Every year we take a break from screens at the start of the year to help us reset our habits and affections as a family. It’s usually much-needed after the holidays! Read more about No Screen New Year and get some fresh screen free ideas.
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The holidays are over, and while I loooooove the traditions and fun and festivities, I get equally excited for the freshness and tidiness of the new year. I don’t usually make very many resolutions– because, let’s be honest, I know I won’t really stick with most– but what I do love is prepping for the year ahead in a few different ways.
Like most people, I start the year reassessing how our home is organized and purging what we don’t need. After the Christmas decorations are put away, I let our home “breathe” a little and be a clean slate for a while. It’s lovely and a welcome contrast to the fullness of the holidays.
Another “tradition” we do in January is to take a break from screens-– video games, shows, and movies. The months of November and December are so busy, especially with my work routine, and the entire family tends to spend more time than usual consuming shows and movies.
We embrace the extra fun and rest at the time, and I am thankful for easy ways to keep the kids occupied while I work extra hours, but by the time New Year’s rolls around, I know that we could all benefit from a screen-free month.
January also happens to be a great time for a screen-free reset too, because everyone (parents included) has new books and toys to hold our attention.
For the fourth year, I am sharing about our screen-free reset on Instagram and inviting other families to join in. I’m going to explain a little more about why we do this and what it looks like in our own home in this post, but I want to be very clear that there is no one right way to participate! If you feel like your family could benefit from this, make it your own, and then be sure to tag me and use the hashtag #noscreennewyear if you choose to share.
I would love to see what everyone is up to instead of screens this month, what your break looks like, and to see how the break is helping your family too!
Check the bottom of this post for my reading list for the year (coming soon), screen-free alternatives for all ages (free printable), family games, activity book ideas, how to create a family reading culture, and more.
No Screen New Year :: 30-Day Reset of Habits & Affections
Why take a break from screens?
I love the way my friend put it when I was talking to her about our break from screens. She said it was like doing a “Whole 30 for the heart and mind”. What a fabulous way to put it! After “gorging” ourselves and all manner of treats and specialties, taking a break from screens is a way to reorient our affections and our habits in healthy ways. (Both ours and our childrens’!)
Probably one of the most important considerations is why even to do a screen-free reset in the first place?! As with most things, it helps to know your “why” when you are trying to embark upon something potentially difficult.
Instead of listing off a bunch of negative reasons, though, I am going to focus on the positive motivations. Focusing on the good that you hope to achieve will always be more compelling than focusing on what you are trying to avoid. (Spoiler, it would be pretty easy to turn these around and read between the lines to know the negatives too).
- Being “bored” and having down-time helps kids create their own fun and use their imaginations. This may be difficult the first week as kids transition, but given opportunity and practice, kids can definitely adjust!
- Extra free time affords more opportunity for reading. We will be doing a couple of family reading times, as well as have a family reading goal we will work towards.
- Time in the evening that would be movie time will instead be time to play games together, be creative/crafty, and read aloud together. We have lots of games to play, lots of craft projects to work on, and we love listening to books together.
- I will be pushed to reestablish more intentional/involved parenting habits that can be relaxed during the holidays. Instead of just turning on a show, I will be pushed to slow down, sit down, read aloud, and participate. It will be good for all of us.
- Taking a break from screens after the kids go to bed will be more effective opportunities for mom and dad to connect rather than just veg out. (This one can be hard, but is so worth it! We are picking a book to read aloud together a couple nights a week, we might do a game once a week, and other nights can spend time on our personal hobbies.)
- Earlier bedtimes for all! This one is going to be an especially needed advantage for me because I desperately need to get back in a habit of getting up earlier in the morning!
What times of day will be the most affected?
There are three times of the day that will be the most affected by our screen-free reset, so I want to share how I am going to be pro-active to navigate those times.
Before the holidays, screen-time in the mornings was not a thing. But with the relaxed school schedule, my kids have become accustomed to watching some cartoons a few mornings a week when they wake up, and the week after Christmas I was also a lot more lax about game time.
The best thing I have found to help my kids not become frustrated that they can’t watch a show in the mornings is to have something either set-up when they wake up or to at least have a play option in mind to suggest.
If a child wakes up to “an invitation to play”, their desire for screens can quickly be forgotten or dismissed with a fun alternative.
I focus on quiet play in the mornings, so building a structure with blocks, setting out clean paper and drawing supplies, having a stack of fun books and a cozy blanket, etc, can all be a welcome sight in the morning.
(It’s also really helpful to tidy before bed so we wake up to clean spaces to play.)
I think the most consistent time that parents rely on screens for is the late afternoon or early evening period when everyone is starting to get tired or restless, or the parent is trying to start thinking about/preparing for dinner. It’s easy and effective to simply turn on a movie to occupy the kids.
While this time of the day can be the most challenging because it is what we are used to, it can also be the one in which you see the most fruit from a screen-free reset.
The first thing is to acknowledge that it will require more effort on your part, at least initially. Don’t be surprised that your help is needed more, but this is the time to remind yourself of your why.
My plan for this time is to have an actual written-out list of options for my kids to choose from. This way I am not telling them what to do, (which can result in instant balking), but giving them the responsibility and the opportunity to decide what they would like to do.
This time of the day is when imaginations and creativity shine. Go ahead and let your kids be bored and see what happens. If the weather is agreeable, send them outside. If they simply can’t find ANYTHING to do, there are always chores, (including helping to make dinner!)
The last thing I want to say about this time of the day is that I find it helps to give kids a chance to settle down before dinner. Unless they are already sitting quietly and contentedly (saying drawing or playing with a small collection of legos), I always have them clean up and then have book time before dinner.
This is THE BEST THING because (a) they clean up their mess, (b) there are no injuries or disputes requiring my attention, and (c) I am able to focus on the last part of dinner prep which is usually a little more involved.
UPDATE; This year I gifted the family an Aro box for Christmas. In short, it’s a box that encourages putting up devices to have undistracted time together. For No Screen New Year this year, we are going to use the Aro box strategically by setting hours when our devices (phones and mp3 players) stay in the box so that we can focus on digital-free fun and connection with one another. I’m so excited about the potential here.
If you have older kids who are used to staying up later and watching screens, or that is you and your spouse’s routine, then this screen-free time can also be a little challenging.
I get it. You’re tired and just want to chill out. That’s me most nights too.
But again, this challenge is meant to be a reset. To push us a little. To help us build habits that last.
Pick a couple of nights to play games together. Select a book with “story-grip” that you will look forward to reading together. Get an audiobook that you can listen to while you do a puzzle/craft/hobby.
My hope for our family is that this time of the day will help to break up our reliance on television at night as our primary source of entertainment.
I am also FULLY ON BOARD with the fact that #noscreennewyear will mean we all go to bed earlier. This needs to happen, y’all! We have gotten in the habit of staying up WAY too late!
Whether you challenge yourself to a full reset of no screens for a month, or just try to intentionally reduce screen usage in your house, I hope that this series encourages and inspires you! Don’t forget to tag me and share the hashtag (#noscreennewyear) if you do jump in!
Check out these resources to help you along your #noscreennewyear this month ::
- Family Screen Free Reset printables (set a weekly rhythm, set goals, track progress, & more) Available in my Etsy Shop
- Screen-Free Alternatives for All Ages (click to print a copy)
- Mega Arts & Crafts Gift Guide
- 10 Fun Kids Activity Books || Kids Boredom Busters
- Five Fast Family Games You Can Play in Fifteen Minutes
- Huge List of Favorite Audiobooks for the Whole Family
- How to Keep Toddlers Busy At Home
- Great Family Movie Night Picks
- Follow on Instagram for more regular tips and ideas!