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.



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,


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)


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.


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…



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,


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.


..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


I Stopped and Looked.

I stopped and looked – you were playing away with your Lego but you were also taking the time to match the colours. I had never noticed that you did that before.

I stopped and looked – you were racing your little sister but you were letting her win. I didn’t realise just how mature a six-year-old you were.

I stopped and looked –  you had built your very own ‘Hogwarts’ and were lost in a wizarding world far away. I sometimes forget how real your imagination is.

I stopped and looked – you kicked the scooter because you hurt your hand falling off it. I realised the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I stopped and looked – you weren’t ignoring my calls to hurry up, you were trying to tie your own laces. I need to remember how hard new skills are to master.

I stopped and looked – you broke off half of your biscuit and gave it to your sister unasked and unannounced. I often forget just how generous you can be.

I stopped and looked – you were shouting in the game because you were playing the part of ‘mummy’. I was reminded that children do what they see.

I stopped and looked – you weren’t delaying going to bed, you were waiting for your brother to come to bed so you could help him with his reading.  I always ask you to help after all.

I stopped and looked – you were filthy dirty because you had to pick the ‘best’ flower for me. I am learning to love dandelions.

I stopped and looked – you grabbed your sister’s toy from her because you saw a cracked, sharp edge on it. I remembered that you do nearly everything for a reason.

I stopped and looked – you put your arm in front of your brother, not to boss him but to stop him from crossing the road until you had checked for traffic. I need to learn to trust your instincts.

I stopped and looked at how quickly you are all growing up and realised that sweating the small stuff is for the birds. I promise to stop and look a lot more frequently  lest I miss you growing up altogether in the melee that is family life!

2015-06-29 17.08.02This piece originally appeared in MummyPages . Why not pop over for a look?

All feedback and comments welcome.

Thanks for reading


A ‘Lidl’ Rite of Passage

Courtesy Pixabay

Courtesy Pixabay

They bought milk. She is eight, he is six and last week , they bought milk!

It started a few months ago; actually, we were up at the shops and I was going to buy the paper.  ‘Let me Mum, please!’ came the plea from the then seven year old. ‘Ok so, I will’. I gave her specific instructions on where to find the paper, gave her the exact change and waited inside the door of the shop while she did the necessary. She did with great aplomb, returning with the paper, blushing and beaming with pride. The next time I waited outside the shop doors, and the time after that I didn’t have exact change but she managed just fine.

First stop local newsagent, next St Stephen's Green Centre!

First stop local newsagent, next St Stephen’s Green Centre!

The next step to buying the milk was taking showers. The bath with the three of them was a bit of a ‘squash and a squeeze’ so it was time for the eldest to have showers. Showering a fully capable seven year old is not my style, so I would turn on the shower, let her get started and then come in for hair washing and ear cleaning.  Next, I came in just for ears and to turn the shower off. After about a month of showers I let her get in, wash, get out, dry, dress and then I dried her hair. Soon I was just blow-drying her hair and letting her do the last few minutes herself.

Then she turned eight and one day we were getting ready for showers when I was distracted with Facebook her younger sister. ‘Don’t worry Mum, I will get myself started and call you when I need you.’ Twenty minutes later she arrived back down, washed, changed and with a mane of mostly dry hair! The bathroom was not soaked; her used towel was hanging over the banisters and not in its customary crumpled heap on the ground.


Mini baby-sitter.



We then went from letting her watch me in the kitchen, to allowing her stir sauce in a hot pan, to showing her how to make tea. She makes her own porridge in the microwave too, getting the jam from the fridge and stirring it in with a spoon. In fact, she made her auntie a cup of tea last week, from filling the kettle to handing over the finished product.

So, we needed milk. It was one of those busy school days when we were on the way back from a rushed pick-up and I realised we were out of milk, or would be soon after we got home. So I swung in to Lidl and parked near the door. Because timing is everything, the cranky three year old had finally fallen asleep.  I needed milk, I wanted to get home and I didn’t want to disturb whinge-bob sleep-pants.

In the olden days of course I would have just left the children in the car and popped in, but times are very different now. They are used to being sent down the aisles to grab milk for me, so I knew that she knew where it was. ‘Would you guys like to go in to Lidl and buy some milk?’ ‘What, on our own?’ ‘Yep, sure Mum, no problem, 3 litres, low-fat, right?’ ‘Yes, here is the money and expect to get change.’ ‘Ok, wahoo!’  Out they hopped and in to Lidl they disappeared.

Let loose in Lidl!

Let loose in Lidl!

There then ensued 10 minutes of me worrying, sweating, questioning my parenting, forcing myself to stay in the car, jumping out of the car and trying to crane my neck to see if I could see in the frosted windows, almost asking strangers who had left the shop if they had seen two children with milk, getting back in the car and wishing sleepy -head would wake, berating myself for not having bought milk earlier, wondering ‘what if’ to every dastardly scenario imaginable.

And then there they were, smiling and skipping along, holding hands and giggling. They opened the door, hopped in and fastened their seat-belts.

They had bought milk.milk-312369_1280

Thanks for reading


The original version of this post appeared in mummypages, why not check them out?

Striking a Balance

If you are like me, you start out every day with the best intentions. I will not shout. I will smile at all times. I will prepare tasty and exciting meals that the whole family will enjoy. And so on.

Plan this..

Plan this..

Then begins the reality of feeding the kids pasta pesto again (because it’s the only meal they all eat), losing the plot over something inane followed by huge guilt for same, and the hassled rushing from school to activity. And as usual, we give ourselves a hard time for ‘failing’, once again.

...feel like this.

…feel like this.

We need to stop beating ourselves up needlessly and recognise all the good we as parents do every day. So in the same way that the food pyramid helps us keep a healthy and balanced attitude to how we eat, why not think of parenting in the same way?

Let’s consider putting things like routine worrying at the top of the pyramid and put cuddles at the bottom. I reckon if we try to make sure that we do as much from the bottom half of the pyramid and as little from the top end of the pyramid on a daily basis that family life can be healthy, balanced and better than okay (and I can stop giving myself a hard time)

My parenting pyramid would look a bit like this:

Parenting pyramid picture



Why not try it yourself?

How would your parenting pyramid look?  Comments welcome!

Thanks for reading


The Following.

‘I follow you?’ is the constant refrain from the toddler these days. As much as I love the little lady, this particular phrase drives me to distraction. I find it hugely irritating that wherever I go there she is right behind me.

Now, I am mostly for my children following in my footsteps, except for a few times, where I possibly made the wrong choice, that time in Mexico springs to mind… but that is another story and definitely not fit for publishing here!

'I follow you?'

‘I follow you?’

In my footsteps is one thing but following my actual footsteps is a whole lot of GRR. My husband who thinks she can do no wrong anyway was all ‘aw, that’s lovely’ so I stopped trying to explain how irritating it was to him and didn’t even consider complaining about how the ‘I do it’ for car seat straps and tights and such, causes me to count slowly to ten whilst breathing deeply. Or the walking beside the buggy which doubles no triples the length of any and every journey!

'You going somewhere?'

‘You going somewhere?’

However, even as I am giving out about the joys of toddler-hood, I know, that only too soon she will stop following me everywhere and I will miss that. The reason I know this is because I already miss some of her irritants needs that I wished away at the time.

Night feeds being one. I was not a mother that loved being up during the night. I resented my husband, my children and everyone else who got to go to bed – to sleep. I hated going to bed not knowing how many hours nay minutes of sleep I would  get before being awoken by her hungry squawk. Wondering if this pattern of broken sleep that began (as any pregnant lady will tell you) at least seven months before the actual birth would ever, ever, end. Now, I look back at that time , when it was just me and her, having a feed, whispered chats, cuddles  and face tickles whilst the world slept and I MISS it.

No need for nigh-time comfort anymore!

No need for night-time comfort anymore!

Spoon feeding as ridiculous as it sounds. At the time, I hated how my own meal always had to wait as I fed my children first. Longed for the days when we could all sit together and eat our own meals, while they were still hot. Well, those days have been upon us for a while now and it is great, but in all honesty a teeny part of me misses not having to help.

We are about to start the process of toilet training, I really do not think that nappy changing is something I will miss. But who knows? When she cracks it, it will be the first time in 8 years that our household will be ‘nappy-free’. Actually having worked in childcare since I was 17 it will be the first time in ,cough, 25 years that nappies have not been a part of my day to day!!!

A good place to toilet train!

A good place to toilet train!

So, as unlikely as it is that I will miss nappy changing and all that jazz, I have after eight years of being a Mum, finally learned to stop wishing the time by. From this day forth  I promise to stop inwardly groaning when she says ‘ I follow you?’. Because yes, of course you can follow me, for as long or as short a period of time as you need. ( I just need to watch that creak in the floorboards as I tip-toe to the loo!)

She will go her own way soon enough!

She will go her own way soon enough!

Thanks for reading. What do your children do to drive you bananas? Please comment below.


The original version of this post appeared in mummypages, why not check them out?

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