Tag Archive for toys

Screens at Bedtime

At our house, we have a bedtime routine (bath, brush teeth, reading and storytime, and prayers).

After all that is done, we also have a “transition time.” Transition Time began a few years ago after we discovered how long it took for Elizabeth to fall asleep once we finished this nighttime routine. She couldn’t fall asleep. Nothing we told her to try worked. Counting sheep. Saying a prayer. Shutting her eyes. Thinking about something. No matter what we tried, she couldn’t fall asleep.

And it was a lot of work for her parents!

So, we instituted Transition Time, a 30-minute period in which she was allowed to play in her room before we turned the lights out. We hoped this time would allow her to unwind before lights out. This transition period has helped her fall asleep faster and sleep better (she used to wake up in the middle of the night, too) than she used to when we did not do such a thing. She is happy; we are happy.

Last year, we decided to institute a similar transition period for Peyton. His bedtime is 30 minutes earlier than Elizabeth’s (he just turned four; she’s almost seven) and he is required to stay in bed, but otherwise it’s the same as his sister’s. Peyton typically reads, stands on his bed, makes faces at himself in the mirror, rolls around, talks to himself (he is ALWAYS talking), plays with his cars, or destroys things.

A few nights ago, Peyton asked me if he could play his Leapster (a gaming system) in bed. I said yes. He played it for 30 minutes until I went and turned off his light.

It took him two hours to go to sleep that night.

He rolled around the bed, whined that he couldn’t go to sleep, got in and out of bed, went to the bathroom, played in the sink, played with his toys, looked out the window, talked to us, asked for more hugs and kisses, went to the bathroom (again), and did just about anything else available at the time in the dark.

After what seemed like forever (!), he finally fell asleep. My husband and I breathed a sigh of relief that we could now spend some time together (and then Levi woke up. Ha!).

The next night, Peyton wanted to play the Leapster again, and I said he could. The same thing happened. The same little blond-headed boy couldn’t fall asleep.

(I still had not figured out what was going on.)

Several days later, I read an article discussing how screens (computer, TV, iPhone) should not be used right before bedtime. They stimulate you. Duh. That was the reason he wasn’t sleeping. He was too wired mentally. The technology had activated his mind. Instead, of providing the winding down for which this time is meant, Peyton was wired.

Now, no more screens during this transition time.No iPhones, Leapsters, LeapPads, computers, or TVs at bedtime. They provide too much stimulation. I don’t know how long we can keep this rule up (our children are young), but I do think our generation (as parents and children) has to consider this much more than previous ones. Yes, we’ve had TV and computers for years, but handheld devices such as mobile phones and gaming systems are much more vivid, bright, and colorful than the Gameboy of my generation.

Today, these devices provide even greater stimulation, over-stimulation to be exact, than previous devices did. It will be interesting to see what some of the effects will be–not just on sleep but on maturity, development, socialization, learning, education, emotions, and so many other areas as well.

What screen rules have you set? What advice do you have?


Running around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More

Simplicity Parenting book coverI am currently reading Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids. This book, by Kim John Payne, a school counselor and an educational consultant, has challenged me to re-think the way I parent my children. He has encouraged me to consider the ways my good intentions as a parent may have negative consequences on my child. This book is challenging, provocative, and inspiring.

Right now, Elizabeth is 6 years old. She is playing t-ball. Beginning next week, we will have practice or games 3 nights a week.

Peyton is 4 years old. He is playing t-ball. Elizabeth and Peyton are not on the same team. Shane (my husband) is the assistant coach of Elizabeth’s team and the head coach of Peyton’s team.

For the next 8 weeks, we are going to be eating, breathing, sleeping, and thinking t-ball. T-ball every night of the week, except Wednesday when we have church. T-ball on many Saturdays. Several nights, both kids have a game, so we’ll be at the t-ball fields for close to 4 hours.

But we love t-ball. We like that our children are engaging in activities (we think) they (will) like. I enjoy chatting with other parents and getting to know adults and children in our small community. We like that our children feel good about themselves by playing and accomplishing something. We like to be Jesus to the community by serving them. We like being involved. We like our kids starting and finishing something.

But that’s not all. In the Winter, Elizabeth played basketball. In the Fall, Elizabeth and Peyton both played soccer. And through it all, we had a newborn baby who is now 8 months old to cart around.

I pause now to ask myself, “What are we doing to our children by enrolling them in all these extracurricular activities?”

In the United States, parents are told the following dominant narrative: “You must enroll your children in as many activities as possible at very a young age. The more the better. Ballet. Dance. Swimming. Soccer. Summer camps. Team sports. Individual sports. And on and on.”

Just look at some of the examples of prodigy kids. Tiger Woods began golf at 2 years old. Andre Agassi started playing tennis around age 4. Cild actors like Drew Barrymore and the Olsen twins began acting when they were young. I’m sure there are numerous other stories (if you know of some, leave them in the comments).

In short, if you want your child to be good at something, start them early on the activity/task. Malcolm Gladwell even points out in Outliers that to become good at something, perfect at it, you must put in over 10,000 hours of practice.

So what have we done to make our children successful? We begin early. We want them to reach that 10,000 hour mark well before their teenagers and it is deemed too late. Just consider the book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (which I will write about soon). If you haven’t read it, you’ve probably heard about the book (it was quite controversial) and her “Chinese way of parenting.” The author–a law professor at Yale–spent countless hours every single day making sure her children had mastered the piano and violin. They practiced all the time–literally. Even on vacation. Everywhere. Every. Single. Day.

But Simplicity Parenting asks a simple question really, “Why?” 

Why do we do this to our children? What do they really gain through these activities? And what is the cost of this attitude of more, more, and more? What are the results of our over-scheduled, over-stimulated, busy lives? Especially on our children?

Throughout the book, he answers these questions, and in quite provocative terms. Put simply, he says that “less is more.” Seems simple, but when you unpack this idea in terms of schedules, television, screen time, clutter, toys, your day having a rhythm, order, and flow, stress, anticipation, sleep, food and eating, an ordinary day, and filtering out the adult world from your children, you can see how this idea becomes even more convicting.

Less is more.

We have forgotten the gift of boredom.

Less is more.

Our children need unstructured play time.

Less is more.

We need to clear away the clutter.

Less is more.

The true power of less is that it creates smarter and more imaginative, energetic, independent, creative, self-confident kids. Kids that know how to solve problems, get along well with others, figure things out, and build a deep relationship with their parents and others.

Simplicity parenting is worth the try.

For those of you interested in learning more about the book, you might like to watch this informative four-minute video by the author.