National Geographic Animal Shows

Enjoy this time, and then when you’ve had a second to catch your breath. Read them a story, do a craft, and spend some time in nature! It’s all about balance!

For that time outside, check out the Nature Scavenger Hunt!

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