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The benefits of screen-free play and how you can introduce it into your routine

The benefits of screen-free play and how you can introduce it into your routine

In this era of advanced technology, the allure of screens is undeniable, with countless kids preferring to spend their spare time engaging in digital play and entertainment over traditional toys and games. However, there is an ever-growing body of evidence that screen-free play boasts invaluable benefits for children and their development. This means that by introducing screen-free play into your child's routine, you are limiting screen time and opening up a world of possibilities for their growth and learning. 

As a leading advocate for screen-free play, Toys for a Pound has collaborated with industry experts to delve into the numerous benefits of introducing screen-free playtime into your child's routine. We've explored everything from fostering creativity and imagination to improving social skills and promoting physical activity. Stepping away from screens allows children to engage with the world holistically, greatly enhancing their cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and confidence. Join us as we take you through the top benefits of screen-free play for your little ones. 

Table of contents: 

  • What is screen-free play?
  • Why is screen-free time a good idea?
  • How much screen time should kids have?
  • What are the risks of too much screen time?
  • Top tips for limiting screen time
  • Best screen-free play ideas
  • What is screen-free play?

    “Screen time” refers to any time spent looking at a screen, such as a computer, TV, tablet, or phone. On the other hand, screen-free play refers to any play children can engage in that doesn’t involve a device with a screen. Some examples include outdoor free play and games, role-playing, or playing with toys and board games. 

    Why is screen-free time a good idea?

    According to the NHS, children have the greatest opportunity for development and learning when they engage and interact with adults and the wider world around them. However, using screens at a young age can harm a child's attention span, problem-solving, communication and social skills. Shockingly, just two hours of television can negatively impact a child's behaviour and ability to manage emotions. This underscores the importance of screen-free time for your child's overall development. 

    We also spoke to Georgina Sturmer, Counsellor, MBACP, who suggests that although screens may be stimulating for children, prolonged usage can reduce their multi-sensory natural environment to a set of sounds and lights on a screen. It can also limit their movement and motor skill development and discourage them from communicating with their peers and caregivers. She explains that when children are engaged in screen-free play, they can better enjoy their surroundings and develop their senses and physical and fine motor skills.

    How much screen time should kids have?

    The World Health Organisation suggests that children between 0 and 2 years old should have no daily screen time, children 2-4 years old should be limited to no more than an hour per day, and children 5+ should ideally be capped at 2 hours per day. 

    What are the risks of too much screen time?

    • Irregular sleep patterns caused by prolonged exposure to blue light. 
    • Less time is spent on real-life learning (e.g. reading books and sharing play) and interactions between parents/guardians and children. 
    • Watching high volumes of TV at a young age has been associated with concentration difficulties in later childhood. 
    • Computer and video games do not encourage the development of the front part of the brain, which controls behaviour, judgement and concentration. 

    Top tips for limiting screen time

    It’s highly unrealistic to expect children to have zero screen exposure. When used in moderation, screen time can be a great tool to supplement learning and provide entertainment. However, suppose you find that your kids are glued to their screens and are looking for ways to broaden their playtime horizons. In that case, there are a few top tips from counsellor & psychologist Georgina Sturmer that you can implement into your routine to help get your little ones engaged with screen-free play.

    1. Setting clear boundaries

    Children thrive on structure and boundaries, so setting clear boundaries around screen time early on in their lives and sticking to them is a great way to set them up for a healthy relationship with digital devices.

    2. Avoid using screen time as a reward

    Try to find ways to make screen-free play as engaging as possible to avoid your child viewing this time as a “punishment” and screen time as the “reward.” Tune into what your child enjoys and nurture their interests where possible.

    3. Role modelling

    Children learn directly from the adults around them, often copying what they do. Therefore, if you want to encourage screen-free play, ensure you’re taking the time to indulge in a little screen-free activity. This could involve spending time playing or reading with your children or simply allowing your child to see you engaging with something that doesn’t involve a screen.

    4. Allowing your child to be bored

    If a child complains about boredom, reaching for the screen to keep them entertained can be very tempting. However, reframing how we think about and experience boredom in childhood and adulthood is a great opportunity to tap into our creativity, relax, or help the mind wander and daydream to develop the imagination better. 

    Best screen-free play ideas

    Creative & crafts

    Arts and crafts sets are a great way to occupy young minds and little hands. Not only are they a fun way to pass the time and engage your children in screen-free play, but they’re also a great way to support your child's motor development and encourage their creativity and imagination. 

    Sensory play

    Another brilliant choice to get your kids engaging in something non-technological is through sensory play. Sensory toys have risen in popularity in recent years among children and adults alike and are a brilliant tool to introduce into your child's routine. Sensory play is extremely important to development, encouraging problem-solving, independent thinking, and discovery, as well as offering comforting qualities that can often help soothe and calm restless or anxious minds. You can learn more about sensory play's benefits in our comprehensive guide. 

    Play sets and activities

    We offer a wide range of play sets and activities for children of all ages to enjoy. From painting your own play sets and building your capsules to role-play sets and outdoor games, there are plenty of options to consider that encourage creativity and imagination to run wild and make for ideal screen-free play for the entire family. 

    Discover cheap kids' toys at Toys for a Pound

    At Toys for a Pound, we’re passionate about helping you unleash your child's creativity and let their imagination run free. That's why we’re here to provide some inspiration for ways you and your child can have fun and play away from a screen with options to fit all budgets available. From classic fan-favourite figurines from Marvel and DC to cult-classic collectables from Funko Pop and more, you’ll surely find the perfect choice to keep your little ones engaged and entertained without a single-screen 

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