On Screen Time and Sanity

I've never been an anti-screen mom. I actually remember asking a seasoned mom friend one day when my first was around 20 months old, "So when do kids start actually watching TV?" 

I'm all for free play and creativity and building blocks and jumping on the trampoline, but in case you haven't noticed recently, children are awake for many, many, many hours each day. And sometimes momma needs to shower or make dinner or answer three e-mails without someone whining in her face about more fruit snacks.

Enter: The Fire Kids Edition Tablet. Also known as: What Did We Do Before That Thing? My oldest son Everett doesn't nap anymore, but we have a set "quiet time" every day from 1-3pm. Lately, we've nestled into a pretty sweet routine: he does art projects at the kitchen table with a lollipop for the first hour, and then reads/plays games for the second hour. With access to over 13,000 age-appropriate videos, books, educational apps and games, he never runs out of fun and interesting things to explore. 

My favorite features: parental controls (a must when your preschooler is using technology!), a daily time limit setting (we keep ours at one hour a day), a crazy durable case (for when your kid accidentally drops it down the stairs), and the one-year subscription to Amazon FreeTime Unlimited that comes with your purchase (a collection of tons of amazing content curated for kids 3-12). 

If you (or Santa, or Grandma) are still looking for a gift idea this holiday season, I can't recommend The Fire Kids Edition Tablet enough. It's $99 (and comes with a two-year guarantee!), but it will also keep you sane on long car rides and rainy days and can you really put a price tag on that?


We can just call this a gift for everyone. #winwin

Here are some of our favorite books and games to explore!

Book Recommendations by N'tima:

  • Goodnight Moon (Ages 1+): This classic is so loved in our home. Both of my daughters request it to be read nearly every night before bed, and adore the attention to detail that this little book slowly and quietly demands. The simple pictures, repetition, and sing-song wording makes this story a toddler favorite.
  • People (Ages 3+): People is a beautiful introduction to young children on the rich diversity that is in our world. It shows children how cultures are different all over the globe and how needfully colorful those differences make us. It is presented in a fact-based, unbiased way, and emphasizes that though we are different, we all share this planet, and breathe the same air - which is a profound message in and of itself.
  • The Wonderful Things You Will Be (Ages 2+): This gorgeous illustrated and poetic book is a testament to the unconditional love we have as parents for our children, no matter who or what they become. I love that it is written with the imagination of a child, and brings to life the magic of that childlike wonder. I shed a tear or two every time I read it to my girls.
  • One Love (Ages 2+): One Love is a charming book that was adapted from Bob Marley’s popular song by his daughter Cedella. It uses his fun lyrics combined with darling illustrations to capture the beauty in love, service, and community. It teaches our kids that we are big enough to make a difference if we can come together as one. The message throughout is simple, but weighty.
  • Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon (Ages 2+): This sweet book is about loving yourself and embracing the parts of yourself that are not “perfect.” It has been a fun way to teach my little girls to practice self-confidence, determination, and positivity in spite of their quirks, and how to respond to bullies if they ever encounter them.

App Recommendations by Anna Jordan:

  • There’s A Monster At the End of This Book (ages 2-5): This is the interactive version of the well-known Sesame Street book. In this book, Grover is terrified because he reads that there’s a “monster at the end of this book.” On each page he sets up roadblocks to keep the reader from moving ahead. My kids love to click on all the knots to untie them or knock down the bricks in order to turn the page. Of course, there’s not really a monster at the end of the book. It’s just “loveable furry old Grover.” Grover narrates the story, so it’s a fun book for kids to do independently. We first discovered it on a plane ride from Los Angeles to Chicago when my son was about 3 years old. He “read” it countless times and giggled through every read!
  • Breathe, Think, Do (ages 2-4): Monster from Sesame Street is having trouble, and you have to help calm him down. He has five different areas of struggle. For example, Monster doesn’t want to go to bed. The narrator provides instruction on how to help monster calm down and go to sleep. First, you tap monster’s tummy to help him calm down. He breathes s l o w l y (my three year-old was frustrated by this at first, but then the app also helped her calm down) and changes color from red to light blue (indicating that he’s calm). Thought bubbles appear, and you have to pop the bubbles to help him come up with a solution to his problem. This game is a great learning tool (based off the Sesame Street Belly Breathing song) that helps kids learn how to calm down and think of solutions to problems. My kids have loved to tap monster’s belly and pop the bubbles. I’ve loved referencing belly breathing when things get stressful.
  • Daniel Tiger’s Grrr-ific Feelings (ages 2-4): My kids are all big Daniel Tiger fans, so it’s not a surprise that they’ve gravitated towards this particular game. However, like the show, this game is educational, simple, and fun. The game focuses on Daniel, and there are four different game elements that all center around feelings. My girls love the sing-along game (probably because it is most like the show). They click a picture and sing along with one of the well-known feelings songs. My 18 month-old really isn’t old enough to navigate a touch screen, but she loves to sit next to her sister and “play” this one with her. Each of the four games in this app are very easy, and the instructions are clearly narrated.
  • Cut the Rope (ages 4+): This game is legitimately challenging. It’s engaging and fun (and kind of addicting). We have some pretty specific screen time parameters at our house, but my five year-old would play this for an hour if I let him. Let’s be honest, if I had the time, I might play it for an hour. The levels range in difficulty, and the players have to earn stars in order to advance. The premise is exactly as it sounds: there’s a little green frog character called an OmNom. You have to feed him a piece of candy that is tied to a rope (or series of ropes) – cut the rope in order to get the candy into his mouth. When my son was four, he could complete many of the lower levels without assistance. Now he’s more adept at strategy and has better spatial awareness, so he can advance further independently. However, off and on he will have to call on me to help him get past a certain level… and then I’m sucked in forever and have to make extra coffee to manage my OmNom feeding stress. It’s actually really fun, and it’s a great bonding activity for our afternoon quiet time when the little sisters are asleep.
  • Toca Lab (ages 5+): The Toca Lab is a virtual science lab that introduces kids to the periodic table of elements in a really clever manner. Each element comes to life, makes funny noises, and then responds to different experiments in the lab. You can pour dry ice on them, spin them in a centrifuge, boil them, split them apart, etc. As a mom, I can see the clear educational elements at play; however, my five year-old isn’t really grasping the significance of each of the actions. But he is able to follow the periodic table and understand the similarities and differences of the elements as he interacts with them in the virtual lab. The directions on this game are not very clear, but my son has enjoyed figuring out how the app works (perhaps there’s a lesson in experimenting there too!). Also, at different times, the elements yell “Toca Boca!” – if you’re anything like we are you may never stop saying that phrase.

We're all going to be traveling over the holidays and would LOVE to know what's keeping your kiddos occupied on the screens these days. Feel free to leave your book, video, and app recs in the comments! 

This post was sponsored by Amazon, a brand that all of the C+C writers regularly use and love. We legitimately do not know how our mothers survived Christmas shopping without Amazon Prime. Thank you for supporting the brands who occasionally contribute to the growth and success of Coffee + Crumbs!