It seems every parent is looking for ways to reduce screen time in the home.
But how is that done practically?
There’s one practice that I’ve come to believe is 5x better than screen time: an all-family sport.
Literally 5x better in these five ways:
- You all get exercise
- You get to practice coaching your kids
- Your kids get to learn teamwork with their siblings
- Everyone learns a new skill
- It becomes more fun the more you master it
Now let’s talk through the top three challenges:
- What if we’re not a sporty family? Don’t let this stop you. In some ways it’s even more important to invest in this because you’re less likely to get the above advantages in another way.
- Where do we find the time and energy? The best time is usually after dinner 2-3x per week and once on the weekends. The energy comes from the fun. This may not be there on day one but you can increase this a lot over time (see tips below).
- What if we can’t think of a sport we can all do together? This may take a little imagination but there are a number of sports that can work for different age groups at the same time. Here are a few to get your imagination going:
- Martial Arts
- Swimming/Pool Games
- Golf/Putt Putt/Driving Range/Frisbee Golf
A few tips:
- Involving everyone at every level: We did tennis for a while and our two year old had a cart she would push around the court picking up the balls.
- Gamify it: What makes video games addicting is the frequency of positive reinforcement. Find things you can track and celebrate to help everyone feel the progress.
- Associate it with yum: Create traditions around certain snacks, meals, drinks or treats that are reserved for family sports time.
- Reduce friction: If equipment is involved make that as easy as possible. Put things into a bag and leave it in the car or by the front door. Don’t make getting ready for a sports time a project in itself.
- Make it automatic: Put it in your schedule and just automatically do it. Try not to make each time you play a decision-making process. You’ll find excuses to say no.
- Pick the one you like best: The parents’ ability to sustain this activity is usually the biggest variable in perseverance. So make it easy on yourself and pick something you enjoy doing most and work to get your kids to love it.
Once you choose a sport, get the equipment, schedule the time, and start to learn the basics, the fun and teamwork will begin to grow.
Be really disciplined for the first month. It gets easier.
The memories and bonding you’ll experience will fill your family with a sense of togetherness as you leave countless hours of screen time in the dust.
This entry is a part of Jeremy’s Journal, a newsletter Jeremy sends out every month to encourage you on your parenting journey. You can sign up to get them here.