By Kristin Jeffries
It’s 5p.m. My husband is tending to a cranky, teething, infant while my almost three-year-old hangs off my legs demanding a PBJ and Spider Man fruit snacks. All while I’m attempting to pull together a dinner with some sort of nutritional value. If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, then you probably know the magic words: “Miska-Mouska-Mickey MOUSE!” That’s right, folks, I’m talking screen time.
As a working mom, I rarely have the time to sit down and watch a tv show with my child. But I can still use the content he’s watched independently in order to connect with him. Whether you’re riding the Dinosaur Train, swimming with Bubble Guppies, or fighting crime at bedtime, here are a few simple tips to help you use screen time to grow your relationship with your child.
1. Ask your child about their show.
This may seem super obvious… but how often do we actually DO it? Ask them what happened in the episode, which character is their favorite, or what they like about that character. Your child may not give you a full recap or have deep thoughtful answers to these questions, and that’s okay! Asking about what they watched shows them that you care about the things they’re interested in, their opinions, and their preferences.
2. Know what the show is trying to “teach” your child.
For some shows this will be easier to pin down than others. Sid the Science Kid is obviously teaching kids basic science concepts. Even shows that are seemingly just for entertainment, like PJ Masks, still model social skills and creative problem solving. Be sure to watch at least one episode of a new show so that you have a better understanding of what your child is viewing. Knowing the focus of your child’s favorite shows will help inform what questions you can ask, even if you don’t watch the specific episode with them.
Here are a few examples:
- Mickey Mouse Clubhouse– “Did you see any numbers you recognized? What were they?” or “What tools did Mickey use to help him?”
- Daniel Tiger– “Did Daniel sing a song? Do you remember how it went?”
- Paw Patrol– “How did the pups work together?” or “Who did the pups help?”
3. Relate the show to something else in their life.
Did they talk about triangles on the show? Ask your child if they can find anything in the room that’s triangular. See if they can make a triangle shape with their fingers. Ask them what foods can be shaped like a triangle. If the characters made a new friend, ask your child about their friends or tell them about your childhood friends. The lines between real-life and imagination are fluid for preschoolers. To them, their shows are very real and important. Relating things back to the real world capitalizes on their developmental phase and encourages them to be mindful consumers of media instead of just video-bingers.
With so much of our world going digital, it’s extremely important to talk to your children about the media they consume. As parents, we will always be the biggest influence on our children’s lives. When we capitalize on screen time and use it as an opportunity to connect with our children, we are combining our influence with the influence of their media.
Our influence in our kids’ lives extends to their faith. Try out these screen time tips with Crossing Kids virtual lessons! Check out our new YouTube channel to find a playlist of bible stories targeted to your child’s developmental stage.