Simply Parenting – Screen Time

As with all things in life, I believe that screen time is fine as long as there is balance. So yes, when you are all at the end of your tether, vegging in front of the TV can be just the ticket. When meeting your friend for a cuppa and a chat, your phone will keep your toddler distracted so you can actually enjoy it. Giving children access to your laptop or tablet so they can ‘Google’ something (used to be called research), is a very valid part of their social and educational development.

Research and what-not!

Research and what-not!

We can start to go wrong by relying too heavily on all the screens available to us. We may ‘officially’ allow them to play a game on the Wii for half an hour but more realistically this will be 45 minutes or an hour. How many times have you agreed to half an hour of TV only to finally turn it off after an hour and a half? Am I the only one who lets them google Titanic and then spend 30 minutes watching funny videos on YouTube? Then, before we know it, they’ve had three hours of ‘screen time’ without even thinking about it!

But what harm is it really? I can’t purport to be an expert on the effects of screen time on the youth of today, although we are all aware of the correlation between screen usage and obesity in children.

However, I do know how screen time affects my own children. When it is time to turn off whichever screen, there is often a melt-down. They are always a little grumpy and less inclined to play together after watching too much TV.

Zombified!

Zombified!

In fact, they can become irritable, sluggish zombies for what feels like an eternity, completely negating the peace and distraction that the screen usage gave me in the first place!

So here are some tips to consider when managing screen time.

  • People come first: This is actually ingrained in me from my own childhood. We always had to turn the television off if a visitor came, and now the same applies in our house. Also includes if I’m talking to them and they do not look at me, they know TV will be turned off.
  • One screen at a time: So if you are playing on the XBox then the TV or iPad is off.
  • Keep it social: Watch TV together. Choose multiplayer games rather than single player games. Oversee any and all internet access or use parental controls.
  • Strike a balance: For example, thirty minutes screen time equals one and a half hours activity, playing outside, colouring, reading, puzzles etc.
  • Interaction: Discuss what you watched/played/researched after the fact.
  • Keep it appropriate: Absolutely NO screens in the bedroom, or after a certain time of the day. (The earlier you start this the easier it will be to enforce during the ‘fun ‘teenage years.)
Watching together.

Watching together.

Get out and do something too!

Get out and do something too!

Then there is the amount of time I spend looking at a screen. ‘Mum please put your phone down and watch me’ or ‘are you finished on your phone yet Mum?’ are all too common refrains in this house. And while I’m not about to start beating myself up about it, I am becoming increasingly conscious of not looking at my phone when I am in company, be it with friends or family.

So how do you manage screen time?  Feedback is always welcome, so please feel free to comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

photo credit: tug of the screen via photopin (license)

photo credit: After-dinner Gangnam Style via photopin (license)

photo credit: Robo-Nazi via photopin (license)

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Simply Parenting – A series

I am trying out something new for the blog. I am going to write a series called Simply Parenting , stripping away the buzz words and labels around modern parenting such as ‘helicopter’ and ‘free range’ parenting and  try and highlight the basics of what I think we should be doing for our children  to give them the very best chances in life.

Please note that these are purely my own personal opinions developed over my years in childcare and as a Mum. Feel free to ignore or take from them as you please!

We know that what children need to thrive and grow into happy independent adults is love and space. However how we deliver this can sometimes do more harm than good – which brings me neatly onto my first topic.

Love and Space.

Love and Space.

Omnipresence

Arguably the strongest feeling that surges through our bodies when we first become parents is the urge to protect our children. We genuinely don’t even want the wind to blow on their faces, never mind the thought of them coming to any real harm or (one I find myself worrying about) being abducted.

So it is completely natural and necessary to keep our babies within earshot (if not sight) as newborns. However, knowing when to let go and when to give our children some leeway can be difficult. As much as we want to ensure that we keep our children within sight at all times it is just not a practical reality and it is not a healthy environment for children to develop and grow in.

What we need to do is promote our children’s independence by allowing them out of sight, giving them a sense of freedom by letting them climb the rock, wander to the other side of the beach, or walk to the shop when they are old enough.

'I got this Mum...

‘I got this Mum…

..See!'

..See!’

To reach the independence needed to do those few simple things, you need to start as you mean to go on.

  • If you are always with your child then they cannot learn to play alone and become self-sufficient.
  • If you always invent games for them, they do not have the chance to develop their imagination.
  • If you are always on hand to play with them, this could inadvertently stunt their social development which in turn could make it difficult for them to socialise with their peers.

So, in my view –

  • Let your children play by themselves, be it rolling around on a play mat, playing in the back garden or in their room.
  • Let them invent their own games, and allow them to figure out the jigsaw puzzle at their own pace and in their own time.
  • Give them the space to choose their own activity, be it picking up a book or sitting down to an art project.

In stepping back, you are giving them the independence to develop their own set of social skills and to develop into individuals who learn how to handle themselves in this big bad world.

What's the worst thing that can happen?

What’s the worst thing that can happen?

So in a nutshell – step back, give them space, trust their instincts and watch their imagination and independence grow.

Thanks for reading,

Aisling

Next topic in this series will be addressing our children’s sleep patterns.

What I Know Now.

I recently toilet trained my three-year-old with minimum fuss and maximum success. I am not boasting here although I admit it does sound that way. I am writing about it because what struck me when she finally decided she was ready to be trained was the difference between what I ‘knew’ working as a childcare professional and what I know being a mother of three.

No more nappies!

No more nappies!

What I ‘knew’ working in crèches was that all children can be toilet trained from the age of two and that the sooner you do it, the easier it is and the better for them. I ‘knew’ that the parents that resisted training their children were not doing them any favours. We always made sure that the children were intellectually ready to be trained, training was approached by both the crèche and the family at the same time, patience and keeping cool were the name of the game and nine times out of ten they succeeded according to our timeline.

What I know now, is that although children can be trained from that age they don’t need to be trained that early. There was always pressure to train children before they started in pre-school /Montessori classes  because the teachers either didn’t have time or were not willing to change nappies. I know now that parents who resisted the crèche timetable were absolutely looking out for their child and I would love the opportunity to shake hands with them now.

If I were to do it all again I would absolutely scrap training children according to the crèche timetable and encourage training each child when they felt ready for it. Waiting until the child chooses to start using the toilet makes for an easier, faster and healthier transition in the developing child’s life.

What I ‘knew’ working in crèches was that hungry children will eat. Now I am not talking about starving the children or giving them tiny portions – in spite of what sometimes gets highlighted in the media most people working in childcare have a genuine love of children and are actively interested in encouraging the growth and development of the children in their care. I know, imagine that! One of the side effects of running a busy crèche is that most of the day is timetabled so as to ensure that the day runs smoothly. So wherever I worked, there was at least a two hour gap between breakfast-snack-lunch-snack. With organised activities and free play in between, it generally meant that the children ate what they were given, happily and heartily.

Big,expensive, unhealthy snacks means...

Big,expensive, unhealthy snacks means…

What I now know is that, when you are at home with your child there is no timetable and you can find yourself (myself ) giving them a snack an hour – not necessarily a healthy snack either – and then when it comes to their main meal they are not hungry and don’t eat. So in this case it is better to take a leaf out of the crèche books to encourage healthy eating. Keep to set mealtimes and either eliminate or reduce the amount of snacks they have.

20150401_091759

..anarchic mealtimes!

What I ‘knew’ working in crèches was that TV was not good for children. When I opened my own crèche I didn’t even install a television on the premises, there were enough staff and activities planned that there was no need to turn on a television. Quiet time was story time or singing songs.  And when I gave up work I would allow maybe 30 minutes of television a day.

My plans.

My plans.

What I know now is that television is one of the best inventions ever – actually, strike that – Sky+ is the best invention ever as you can ensure your child never misses their favourite programme during the two to three hours television they watch a day! 😉

My reality.

My reality.

What have you learnt since becoming a parent?

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Summer Job – Positions Available. :)

I spend every Monday putting the shoe mountain that gathered at the side on the couch back in the children’s rooms and ‘dissappearing‘ the wilted dandelion or stone collection scattered on the mantle-piece. I mutter to myself about how I always have to do it, and I am going to have serious words with them all this time (including Mr Dad who seems to think there is a shoe and sock putter- back fairy living with us!) So, enough is enough.

I'm sure someone will tidy up after me.

I’m sure someone will tidy up after me.

Timing is everything and obviously dishing out tasks on a Monday morning is a surefire way to reach screaming levels of tension in nanoseconds. But the school holidays are around the corner, so this household is about to get chore-tastic! Along with the added bonus of not having to run around and pick up after them all the time, doing their own chores will go a long way towards encouraging their self-respect, self-confidence and independence.

So this summer, I will refer to the list below for little jobs that all three children from the toddler to the tweenager can help with!

Housework: Dusting; putting their toys away (tip: insist they put each toy /game away before starting a new activity); hoovering; emptying the dishwasher; making their beds; sweeping the floor; clearing and setting the table; washing and drying dishes; mopping up (inevitable) spills.

 

Never too young!

Never too young!

Laundry: Sorting out clothes for dark and light washes; matching socks; stripping their beds; folding and putting laundry away; loading and  putting on the washing machine; putting their clothes either in the wash or away at the end of the day.

My sous chef.

My sous chef.

Food preparation: Pouring drinks; preparing breakfast cereal; peeling vegetables and putting peel in the compost; making sandwiches; chopping fruit; turning on oven to preheat; weighing ingredients; using a whisk.

 

Don't forget the wheels!

Don’t forget the wheels!

Outside: Pulling weeds; sweeping the decking; washing the car (inside and out); gathering up chopped leaves and branches; watering the plants.

Obviously the list is not exhaustive but there is plenty there to encourage the children to help out a little every day.

Weeding!

Weeding!

I don’t plan on overloading them with a load of tasks. The aim of the game, for us, is to keep it light and easily achievable. That said, I will not give up at the first “I am too tired” hurdle – instead, I

will try a little negotiation. “So, what do you think you could do to help me out? ” and build on that.

Still plenty of time for fun!

Still plenty of time for fun!

By mid-August, I expect I will be having breakfast in bed while the children clean up and prepare lunch, ahh happy days! 😉

What are your summer plans?

Thanks for reading.

Aisling

KoolioBandz – Review and Give-away

Have you heard of KoolioBandz? I hadn’t either, until Aisling from the ISPCC contacted me to see if I would like to review them for the blog. As always, the simplest ideas are usually the best. KoolioBandz are basically very simple children’s identity wristbands.  What I like about them is that no personal data is displayed – you simply buy a two-pack (costs less than €10) and activate them on www.kooliobandz.com.  If your child gets lost, whoever finds them can get a message to you by just logging on to the website and entering the unique code on your child’s wristbands and, in the era of smartphones, that can all be done very quickly.

Don't want to cramp their sense of adventure!

Don’t want to cramp their sense of adventure!

Now I am not known for buying into the fear that the media constantly sells us. My children scoot without helmets, get dirty, have many bumps and bruises and generally act like children. However, when it comes to losing them, I have a very real fear. You see, we lost Conan once.

Hindsight is such a wonderful gift. Of course, going to a betrothal ceremony (not my own, mind you) seven days after my daughter was born was utter madness. Of course, leaving a very capable eight-year-old in charge of my five-year-old and three-year-old was beyond stupid. Still that is exactly what we did!

One of the many joys of breast-feeding is that you can be versatile from day one. Forget the exhaustion and fuzziness that comes with the early days after giving birth. So, the five of us rocked up to beautiful, Kilruddery House in Bray, County Wicklow for the ceremony, which was lovely by the way. However, by the end of it, the children couldn’t wait to get out and play and so off we sent them. Glancing out occasionally from the glass-fronted Orangery, until maybe a half hour later when the very responsible 8-year-old came up to my husband, ashen-faced, saying she couldn’t find Conan.  I was shielded from this by my husband but could tell just by looking at him that something was up. Then himself and his two best mates disappeared outside at pace. I tried to ignore this unusual behaviour for, oh, about 40 seconds and then went to find out what was up.

Kilruddery House is lovely and well worth a visit but it has a good few unprotected, deep ponds. I was told to sit down and the men would search for him. I did. I tried to distract myself but just kept picturing him floating face down in one of the ponds. After maybe five long minutes, I looked out of the reception room to see the three men standing gazing down the slope at the children playing, all the children but Conan that is. I dashed outside using some very choice language as to where my son might be. They had in fact found him, and just neglected to tell me. Nearly three years on, less said about that the better! Paul (husband) had found him on the far side of a very deep pond. Although all was well and we escaped with a very severe warning to ourselves, my fingers are trembling writing this. So, when it comes to losing a child, I have a very real fear.

Conan off on another adventure!

Conan off on another adventure!

I will most definitely be getting my younger two to wear their KoolioBandz whenever we go on a day trip or on holidays. Even though I don’t expect I will ever take my eyes off any of them long enough for them to get lost again, the peace of mind that comes from having a back-up plan is well worth €10! (My eldest knows our mobile numbers by heart, so probably no need for the band.) Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention they are an Irish invention and a donation from each pack sold goes to Childline!

I also have a pack to give away for children aged 2-5, so if you fancy getting your hands on it just comment below and you are in with a good chance! Will draw a name out of a hat on Friday 27th March.

Just comment below, to be in with a chance to win this pack!

Just comment below, to be in with a chance to win this pack!

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Bad Mothering

I love my children. I want the very best for each of them. I want them to grow into confident, capable, happy, content and independent people. And so I insist on being a “bad” mother!

Here are some examples of my bad mothering.

1. I don’t put their coats on. I provide them with coats (and hats and gloves and scarves).I advise them that they should wear their coats when it is cold. However, from the moment that they learn to put on their own coats, I no longer put their coats on.

You'll be grand!

You’ll be grand!

2. I don’t pack their lunches. I make their lunches (although my eldest wants to start making hers soon), I fill their water bottles. I leave them out on the counter for easy access but I don’t ever put their lunches in their school bags.

3. I don’t carry their school bags. Ever. (OK, I confess I did for my son last summer but
he had a broken arm at the time).

Seriously Mum, can I have a little help?!

Seriously Mum, can I have a little help?!

4. I let them out of sight. If we are walking in the woods, I let them go off exploring
amongst the trees, I tell them to keep me in sight but I don’t follow closely behind.
5. I let them fall. Once I gauge that the jump is not going to result in any more than a
scraped hand or bloodied knee, and they insist that they can do it, I let them try.
6. I make them wait. If I am busy doing something big or small, and they interrupt me
with a need of their own (which is of course far greater..), then I insist they wait until
I am finished.

7. I don’t organise their toys. I will fix broken toys when I can, and I will give them aplace to keep their toys. However, any question about ‘where is Teddy/my lego/ myprecious stone collection?’ is answered with ‘it‘s your toy, you tell me’.

8. I break the rules. For example – all meals are at the table, except for today when we will have our pizzas under this camp we made!

With the time pressures and constant bombardment of fear by the media we tend to over think our parenting and can end up doing too much for our children which we think is helping but will ultimately hinder their development. So as Victorian as some of these practices may seem I do them for a very good reason!

Keeping her balance...I hope!

Keeping her balance…I hope!

To encourage independent thinking, and build self esteem. Because I want them to develop good reflexes and instincts, and because I want them to learn their own boundaries and when it‘s okay to break boundaries. Who knows, it might even work! 😉

Do you practice ‘bad’mothering too?

Thanks for reading
Aisling

I originally wrote this post for MummyPages, why not pop over there for a look-see?

Mindfulness and Simple Pleasures – A blog link-up!

Is your cosy family Christmas a distant memory? Has your house become a bit of a war-zone since the holidays ended? Yep, ours too!

So it’s time to embrace my New Year’s resolution of ‘living in the now’ which I am determined to stick to! Not a mean feat for someone who plans ahead ALL the time… and by ‘plans ahead’ I obviously mean worrying about what may be. I know that worrying is the most pointless excercise you can indulge in. I know that no-one can see the future. I know that, to a certain extent, what will be will be. I worry about how much I worry. 😉

So I have had to catch myself when I get caught up in all the communion talk happening around me – in January? Her communion is in May!! I have to stop myself telling the children to hurry up or we might be late. Have forced myself to look the other way when the children are monkeying about when they should be sitting down doing homework – according to my own rules.

I had a small victory over my 1972-2014 self the other day. When what would normally have resulted in a shout-fest about ‘getting on with homework before it gets too late’ was about to start, my 2015 self said ‘how about we have warm milk and cinnamon with a couple of choc-chip cookies, and then start homework?’ This was greeted with peals of delight by the children because I was (a) being bold, (b) offering biscuits mid-week and (c) not giving out about homework.

Aiming for lots more moments of calm like this!

Aiming for lots more moments of calm like this!

As we sat at the table and enjoyed the moment, I was delighted that this simple pleasure had averted a tete-a-tete which would inevitably have resulted in a whingey, whiney afternoon. So while it is January – while the children are gradually coming down from the Christmas madness – while the pace of modern life begins to take hold again – I urge you to stop, take stock and try just being in the moment.

Thanks for reading

Aisling

Fellow bloggers if you have any plans to increase mindfulness in 2015, please  join me and share them in my first ever blog link-up below!

Just click on the blue button and all will go swimmingly – I hope!

Click on the links below to see what some of my fellow bloggers think about mindfulness and simple pleasures!

Musings and Chatterings

Musings and Chatterings

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21101379

Science Wows

Science Wows

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21110088

Wonderful Wagon

Wonderful Wagon

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21152313

Life on Hushabye Farm

Life on Hushabye Farm

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21156853

The Clevs

The Clevs

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21229363

Office Mum

Office Mum

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21269248

Put the Kettle On.

Put the Kettle On.

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21279821

Mindful Mammy

Mindful Mammy

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21297172

Bumbles of Rice

Bumbles of Rice

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21299401

The Busy Mama's

The Busy Mama’s

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21320809

Learner Mama

Learner Mama

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.inlinkz.com/displayurl.php?id=21321827

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