I have a very strong-willed preschooler, who is a technophile as well. If there is a screen to watch or interact with, he’s going to try. We’ve had to lock up remotes, videogame systems, computers, tablets, and hide our phones, because he’ll try to sneak them. He’s been going through a phase where he thinks he’s entitled to everything, and that he can declare anything and everything his personal possession and his word is law. Like I said, the kid has a strong will, and one day, when he’s older, I will probably feel grateful for it.
So, here’s the scene. My son has been playing with his Leapfrog Tablet for the last 30 minutes quietly. I took advantage of this to get the baby down for a nap. I’ve now come up to him and I’m getting him ready to put away the technology. I start by giving him a warning that we have to put the tablet away in a few minutes. I can already see the glare and the tantrum stewing in those big, blue eyes. It’s going to be one of those afternoons, eh buddy?
I take a moment to get ready for the hopefully quiet stand off that’s gearing up. Tantrums and resistance isn’t uncommon with preschoolers; boundary pushing comes with this stage in life. It can drive you crazy as a parent, though. You can be clear, set reasonable limits, and your child might fight you every step of the way. If I tell my son “No,” he will often respond with a belligerent “I SAID YES!” Its sometimes unavoidable, but there are some steps you can take to subtly help them transition, and help them choose to play without their device.
Tip 1: Let them Get Closure
Does it ever bother you when the season of a tv show ends on a complete cliffhanger? You know you are going to have to wait for months to find out if your favorite character actually blew up in that fiery explosion! Television loves to end episodes and even seasons on cliff hangers because it denies closure, making it more likely that people will tune in to watch the next episode or season.
Closure relieves tension in people, regardless of age. Helping your child achieve closure in their screen time will make it easier to put away the tablet. Sit down with them and help them wrap up what they’re doing or watching. They may still balk at stopping, but helping their play feel more complete will ease up some tension and help them unplug.
Tip 2: What Fuels Their interest?
What does your child like to do with their device? Are they specifically interested in the stories of a television show? Do they like playing games that challenge them to solve puzzles? Are they interested in constructing things in their digital space?
Knowing what your child has been enjoying (another benefit of helping them get closure) is that it can give you a clue in of what sort of activities might interest them. This can help you come up with some tech free activities that will be fun for your child and stimulate them.
For example, I recently introduced my son to jigsaw puzzles. My husband and I chose puzzles because our son likes playing games that involve problem solving, focus, and logic. Puzzles require all those skills, as well as help with abstract thought. A child who likes watching story heavy television or movies may like the challenge of creating their own story and acting it out with dolls or dress up.
Tip 3: Play Alongside Them
Is your child not certain how to start? Or are they still upset it was time to put away their precious tech? My son often resists starting a new activity, and will fuss if I try to push him into something. I’ve learned that if he’s putting up a fight, I should just sit down, calmly, and start playing alone. Nine times out of ten, if he watches me play, he’ll sit down and give it a try.
This is how I introduce him to new activities. I unplug myself and start playing, and I talk to him as I play. If I’m doing something it makes him curious, and he usually joins in. It gives me a chance to teach him a new skill or game without making him feel like I’m trying to. As a rule, he’ll play for quite a while; his tablet will be forgotten, at least for now.
So, there you are, three quick tips for how to help your preschooler unplug. And don’t forget you guys set the tone in your home, do you need to unplug a bit more yourself?
Got any tips or tricks on how to help kids put down their devices, or turn off the TV? Share them in the comments below!
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