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Explore nutrition tips, kids’ meal plans, kids’ activities, recipes and more from pediatric nutritionist, Melissa Halas, MA, RDN, CDE.

Limiting Screen Time for Kids and Toddlers

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Limiting Screen Time for Kids and Toddlers

Times up! Learn healthy and fun ideas for limiting screen time for kids and the rest of the family. 

The kids are playing video games, dad is watching the news, and you are ready to embark on yet another Netflix marathon. Quarantine made these habits even harder to avoid, but it’s summer and time to part ways with the extra screen-time once and for all! Limiting screen time for kids and toddlers doesn’t have to be an impossible feat or drain your energy.

Why to Limit Screen Time

It’s tough to admit, but allowing TV and screen time can be useful to us parents when we have things to do and our kids won’t let us concentrate for just one minute! We’ve all done it- how could you not negotiate peace and quiet in exchange for screen time? As you’ve probably heard with anything else, moderation is key.

Your household can be a fun zone but should also have rules that keep the kids engaged in activities other watching TV, playing on the computer, playing video games, or scrolling through a phone. Excessive screen time takes away from daily physical activity, can lead to weight problems and can form unhealthy eating habits, especially if screen time is allowed during meals. With rule-setting and structure, you can help your child avoid health problems and bad habits in the future. If your family doesn’t have restrictions on screen time use, it might be time to lay down some new ground rules. Let’s take a look at some super tips to help you and your family get started!

List of Helpful Ways to Limit Screen Time for Kids

  • set limits before your child starts watching
  • get creative with activity ideas
  • create screen-free zones
  • set a timer
  • highlight health and activity
  • make screen time off limits while eating
  • create a reward system
  • make the rules clear
  • have a “screen free” day once a week
  • record each family member’s screen time
  • don’t allow screen time when the sun is up
  • use your own screen time to find more ideas
  • change your settings on your phones and tablets
  • set usage limits
  • disable notifications
  • read books like Berenstain Bears Too Much TV to encourage balance

Set Limits Before Your Child Starts Watching

Habits are created from a young age—the hardest part is changing habits once they have formed! If you have a plan ahead of time, it will make decisions easier on you and will create less fuss when your child gets older.

Get Creative With Activity Ideas

Brainstorm with your kids to think of alternative fun options to keep them busy during the day. Out of ideas? Give some of these outdoor activities a try! We also have a list of activities to replace screen time with!

Create Screen-Free Zones

Keep the TV, computer, iPad, and other “screens” in the main rooms so you know when your child is watching. Just like in your children’s classroom, there should equally be rooms in the house where screens are a no-go. Sorry parents, that means you too.


Miss a call. Delay a text. It’s okay. The bathroom is a quick pit stop within the day. Without playing games on the toilet, your children might actually not take F-O-R-E-V-E-R to get ready. And, whether it’s a bathroom break or a long relaxing shower, not every moment requires multitasking. Society can wait until you lather, rinse, and repeat.


When it’s bedtime, everyone must be ready to part ways with their technology. This means charging stations should be outside of the bedrooms- even for yourself! Whether it’s your children playing games, or parents scrolling through social media, having a screen in the bedroom delays everyone’s sleep. Plus, the bright lights caused by screens can also affect your family’s sleep quality. It’s time to leave charging cables in the kitchen, and invest in an old-school clock. Don’t let screens be the culprit to your household’s poor sleep quality. After all, adequate sleep has many different benefits! Here are even more strategies for a good night’s sleep.

Set a Timer

Explain to your child how much time she gets for media play and make sure to give her countdowns if she is too young to tell time. You can also make use of the app time limits on phones so the phone does the work for you – more on that below.

Change Your Settings on Your Phones and Tablets

Phones and tablets are programmed to make sure that the family never misses a beat. Technology is distracting enough without a BING to remind us of its existence.

Set Usage Limits

Do you spend too much time on social media? Do your children play too many video games on their phones? If the answer is yes, you might want to use your iPhone’s built-in system that allows you to set app limits. Go to “settings”, then click “screen time”, and finally click “set app limits.” Don’t worry: this isn’t Cinderella, and your carriage won’t turn into a pumpkin if you run out of time. But, it is an easy way for you and the family to limit screen time.

Disable Notifications

While technology allows everyone to stay connected, it equally KEEPS everyone connected. Change your settings to “phone calls only” to not be constantly distracted by text, email, and social media notifications. This will allow you to enjoy quality time with the children, without any interruptions. Goodbye to frustrated, “It’s your turn mom!” during family game nights.

Highlight Health and Activity

Explain to your kids why it is good for them to be active rather than spend all of their time sitting and looking at screens. If there’s a reason you’re bothering them to get off of the tablet other than to disrupt their time, they may be more inclined to take action.

Make Screen Time Off Limits While Eating

Mealtime should be used to bond with the family. It’s time to turn off the television, phones, and tablets, and instead, speak to one another. Having a distraction while eating can lead to poor food habits, and will make it more difficult for your child to regulate hunger. Help kickstart mindful and intuitive eating at a young age!

With the Internet filled with negativity lately, this would be a good time to bring some positivity to the household and to have important conversations about what’s going on in the world. If your children have concerns over life’s uncertainty, feel free to alleviate their stress to the best of your abilities.

Create a Reward System

Make them earn their leisure/screen time by completing their chores and homework. This will also hold them accountable and give them an incentive to help around the house.

Make the Rules Clear

Have a set schedule and post it on the fridge so there is no arguing or confusion. When everyone is on the same page, it leaves less room for complaints.

Have a “Screen-Free” Day Once a Month

Let your kids decide which day they will do this so they are part of the decision. On that day, plan a fun outdoor family to make the most of the nice weather. Have the kids help prepare a fun picnic or dinner when you get home from your outing. Limiting screen time for kids won’t be so bad after all!

Record Each Family Member’s Screen Time

Allot a certain amount of time for every member of the family and record how much they use. When the maximum is reached, they are done for the day. Assigning the same screen time amount to kids will make sure everyone gets equal treatment.

Don’t Allow Screen Time When the Sun is Up

Only allow TV time or video games when the sun goes down (this is especially great in the summer months when the sunlight seems to last forever!). When the sun’s out, everyone has to get creative and find a different activity!

Use Your Own Screen Time to Find More Ideas

Search online for screen-free activities or other fun free things to do in your town as a family. Even with some businesses still closed from COVID-19, you can find safe alternatives.

Now that you have a new set of tools under your belt for limiting screen time for kids, it’s time to clock out of your screen time for the day and go lead by example. Kids are eager to learn and are always assessing their environment, so set them up for success by showing them how much fun you can all have when you’re on your feet and your eyes have something to focus on other than a screen!

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