I have three children: 6, 4, and almost 2. I see firsthand how sponge-like their minds are, ready and eager to learn and discover new things. As a stay-at-home-mom it is a lot of work to provide constant, uplifting engagement for children. I often get tired and need a break from the constant demands my children require from me. I LOVE nap time! It’s a great time for me to focus on things needing to get done, for me to work on things I want to do with no distractions, and really, let’s face it, a nap for myself every now and then.
These days only my youngest naps. Right after lunch she sleeps for about 2 hours. In order for her to sleep that long, I need to make sure the older two are adequately entertained. I also feel like her nap time should be “quiet time” for everyone. Luckily my older boys are still eating lunch when I put my youngest down for a nap. They spend time finishing their food and goofing off a bit with each other. Once she’s been in her room for a bit is when I crack down on the quiet rule. (This is what works at my house – you probably have something that works for you).
I have found the following work well at my house: computer games, iPod games, iPad apps, movies, or a few 20-minute shows (ie Amazon Prime/Netflix).
Computer Games entertain my young kids. Our computer is in our den – next to the kitchen and living room. Right in the center traffic of our home. I really only let them play on certain websites. Ones I know the content is safe and there is a variety of content: shapes, letters, numbers, reading, songs, books, math, science, money, clocks, etc. Most of the time my 4-year-old stays on the page just fine and knows where to click. Every now and then he needs some assistance. My 6-year-old can read and navigate throughout the computer enough to leave him alone. So far I’ve been lucky and he is very trustworthy on the computer and is very obedient with the rules.
iPods also have great apps for kids. I love letting my 4-year-old explore the different apps we have downloaded. We purchased an 8gb iPod two years ago for my older son. We only downloaded educational apps onto the device. That way he could navigate freely throughout the iPod and do what he wanted. He’s older now and likes to play Angry Birds… That is now on the iPod and requires some rules when playing. I like him to play some of the other apps before he dives into Angry Birds, but he doesn’t always have to. Sometimes he will go to other apps on his own after playing Angry Birds. We also have the WiFi turned off so the internal ads in some apps don’t allow purchases to be made.
iPads have a variety of apps that can’t be downloaded onto an iPod. Unfortunately the iPad at our house is mine and I have my own apps on it, as well. This requires a bit more trust from my kids to use. The screen is locked with a password only I know. There are also folders for kid apps on the second screen. My sons can navigate to their folders easily on their own. They don’t try and go into my apps. They know they’re nothing exciting so it hasn’t been an issue so far. (A year ago I did find my older son confused and talking to Siri. It was quite hilarious and a story for another post!) The WiFi is usually turned on for my iPad. I let my kids watch shows on the PBS kids app.
Movies/Shows are usually used when I want to take a nap myself and my kids will stay quiet for a longer time with no interruptions. We don’t have a TV at our house (gasp if you want). We stream everything we need or want to watch on our 27” iMac. I can put a movie on for the kids from iTunes or turn on Amazon Prime and get them a movie or a show. My 6-year-old can navigate enough to get them another episode if they’re watching something short.
Two main points I try to follow:
1. Once a day. We try hard to stick with once a day during nap time. When everyone is awake I like my kids to interact with each other and to be present. Screens on can be a distraction and their attention isn’t present. Sometimes if things are getting out of hand at dinner time (i.e. I can’t make dinner when everyone is cranky and needs me), we put on a quick show.
2. I try to skip a day here or there. I struggle feeling good about myself as a parent if I let my kids have screen time everyday! They’re still young (I know once they get older I won’t be able to control everything)! Playing Legos, reading books, and board games are also activities they can play alone and quietly. Nap time at our house is “quiet time,” so I like them to be as self-entertained as possible, giving me a break. Some weeks it might be everyday. I try harder then next week to have a break day.
This is what works for my family! Every family and household is different. Naps and electronics might be a separate ball game at your place. I’d love to hear what works for you!