Fall into Healthy Routines with Technology
Fall into Healthy Routines with Technology
As summer takes a back seat to fall, the pace of life changes and routines, by necessity, become more structured. We at BridgingApps are parents, too, and we have struggled with challenges involving reestablishing mealtime routines and how to balance the use of technology in our children’s lives.
We offer a few ideas and suggestions around technology that you can integrate into your family routine in whatever way works for you!
Making Meal Time Meaningful
What is the most important meal of the day? It may just be dinner. Not to undermine the importance of breakfast and lunch, because they are valuable to proper nutrition and good health, but dinnertime has a huge bonus. It also encompasses quality family time. Research suggests that families who eat dinner together at least four times a week have lower risks for obesity, eating disorders, and substance abuse, it’s pretty clear that we should not just eat our veggies but eat them with our family.
With summer ending and the new school year beginning, reestablishing regular family dinnertime is an important routine for children of all ages and developmental levels. It encourages language development and behavioral boundaries in a supportive environment while providing opportunities for responsibility and good old-fashioned laughter and fun.
So, set a goal to get your family together for dinner and make sure to involve everyone in food preparation and clean up. To help engage children and make meal planning and preparation fun, BridgingApps has some great family-friendly nutrition app suggestions. With a gentle reminder to keep the dinner table environment mobile device free (see tip below), BridgingApps says
This is my Food – Nutrition for Kids
Explore the world of food and nutrition and bring your favorite dish on the table! Gain clever knowledge and learn interesting facts about food classifications, nutrition and how to cultivate herbs in a fun way! Children become experts in food and nutrition in a fun and engaging way.
Tackling Screen Time
We have found that making positive and lasting changes work best when all members of the family are involved in decision making. Instead of imposing rules from above, offer a menu of acceptable choices for kids to feel empowered.
1) Limit Location.
Keep computers and mobile devices in a central location where caregivers can monitor use. Invite children to suggest a good place accessible to all. One suggestion is to ban devices from the dining table. It is also a good idea for parents to keep mobile devices in their room at night so kids will not be tempted to play them instead of sleep.
2) Create time limits.
Schedule daily mobile device time. And, consider having tech-free days. Use apps like DinnerTime Plus. DinnerTime Plus is a user-friendly app parents can download to remind their children about taking time out from their mobile devices to study, get sleep, and of course, enjoy mealtime as a family. Features of the app include Dinner Time, Bed Time and Take a Break control options. Another app for Android devices called Screen Time Parental Control is an app that gives you control over how your kids spend time on their tablets and phones.
3) Use screen time as a reward for completing homework, chores, etc.
Generally, kids do not like homework and chores. Parents can help them complete tasks they dislike and reach certain goals regardless of how they feel about them by offering screen time as a reward for accomplishing goals. We know how much kids value their screen time.
Some parents change their Internet password daily and give a time frame for responsibilities to be done before their child can have the password. This works well for families with older children and more than one child.
Another way is to use a timer and pennies (or marbles). Children earn pennies for doing chores, making good choices or whatever you feel warrants a penny. Each penny represents a specified amount of screen time. For example, one penny may be worth 15 minutes of screen time. Then, your child can cash in up to a certain number of pennies per day. We recommend less screen time on school days and more on weekends.
4) Make screen time interactive with multi-player apps.
Old school board games will always be fun activities for families and friends. But, as an alternative, there are some great multi-player apps for mobile devices like Toca Town, Uno HD, The Game of Life, Scrabble and Words With Friends.
5) And, the last suggestion is to be a tech-free model.
Set an example by limiting your own screen time. A book we enjoyed reading about putting down the phone, burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters! Was Hand’s Free Mama by blogger Rachel Stafford. And, we are really looking forward to reading Hands Free Life: Nine Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, and Loving More by the same author when it is released on September 15.
If you are interested in searching for more apps, creating your own list of apps and sharing them, please go to BridgingApps.org. BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, is a community of parents, therapists, doctors, and teachers who share information about using mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, and Android) with people who have special needs.
Amy Barry is the Content Manager and Editor at BridgingApps and mother of five children.
Tara Rocha is the Digital Content Specialist with BridgingApps and mother of four young children.
Cristen Reat is co-founder of BridgingApps and a mother who found success when using a mobile device with her children who have special needs.
All share a passion for mobile technology in education.
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This post originally appeared on our September/October 2015 Magazine