We try to limit gadget and media time for our little girl. This isn’t just because a pediatrician said so, or because we read it in a study or a facebook post. This is because based on experience, hours spent with the iPad makes our child cranky. You can really notice a change in behavior - no matter if the app is educational or not! So we only schedule media time in small doses.
Admittedly, it is hard to keep the iPad away. Not because my child asks for it – but because I run out of patience because I need to get something done! I am guilty of letting the TV or tablet babysit sometimes! Can you relate?
How do you keep a small child occupied while you try to finish orders or work from home? In this article, I share what has worked for me and my little girl, aside from the usual coloring books and toys. These are effective for little kids aged 4-6.
It might be counter-intuitive, but I let her into my craft room so I can get stuff done!
1. Paper crafts
This is the easiest way to keep my kid busy. I set up a self-service area where she can get materials and supplies, and I let her have a go all by herself. The supplies available to her include: paper, cardboard, pens, glue, sequins, washi tape. I taught her how to use scissors early on, so I let her use that, as long as she asks permission. She constructs tiny houses out of the cardboard and washi tape, or sprinkles sequins onto a drawing covered with glue.
2. Water + cornstarch
I always say: if your kid is bored, just add water! I set up small containers filled with water, and a bowl of cornstarch on her craft table. She then buries her small toys in the starch and uses spoons to pour water onto them. I started introducing her to sensory play like this when she was 3, and now that she’s 5, she still loves it!
Another version we sometimes do is use vinegar instead of water, and swapping baking soda for the cornstarch. Gosh, you should hear her squeal with delight as the goo starts to bubble up.
Just remember to designate one area for this activity, and remind your child to only work in that area. The mess and goo is fairly easy to clean up.
3. Painting paper mâché figures
We brought home paper mache animals from Craft MNL last year, and we’ve been using them ever since. I just let her paint over the figures again and again. When the paint has dried, she loves adding details with markers.
4. Clay play
By far her most favorite activity. Well, she is Beadlady’s Beadbaby after all.
She takes after me, so she can spend a lot of time sculpting little toys out of polymer clay. She also works with air dry clay sometimes. You can get air dry clay from toy stores these days! I used to have a hard time looking for those. Play Doh is, of course, a favorite. I try to keep a constant supply of clay for her at home, for my own sanity!
5. Last resort: Beatbugs or Dinosaur Train on Netflix
When I’m really, really desperate, I let her watch an hour or two of useful, educational programs on Netflix. Other useful shows on Netflix are Story Bots and World Word, but they’ve discontinued the latter.
We used to let her have scheduled “media days”: this means two “skip days” of no TV or iPad, then one whole day of bingeing on apps or shows. But we saw the negative effects on her behavior and attention span, even with controlled screen time. So we cut down even more, and now just allow 30 minutes to an hour once or twice a week. We’re doing great; she’s doing great! She has learned to entertain herself, and chooses from the 4 activities I listed above. We’re loving this lifestyle so far.
How about you? What unplugged activities do you do at home? Do you exert an effort to limit screen time? Please share in the comments below!
I will post about project ideas next time, so be sure to subscribe to the blog. Stay tuned!