How we're handling screen time


I had strong thoughts about how we'd handle screen time with our kids even before I was pregnant. I'd love to share an update on how we're handling screen time with the boys. 

In short, they get very limited screen time and our approach is essentially as I imagined it would be. Among my in-person and online friend circles my sense is that our family is among those that have the most restrictive screen time rules with their kids. I wanted to share our approach to screen time not to make anyone feel guilty about the screen time their kids have. Just like anything parenting related that I share, my intention is to be honest about how we're handling something that can have many options. This is how we're choosing to approach screen time right now, and it will surely change as the boys get older. 

Our approach to screen time for the boys is based on how I grew up (no television was allowed on the weekdays), how Chris and I currently consume media via screens, what I've read about the importance of active versus passive activities for kids, and also just my own parent gut feeling. Trying to synthesize the different articles, studies, and recommendations about screen time for kids leads me to believe that there are wonderful, age-appropriate programs and games for kids. And that allowing them to watch or play these within reason* is not detrimental to their development. However, I haven't read a study that says that it's MORE beneficial for a child to be using a screen versus not using a screen. For us the conclusion is we'd rather create an environment with very limited screen time. It's certainly not the only conclusion. 

But the boys don't have a completely screen-free life. Here are the ways our boys do get screen time right now at ages 2 and 4:

+ During haircuts.

Chris cuts the boys hair every 4 - 8 weeks at home. So far the most reliable way to get the boys to sit still is to let them watch something on the computer. During haircuts Dash has watched part of The Incredibles movie and parts of Lego movie. More recently we have put on episodes of Sesame Street for them and I'd love to show them Reading Rainbow, which I still have vivid memories of watching and loving.

+ During airplane flights.

We fly about once a year with the boys, usually a two-hour flight to Austin. We pack lots of activities and snacks but queue up a couple shows and games as plan B. Cedric is only just now getting to the age when watching something might hold his attention.

+ To see pictures of themselves or friends.

When we take pictures of the boys they usually want to see the picture we took so we'll show them. Sometimes that leads to swiping through pictures but it'll only be for a couple of minutes. 

+ At school.

In Dash's preschool class they occasionally watch short videos related to what they are learning. Dash is also enrolled in a preschool computer class that is offered through his school. He attends once a week for about an hour. I don't feel it's essential that he learns how to use a computer at this age but he really enjoys it so we've been happy for him to go. Cedric gets very limited screen time at school. 

+ At grandparent's houses.

When we visit my parents in Austin or when Dash has a sleep over at Chris's parents we let the boys watch a movie or show. 

By limiting screen time our intention is to teach them to be resourceful about entertainment and inspiration. When they are old enough to choose how to live their lives and how much time to spend watching screen-based programs I hope we've given them a foundation for being more likely to choose a book or to be outside or to hang out with friends rather than passively consuming via a screen. I am not saying that letting your kids use screens means they won't read or be outside or have friends. But I do feel concern over the amount of television Americans watch on average (5 hours PER DAY) and also the effects that it can have on health and happiness (a blog post that Chris wrote but with some great references linked). We're biased, of course, because we chose to ditch our television. But then what is parenting if not instilling the values you deem important in your kids?

I'll admit that at times I have thought, "It would be so much easier if I could let them watch something right now!" Although ultimately allowing regular screen time actually feels like it would be much more difficult rather than essentially never allowing screen time. In instances where we've shown the boys pictures on our phone or when they have been able to watch a video they has asked for more pictures and more videos. Usually a "no" from us leads to whining or a melt down. So in our house no screen time also means one less thing that might cause a melt down. This feels significant! 

I remember when Dash was around 18 months or 2 years old when he first started noticing our phones. We would show him a picture occasionally or a Blue's Clues episode. This was around the time when Cedric was born AND when Dash was waking at 4 AM most days and sometimes we really did need a way to get Dash to sit quietly in one spot for a few minutes. However, this led to Dash being even more interested in our phones and getting upset when he couldn't hold it or watch something. It reinforced our thinking that essentially no screen time is just easier to manage than some screen time. 


* The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends no screen time except video chatting for children 18 months and under. They recommend and hour or less of high-quality programming watched with a parent or caregiver for children ages 2 - 5. 

What I want to remember vol. 5

What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING

What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember vol. 5 | RISING*SHINING

I'm overdue for a roundup of things I want to remember about the boys. Right now my boys are 4 years old and 2 years old and this is what I want to remember: 

The way Cedric always has a song in his heart. He'll be chattering along and then burst into song as if it was the natural next part of the conversation. In current rotation: "Finkle, finkle little tar," "Hello, how do you do?" "Baby shark, do doo, do doo doo," and "Five little ducks went out one day..." I've often told him that he has a song in his heart and the other day he looked at me with a beaming smile and said, "I have a song in my heart."

Dash being such a sweet big brother - hugging Cedric, scratching his back, and patiently asking, "Well, what DO you want?" when Cedric is having a two-year-old moment. 

Watching Dash do the Magnetic MightMind game and watching his mind work. 

Cedric's toddler meltdowns being a bit easier to manage/handle than Dash. Perhaps it's the personality difference, or that this isn't our first toddler rodeo. Or maybe both. Thankful either way. 

How wild and riled up the boys can get. Separately my boys have energy but together - whew! I love how much they love to wrestle and play, especially with Chris.

Cedric's beloved stuffed animal cat, Sevy. When Cedric stayed with my sister-in-law while we adventured in the PNW he fell in love with their cat. For Christmas my sister-in-law gave him a stuffed animal cat that looks just like their Siamese cat and for his birthday he got another stuffed animal cat. He calls them both Sevy and sleeps with both every night.  

Cedric's bedtime routine: reading books with him lounging in my lap, saying "night night" to the characters in the book we're reading, gathering him in my arms, getting a last drink of water, and depositing him into bed. As I lay him down he just grins, and sometimes even chuckles, so happy to be going into his crib. He turns onto his belly, gathers his night-night (blanket) and two Sevy cats underneath him and then tucks in his feet. I pull his shirt down to over his lower back, cover his with a blanket and tuck him in, pat his little bum and say, "I love you," and leave the room. He says, "Bye-bye, Mama," as I leave.

Cedric tucking his little fists under his shirt and then suddenly revealing them with a big "TA DA!"

All the audiobooks we listen to in the car. (I mentioned a few of them here.)

Finding Dash in the front room cleaning up all the toys, unasked, after I had put Cedric to bed.

Cedric bursting into tears at the sight of a suited-up firefighter at a birthday fire station tour. 

How excited the boys get for new library books.

Dash loving being read chapter books before bed. He especially loved Amy Namey in Ace Reporter, Stuart Little, and Three Tales of My Father's Dragon (just a few word like "hate" and "whip" that we change on the fly).

Cedric's constant commentary as we drive to and from daycare each day: "I see sunset!" "I see bus!" "New road, new houses, guys!"(when we pass a neighborhood being built) "Fire engine!" "Mis-mis lights!" (christmas lights)

How happily each of the boys runs to their daycare classrooms each day. Around December drop-offs suddenly became so much easier and happier with Cedric. 

After his birthday, Cedric thinking the two candles we light at dinner time are for him.

How focused and intent Dashiell is when he is coloring. When we pick him up at preschool he's often completely absorbed. Often he'll stick his tongue out to the side of his mouth.

Explaining to Cedric the day after his birthday that it's not his birthday any more. Cedric taking matters into his own hands and bursting into, "Happy birthday to Thedic!"

 Cedric being Zingo obsessed. Just a few minutes after waking up he'll look into my eyes and say, "Mama, want to play Thingo?"

Enjoying taking Dash on outings. He's such an awesome sidekick. 

Dash's growing pains.

The earnest look of their shining brown eyes.

The way Cedric says, "Oh-tay."

Eating out at restaurants as a whole family and finding that it's something we can actually do and enjoy now - hip hip!



P.S. What I want to remember posts from the archives

A date night trick

A date night trick | RISING*SHINING

When Chris and I have a date night planned I find the time leading up to the date night a tiny bit stressful. We're trying to get the house tidy, prep the boys' dinner, get pajamas out, and get ready ourselves. On top of that the boys started getting clingy and emotional when we would leave them with a babysitter. A crying child is not the ideal way to start a fun and relaxing date night.

Enter: the snack pack. Based on the logic that a little treat can go a long way with toddlers and preschoolers, we started putting together little cups of fun snacks for babysitter nights. I randomly put two snack cups together one night before a babysitter came and we must have had cookies or graham crackers on hand, which we don't normally buy. I told the boys that I had "snack packs" for them but only when we were leaving the house. Instead of crying children we were able to leave our babysitter with delighted and engaged children. It was amazing. Now when we tell the boys we're having a babysitter they ask, "Do we get a snack pack?" Yes you do.

A snack pack doesn't have to be overly indulgent or unhealthy. The two key components are to have variety (at least three different kinds of snacks) and novelty. A few things the boys have found in their snack packs include a fruit leather bar, a granola bar, goldfish crackers, graham crackers, a few chocolate chips, peanut butter Puffins cereal, or small cookies (like the Trader Joe's dark chocolate mint stars in the photo above - one of my seasonal favorites!).

They always did great with a babysitter even when there were tearful goodbyes but they would seem to dread the evening. Now they are excited to have a babysitter and we love having a happy transition while we leave the house. Hooray date night!

What I spent: April 2017

What I spent: April 2017 | RISING*SHINING

Tracking our spending assiduously, including my own personal allowance spending, continues to be so satisfying. I'm finding it easy in some ways to stick (pretty much) to my budget of $100 of personal allowance spending per month, but hard in other ways.

There are SO! MANY! things I want to buy during the month. By sharing my purchases at the end of the month I might make it look easy to stick to a personal allowance budget but please know that it is not without plenty of restraint!

I've noticed that I'm especially bombarded with "wants" scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest. No surprise but it does leave me thinking of ways to avoid triggering a "buy" impulse. I've shared my method of snapping a photo instead of making a purchase when I'm in a store. I now have collections on my phone for DECOR, CLOTHES, and PLANTS. Those seem to be the things where I'm most tempted to spend money. That helps but wanting to spend up to and beyond my monthly budget remains something I have to actively fight. I've started unsubscribing to brand Instagram feeds for that reason. Instead, I'll try to save a photo to Pinterest of something I like from the brand and then unsubscribe from the feed. 

What all this makes me thing of is how incredibly, and perhaps grossly, privileged I am. On the one hand I can fret that there are so many things that others have that I "can't have." On the other hand, I can think of how rich you have to be to have a budget of $100 per month to spend on whatever you want. I recognize how luxurious this is. But then when you surround yourself with others living the same luxurious life it's alarming how easy it is to feel that I don't have enough.

I try to practice gratitude regularly for all that I have, to get perspective on how wealthy we are and to look for fulfillment outside of material possessions. But I do want to be honest that there are plenty of things I'd love to buy and often wish that I could.   

What I spent in April:

$10.88 - vintage Girl Scout Handbook found while antiquing. I love finding old books on topics dear to me. I was a Girl Scout until my junior year in high school and have fond memories of earning badges and camping in the woods. I'm still friend with many of the girls from Troop 1039.

$16.71 - embroidery supplies to work on the embroidery pattern that I purchased in March. I started the project in Austin and spent a few hours over the week stitching on my parents beautiful screened-in back porch and looking at the Texas oak trees.

$3.99 - coffee at Starbucks for myself and one of Dash's preschool teachers. She mentioned she hadn't had time to have coffee that day and I said that no one who teaches preschoolers should be without coffee.

$12.62 - breakfast at the airport on my way to Austin.

$18.78 - breakfast tacos and coffee with a dear girl friend while home in Austin, my treat. We arrived for breakfast and stayed until they were starting to bring out fajitas for the lunch crowd around us. 

$5.41 - coffee + cookie treat during a work day which felt so luxurious. Technically I could not include this in my monthly spending because my dad always likes to slip me a $20 when I'm home so I used "dad dollar" cash. But to be conservative I'm counting it against my monthly spending.

$15.00 - mascara x 2 (because I'm trying to change my mascara more frequently instead of using the same one for more than a year) and cuticle clippers.

$31.68 - dinner at Postino to celebrate a girl friend's birthday. The best bruschetta.

$2.11 - again with the Starbucks! Small cup of coffee. In my defense, a colleague asked me to connect with someone they know for a networking/informational interview. 

Total spent: $117.18 out of $100 budgeted. 


In March $101.35 out of $100 budgeted

In February 2017: $78.57 of $100 budgeted

In January 2017: $126.25 of $150 budgeted

Goals - May 2017

Goals - May 2017 | RISING*SHINING

I love noting the four seasons throughout the year, and perhaps even more so as I get older. And while technically the first day of summer comes to Arizona on the same day it does to the rest of the northern hemisphere it always seems to be very summery by late June. Which all means that May is when I need to start gearing up for the HEAT and SUN of summer. 

Last summer was my most enjoyable Arizona summer yet. I think I'm finally figuring out how to embrace the summer heat. Frose helps. As does remembering that it will cool off again which is weirdly implausible to believe when it's been over 110 degrees for days on end. But let's not get ahead of ourselves! There are still plenty of pleasant days and coolish mornings and evenings to be enjoyed. And I'm percolating a summer surviving and thriving plan that I'll hope to share here when it's ready. 

As we head into May I'm not feeling terribly pressured to do much "extra." Chris is always super busy during the final two weeks of the semester so our normal tasks of going to the grocery store, packing lunches, keeping the house moderately tidy and getting to the gym feel nearly heroic. 

Big things happening in May:

+ End of the semester craziness. Chris has early morning commitments, evening commitments and weekend commitments. All the commitments!

+ Chris will officially start summer break in mid-May. None of the commitments!

+ Mother's Day

In May I choose to:

+ Sort through the boys clothes. The change of seasons is always a good time for this. 

+ Paint my nails weekly. When I'm in the habit of painting my nails I don't pick at my cuticles. Not painting my nails + end of the semester busyness...less than stellar cuticles. 

+ Go on evenings walks once a week-ish. As I've been working to open up some time in my schedule I found that I can make an evening walk happen every week or so. It feels so good to have some time to think, to be active and to spend time outside.

+ Research getting a plaque made for my book club. We got the OK from the owner of the pub where we meet monthly to get a plaque for the booth where we always sit. I'm SUPER excited about this and leading the charge. Any favorite quotes about books and friends that we should put on the plaque?

+ Put together my Summer Surviving and Thriving Plan. Possible alternative title: Summer Hygge. Inspiration from last year's GND episode on Summer Coziness and this book. I even have a phone date with a girl friend in Austin to discuss how we will rock the summer. 

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Spend 15 minutes each day on creative writing. This is any writing that's just for me. It could be blogging, writing in the boys' memory journal or working on an essay.

Update: Essentially doing horrible on this. Hoping to recommit this month.

+ Make Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings for work and leave Thursday and Friday open. 

Update: Lately, perhaps because of the busy season, I have so little energy to do any work post-bedtime! But I do think once our lives settle a bit during the summer it will be easier to find motivation.

+ Check Mint at least once each week. To CHOOSE savings I need to be mindful of every transaction and stick to my monthly personal allowance budget.

Update: Yes! Still a habit I'm keeping up and I absolutely love it. It's keep us more accountable for our spending which makes me feel very in control of our money.


Happy May!