Making screen time about more than just the screen.

Asking questions can be the best interaction during a movie.

Asking questions can be the best interaction during a movie.

There are days when moms just need breaks. These days come when mom is sick, there is a lot of cleaning to be done, or simply because life hits. Sometimes kids need breaks. We like to call these days, “Lazy days,” and I make sure we have one a month at least. They come after we do a lot of traveling, when there’s a lot of “life” going on, or because we just need some bonding time.

But I try not to make the day about plopping the kids in front of the screen (television, computer, iPad, LeapPad….) and not interacting with them. There have been numerous studies that show that if you interact with the kids during screen time, they will learn and retain more. Mostly, I use screen time as a time to teach them to follow story lines. Sometimes we use screen time to learn things (LeapFrog videos or NASA educaiton hour and various science shows/history shows). But a lot of the time it’s just about watching our favorite movies and TV shows on our off days.

I simply ask questions and listen to responses. They don’t have to be great responses – but they have to be ones that show my kids heard the question. Here’s the list of questions I have in my “Mom folder” and use when we are watching screen time. I’ve broken the questions down into two sets – one for non-educational programs and one for educational programs.

Questions for “fun” shows

1. What is happening?

2. What just happened?

3. What do you think will happen next?

4. Who is the main character?

5. What is the plot?

6. Who are all the other characters?

7. Why do you like this part of the movie?

8. What song are they singing?

9. Can you move like that? (I use this one when we watch anything with movement. Sometimes we run around like cars after the question, and sometimes we dance).

10. Where are they now?

11. When did that character do                                           ?

12. What does that remind you of?

13. Who is the protagonist and antagonist? (Yes, my kids know these terms. I use them and explain them while watching shows. I want them to get to know the proper literary terms as soon as possible).

* The key is to notice that none of these questions are “yes/no” questions. Instead they are somewhat open-ended and allow for interaction. I almost always grab the child in question and pull them onto my lap and cuddle while asking the questions (This won’t work for older kids. You might have to offer them a snack and pretend to be a cool mom instead).

Questions for educational videos

1. What are they talking about?

2. What have you learned?

3. Who is talking? Who is teaching?

4. When do you think you can use this?

5. Where does this work? (Mostly for science stuff).

6. What else do you know about this subject?

7. What else can you do with the things you are learning?

8. How might this work for us?

9. Can you sing me a song about what you learned? (My kids like to make up songs about what they learn).

10. How does this work with other things we have learned?

So why should I do this?

I’m not saying you have to do these questions – make up your own. But by asking questions you are interacting and reinforcing concepts the kids are learning in the videos. Even if they are playing a video game these questions work. It simply involved interaction with kids so that they aren’t all by themselves and becoming drones while watching screen time.

 

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