When school is out for the holidays and break, it is easy to let routines and rules slide a bit. It is normal to want your child to relax and enjoy their time off. However, experts regularly recommend maintaining schedules when school is out is a good way to help your child stay regulated and avoid meltdowns and other issues.

One of the most common routine and rule breakdowns that occurs during time off from school is with screen time. Everyone is busy over the holidays, so relaxing screen time rules can help you manage what you need to do while also keeping your child entertained and safe. But, each time you change a rule, you run the risk of temper tantrums and creating bad precedents.

In this article, we will outline tips to help you create (and maintain) screen time rules and routines in general and when school is out for the holidays, winter break, and summer vacation. Plus, we will provide you with suggestions and advice for moments when you are considering increasing screen time so you can avoid the future meltdowns.

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How to create screen time rules

In general, the best rules are the ones you can stick by. Establishing rules and standing by them will ensure that they get followed. If you establish a rule and then let it slide over and over again, your child will learn that that rule, and subsequent ones you try to make, are not set in stone. Try not to let that happen! Instead, focus on creating realistic rules that you feel comfortable maintaining.

When it comes to creating screen time rules for your family, your first consideration should be age. According to the Mayo Clinic, “The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use, except for video chatting, by children younger than 18 months. If you introduce digital media to children ages 18 to 24 months, make sure it's high quality and avoid solo media use. For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming.”

For older children, screen time rules are less one size fits all. Instead, experts recommend that you use your best judgment on the types of programs they view or play, who they interact with on social media, and how long they can spend on their devices. 

Some screen time rules and tips: 

  • The more interactive and educational the content, the better. 
  • Always review what they watch, play, and do on their devices.
  • Avoid unsupervised screen time as much as possible. Don’t let them keep their devices in their bedrooms.
  • The less time they spend online, the better.
  • Even if the content is not interactive, ask questions and have conversations with your child about what they are watching.
  • Keep screen time limited and within their routines. For example, when they come home from daycare or school, your child can unwind with 30 minutes of screen time. Or, after dinner and homework (but more than an hour before they go to bed), they can play a game for 30 minutes.
  • Don’t allow screen time within an hour of going to bed because it can interfere with their ability to fall and stay asleep. 
  • Consider adding parental controls and screen time limiting apps to your child’s devices to keep them safe.
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How to create routines

When you establish routines with your child, you set yourself and your family up for success. You can reduce the number of meltdowns and temper tantrums because your child is aware of the schedule. You avoid questions and requests that you don’t want to fulfill because the routine is set and your child knows it.

Tips to create routines with your child

  • Work together. Sit down with your child and talk to them about what goes into a routine. When your child is part of the process, it is more likely that they will connect with the steps and follow them each day.
  • Create a checklist. Make physical checklists that your child can follow along with as they learn their routines. You can use Velcro or whiteboards so they can actively check items off the list, which will help them feel more accomplished. Plus, this will help cement the tasks in their mind so they remember moving forward.
  • Let them practice. Establishing new routines can be difficult. Give them time to practice each task and ease into their new schedule. 
  • Don’t give up. If they are struggling, work with your child to see which tasks are difficult. Are they having trouble remembering to brush their teeth or properly making their bed? Ask them why that part of the routine seems harder than another. Then, work with them on the task so they feel comfortable doing it. They will get it in the end!
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How to maintain screen time rules and routines when school is out

Screen time rules are best followed when they are part of your child’s routine. Therefore, maintaining routines during the holidays and winter break is one of the best ways to ensure your child’s screen time doesn’t drastically increase during time off from school.

But, maintaining routines when school is out seems easier said than done. Of course, you want your child to relax and spend time doing fun activities with you and your family during this time off, but maintaining some semblance of their routine will help you and your child tremendously.

Tips to maintain screen time rules and routines when school is out

  • Stick with what you are already doing. Keep your morning routine, screen time rules, and bedtime routines as much as possible. If your child is on the older side, you can let them stay up and sleep a bit later, but otherwise, try to keep your routines as similar as possible. This will help set you and your family up for success during the time off.
  • Fill the days. While it is important not to overschedule your child during their time off, you will find that empty days are even worse. Schedule playdates, book winter break camps and activities (see what our educators are offering on Sawyer!), and come up with fun at-home crafts and games to keep everyone entertained. 
  • Encourage your child to help out. Will you be wrapping presents, delivering presents to family and friends, baking or cooking holiday meals, or doing something else during this time? Ask your child to help you! Maybe they can make the cards, mix the ingredients (or just lick the bowl), or come along for the ride while you drop off gifts. 
  • Increase the family fun. Plan movie nights, family photoshoots, quiet time together, and more to keep your child entertained, busy, and making wonderful memories. You can plan visits to local educational centers and parks or playgrounds if the weather is not too chilly.
  • Highlight activities that don’t require screens. Can you get together as a family and read for 30 minutes? Can you take family walks or visit with grandparents? Can you plan playdates at a local indoor playground or dance studio? Use this time off from school to have fun with your child away from devices. It will be beneficial for everyone!

Maintaining screen time rules and routines when school is out might feel daunting, but we promise, it is worth it. Not only does it make the holidays and winter break better, but also it is so helpful when it comes to the back to school transition in the new year. 

If you are looking for enriching activities that you can do with your family while school is out (and when it is back in session!), look no further than Sawyer. We have thousands of educators ready to help your child learn, grow, and have fun.

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