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Montessori and Screen Time

Montessori and Screen Time

The effects of excessive screen time for children have been well documented. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not mince words in their guidelines.

Many Montessorians recommend remaining screen-free until the age of 3, or even as old as 6.

This is because young children are in a stage of rapid brain development and they need to be using their hands and actively discovering and problem-solving.

Also, Montessori discourages the introduction of fantastic ideas before children are old enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality.

Other problems arise with the introduction to screen time, as well, that make early screen time introduction not align well with Montessori.

Photo Credit: Donnie Ray Jones

How do you limit screen time?

That really depends on how much screen time your children currently get, and what your goals for screen time are. Not everyone wants to be completely screen-free.

But, even if your goal is to be screen-free, there is something for you in this article.

The first thing you need to consider is when you begin to limit, or eliminate screens, your children will probably be very upset. It is not going to be pleasant for a few days, most likely.

Your kids might cry, scream, tantrum, ect. Be there for them. Tell them, “I know this is frustrating for you. You feel angry, and I understand, but this is the new rule of the house.”

Read here for more tips on helping your child develop emotional intelligence.

It's also a great idea to let your children know ahead of time that some changes are coming; maybe even mark the days down on a calendar and make it an exciting thing…something they will look forward to.

If your plan is to simply limit screen time, I recommend purchasing an egg timer. Let your kids know that when the timer sounds, that means it's time for the TV to turn off.

You could also just say, “We will watch one episode of Daniel Tiger, then I will turn the TV off.” Same thing with computer time and iPad time.

Again, it won't be pleasant at first, but they will get used to it, I promise!

Or your goal may be to be completely screen-free for the first several years of your child's life…and that is surprisingly easier than limiting screens! In that case, you can just turn the TV off and say, “We won't be watching TV anymore.”

Again, a meltdown will ensue, and then they will completely forget about the TV after 2 or 3 days. Some people even put a blanket over the TV or hide it in the garage.

You may not believe that screen-free is easier and totally doable, but just follow me here for a moment.

How can I be screen-free

We are (Almost…my 4-year-old gets a special movie with her dad about once a month.) completely screen-free at the moment.

My children are young, 4 and under, and I simply don't see the usefulness of screens right now.

I get asked this a lot. “What do your kids do all day?” When I give the answer, the response I get is usually something along the lines of, “That sounds boring!”

And I guess it does sound boring when all you've been exposed to is kids watching TV and playing on iPads…I mean, they look like they are occupied and having fun, right?

So, how do we do it?

You prepare a space, special for your kids; child-size chairs, tables, shelves that make it easy for them to access their toys and activities. You involve them, when possible, in the household chores, like cooking and cleaning.

You provide them with open-ended toys, stools all over the house so they can wash their hands, keep their dishes in a low cabinet, so they can help set the table, keep handy for them a “crafting box” full of glue-sticks, pipe-cleaners, and colored tongue depressors.

Have a CD player accessible to them and show them how to use it.

grimm's open-ended toys are great for limiting screentime.

It will be a challenge at first; you will have to demonstrate how to safely climb stools, how to wash their own hands, how to set the table, etc.

But after you take the time to do that, it's done. Your kids will be able to exist a bit on their own. They will feel special because they have their own space.

They will feel useful because they can help. And they will feel a sense of pride in their independence!

Are there any TV shows that aren't harmful to kids?

I want to add that I am not against screen-time unilaterally. I think TV has something to offer children of appropriate ages.

There are some quality programs out there, after all. And television can expose kids to all sorts of things they might not otherwise be exposed to, like different expressions of art, for example.

Sesame Street street sign and lamppost. Sesame Street is one of the quality tv programs for young children good for limited screentime.
Photo by: Josh Hallett

Some children won't ever get the opportunity to see a live ballet performance or an opera. TV can give them that exposure.

Screens, no screens, whatever you choose. Just know that a TV-free or scree-lite life with little ones is totally doable!

And here is a link to our Limited Screen-time Families  Facebook Group!

I'm open to feedback on how you feel about screen-time! How does it, if at all, affect your little ones!?

Cheers and don't forget to subscribe!

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Evelyn Garcia

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

Thanks for sharing! My 2 year-old goes to a Montessori daycare and we are pretty much screen-free except for this one video that is a song from a book that we play now and then. I think you are right, just staying screen-free is easier. I wonder what is your opinion on videos of someone reading a book.

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