Balancing Screen Time and STEAM Time

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Every parent knows how difficult it can be to tear your child away from their screens. You’ve likely tried to start a conversation with your child amidst their favorite show only to be met with shushes or complete silence. You’ve also likely walked into a room and witnessed your child engaging with three layers of screens all at once: TV, laptop, phone. As much as you wish your child was more passionate about STEM/STEAM passions, you just can’t seem to get them interested or engaged. Well, there are techniques you can integrate into your house that will allow your kids to get both the screen time they crave and the STEAM time that they’ll soon come to love.

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1) Use TV as a reward system

It can be easy, especially on summer break, for kids to get consumed with watching cartoons or playing on their phones all day. One way to make sure they stay engaged is to use their TV time as a reward system. So, for example for every few hours of TV time they do, they have to do one hour of STEAM activities. Don’t get us wrong, you’ll definitely get some resistance at first. Once that rule has been established though, eventually they’ll get used to it and the whining will be kept to a minimum. It also helps when you shop around until you find a STEAM activity that they’re actually excited for because then, although you may still get some resistance, it will feel more like they’re taking a TV break to play a game than to do something purely educational.

2) Encourage STEAM-based TV programming

You can balance STEAM and screen time well, but you can also encourage STEAM-based programming to keep them stimulated even when it is TV time. There are so many STEM & STEAM-based programs out there for young minds of varying ages. For younger kids, there are shows like Sci-Girls, Sid the Science Kid, and Magic School Bus (which we all remember). And for older STEAM learners there are shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy and How Stuff Works. Again, you’ll likely get some resistance at first, but once you find the right show you’ll find your kids electing to watch Sci-Girls over Doc Mcstuffins (and what a good feeling that will be).

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3) Add in STEAM-based gaming apps

If you have trouble tearing your little ones away from their screens, make their screens part of their STEAM learning. Instead of finding physical activities for them, find apps for your/their phones/iPads and make that their designated STEAM time for the day. Instead of playing Doodlejump, they’ll play Orbit which is a science game where the goal is to keep your planet from being devoured by a black hole. Or they’ll play Bridge Constructor in which they design a bridge to see if it will hold up against certain levels of stress. They could even play The Robot Factory in which they design their own robot and test it to see if it can walk, run, fly, etc. As with any game on their phone, there will likely be a shelf life as to how long they find it engaging, but just make sure to research and find backups to introduce them to- there are so many out there from which to choose!

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4) Make it a family activity

Instead of having family bonding nights be over Monopoly or Twister, make this the time to do a physical STEM or STEAM activity as a family. You likely already make family game nights a part of your schedule as a way to have some screen-free bonding time, what better time to incorporate some physical STEAM activities! Incorporate a game like Code Master which teaches programming logic through a board game. Or Roller Coaster Challenge which helps kids to develop engineering skills, reasoning skills, and planning skills. Utilizing board games like this, rather than your more traditional ones, will allow for the same amount of quality family time with the hidden bonus of education.