Real Talk With Real Moms / Play and Screen Time

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Ah! I am SO excited to be writing this post right now, because it’s bringing me back to something I haven’t done in awhile - just some good old fashioned long winded blogging. If you’ve been along the journey with me for awhile, you’ll remember that for several years I blogged on a regular basis about my outfits, shopping, cocktails, fashion tips, and then motherhood. My regular posts took a backseat when I revamped my business in 2017 and put all my time into my clients, but I’ve really missed popping on here and sharing with you guys about whatever is on my mind. So when my mom blogger friends and I decided to bring back the Real Talk With Real Moms series, I was all over it.

If you’re new to Real Talk With Real Moms, it’s a monthly discussion about life with kiddos brought to you by a group of badass bloggers who are all working moms. We all have a variety of blog topics, viewpoints, and styles, so each of us brings a different voice to each topic. I know I love reading the other moms’ takes, so I can get tips and ideas on how to do it better myself. Cuz let’s face it, parenting is HARD. So I hope you enjoy this little break from fashion on my site to talk about being a mom. I know so many of you struggle with a lot of the same things I do, so I love to keep the discussion open!

Today we are all posting about play ideas and screen time, which I know for me has been a big one in my house now that Sailor is 3 and in constant need of attention and stimulation. Check out the posts from the other ladies as well, and stay tuned for another topic next month!

The Effortless Chic / Studio DIY / Natalie Borton / A Daily Something / Apartment 34

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Right now, we are in the thick of the screen time dilemma over at the Sheppard house. But then again, this day in age, I’m not sure there will ever be a time where it won’t be a topic of discussion. Sailor is at an age where her mind is always going, she has preferences/requests about EVERYTHING, and she wants constant interaction. She goes to preschool full time now, which means she is getting to exercise her brain basically all day (with a nap break somewhere in there). She comes home just vibrating with the excitement of everything she did that day, and is still bouncing off the walls. Literally the only thing that will calm her and bring her down to an energy level more consistent with the rest of us is a little bit of Pinkalicious, Sofia the First, or lately, The Sound of Music. Since this comes at a time when I also need to make dinner, I usually cave and let her veg out in front of the TV for a bit. If I had just played outside all day, I’d want to veg out too!

We tend to take a pretty middle of the road approach to a lot of aspects of parenting, so it just seems like a little bit of TV isn’t going to kill her. It’s when we stretch it a little too far that we start to see the changes in her mood. If we get a little too comfortable with the extra free time it gives us, and accidentally let her watch the entire movie after she had already watched a show that day, she goes into a headspace we prefer never to be. Tantrums, crying, irritable, demanding… even for the rest of the day. We always say “lesson learned.” So, we’re definitely not perfect parents when it comes to this, but if we can keep things in moderation, everything is usually in a good place.

So, what type of play do we find keeps her occupied without a screen? We don’t have a ton of toys in our house, for various reasons. Not in any extreme way - she has plenty - but we just don’t have a play room full of toys. The living room has one credenza where we store her most used ones, and any backups are kept in the garage. I’m constantly going through and getting rid of things that lost a lot of pieces or that she’s not reaching for. Most of these toys keep her occupied for a few minutes before she leaves them in the middle of the room and is on to the next. This whole process will last about 20 minutes tops before she’s looking to us for interaction. This can be challenging to say the least, but it does cause us to find activities that will genuinely engage her. A few of the most successful ones include:

  1. Making cards for loved ones. For the holidays, she and Madi (nanny turned BFF) made cards for every family member, friend, teacher, and Starbucks employee, all of which got mailed out or hand delivered. All it took were some blank cards from the dollar section at Target, rubber stamps, markers, and stickers. Something about the idea of making something for a specific person really inspires her. Now we’re onto Valentines.

  2. Reading books. Sailor has always been book obsessed, which is awesome. Sometimes she’ll sit and “read” by herself, but she’s happiest sitting with one of us and reading together.

  3. Playing “tennis.” Actually badminton. Surprisingly, this is kind of a sport that can be played in the house. No net of course.

  4. Yoga. The girl loves yoga. We get out the mats and she’ll show us the moves/chants she’s learned in her preschool yoga class (I know). She loves 3 legged dog the most. But you don’t have to have yoga at school to try this one. She’s always been fascinated by all the poses.

  5. The park. What kid doesn’t love the park? Sailor would never turn a trip down. Every time she goes, she challenges herself to try something she hasn’t done before. It’s great because it gets us out of the house and exercising, and allows her to practice her physical skills.

  6. FaceTiming with family who live far away. This one is a gray area because it involves the screen, but Sailor loves connecting with her grandparents, aunts, and uncles this way. She’ll put the phone on a gorilla pod, attach it to her scooter, and take them all for (very dizzy/choppy) rides.

  7. Walking the dogs. She loves to take the leash and feel like an adult. She gets tired and asks to stop and “take a moment” along the way, but it’s another fun activity that involves exercise and also crosses something off the To Do list.

  8. Dressing up. Whether we like it or not, we’ve managed to collect a plethora of princess dresses and it’s not a normal day if she’s not requesting to put one on at some point. It’s not much of an activity because she just puts it on and goes about her day, but there’s a whole ritual around deciding which princess she wants to be that day, and it seems like it’s helping her navigate “girl life” somehow.

There’s one common theme amongst most of these. They all require an adult to do them interactively with her, or be overseeing it in some way. At the end of the day, she’s happiest when she’s playing WITH us. It can be draining when there’s a million other things to get done and it feels like she’s never satisfied, but it’s a good reminder that ultimately kids her age just want to spend time with us. I’m sure I’ll welcome the day when she’s happier to play on her own, but I know I’ll miss her looking to me for attention as much as she does now.

I’d love to know what your toddlers’ favorite activities are, because I’m definitely in need of ideas! Let me know if you enjoy these types of posts and if you have any requests of topics you’d like to see discussed!


Photography by Ashley Burns

Real Talk With Real Moms / Technology

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Kids and technology. I'm not sure if it's always been this way since I'm new to the parenting game but I feel like this is such a hot topic these days! Everyone seems to have an opinion about it, yet so many things change between the generations that new parents are always navigating a different set of challenges. Today in Real Talk With Real Moms, we are all sharing our family policies, values, and the struggles we deal with when it comes to our kids' technology use. I know I always say this, but I'm genuinely dying to hear about how other families tackle this because for us it's been such a daily debate and I would sure love to feel like I'm not alone in this. Be sure to read the posts on the topic on Design for Mankind, The Fresh ExchangeThe Effortless Chic, Natalie Borton, and Ave Styles, and weigh in with your thoughts!

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There's nothing like having a child to show you some hard truths about yourself. One of the first things Ian and I noticed was how much WE are on our phones around Sailor. It's just natural - we reach for them right when we wake up, and are constantly checking them throughout the day. When I think about how many times Sailor has watched me with my face buried in my phone, I could actually cry. Being so young, she barely even knows what this thing is or why Mommy has a blank look on her face, and staring at that little black screen again. This video I saw on Jaimi Brooks' blog has been haunting me, even though it's not specifically about this topic. It's about an experiment that was conducted to see how babies respond to parents who aren't engaged vs. when they are present. It made me realize what I look like to Sailor when I'm looking at my phone. In this day in age and with a job that is so social media driven, it's SO hard for me to avoid that screen, but I have to admit: this is my "I'm a terrible mom" topic de jour. I really try to keep my time on the phone to a minimum around her or will at least hide it as best I can, checking it while she's occupied with something else. Heck, this is a good exercise for all of us, kids or no kids. Trying to make our phone time more intentional, less aimless. It sure helps us avoid wasting time and getting lost in that rabbit hole. These days, I'm really thinking a lot about this, and making a conscious effort, challenging myself everyday to keep in tune with what's most important.

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But parents aside, how does technology affect our kids when they're the ones using it? There are so many movements about keeping them off it. Whenever I see one of those "unplugged" hashtags, I have to admit, I feel a bit of a loaded vibe. Maybe it's just playing into one of my insecurities as a parent, since I have no idea how parents can really keep their kids off of technology 100%. I mean, it's everywhere! We live in a time where the internet and phones are what make the world go round. At the same time, I'm honestly terrified that the bubble is going to burst at some point, and we'll all realize that riding the wave and letting our screens progressively start to rule our lives is a mistake. Research is already starting to show how the endless consumption of it affects our kids. This article from The Atlantic called Have Smartphones Destroyed A Generation? really stuck with me. It's the first piece of literature I read where I felt like I got a feasible glimpse into our children's future if things stay on this track, and it's what made me want to draw a line in the sand. If you're a parent, I definitely recommend giving it a read.

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The effect of the screen on Sailor is very apparent. We never intended to start "giving" her a phone, but how could we blame her for being curious about these ever present devices? It took her exactly no time to figure out how to navigate the apps and find the ones that were interesting to her, all in just the time we weren't looking and didn't even notice she had grabbed one of our phones. When she does get her hands on one for a few minutes, she becomes cracked out Sailor. She gets this dazed look on her face, and you suspect that she wouldn't notice if the house was burning down. Then, if you abruptly take it away, she reacts like a junky whose just had their last crack pipe swiped. But yet... those mornings where I have exactly 30 minutes to get myself showered, dressed, made up, and a couple of emails sent before we have to leave while Sailor is in a mood and somehow only happy if she can get her hands on some scissors or anything that will hurt someone or cause a problem of some kind, cover her face in long wearing liquid lipstick (the other day she managed to spread an oxblood Kylie lip kit all over her eye making her look like she'd been punched in the face right before we had to go to a public place), or ransack the bathroom, it's literally amazing what turning on Thomas can do for my sanity. It's peaceful, quiet, she loves it, and I can keep my heart beating at a normal rate. How can I enforce such a strict rule against it in those moments when it's the only thing that keeps things in some kind of order?

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What it has come down to for us is balance and boundaries. It's important to us that TV and technology be a rare treat, and we do our best to keep within those lines. Here are the rules we try to stick to:

1. It has to be a last resort. That means we've tried everything else first. Books, toys, "helping mommy" with x, y or z, providing random activities (lately she LOVES "doing dishes" and will stand at the sink on a chair for an hour at a time), handing her a household item she's never played with, snacks, going outside, you name it. If none of those things work and I'm either going crazy or need a few minutes to do something important, then we finally give in an resort to the phone or a show. This generally happens about once a day, either at home or while we're running errands. She's starting school in a week, so I think that's going to help bring more balance into her life too.

2. We keep the choices limited. We don't want her to get used to having access to too much, so we keep one or two games on the phone (the Peek-a-boo Barn games are our one go-to), and we use the PBS Kids app for shows. That way if she were to get bored, it's time to put it away rather than try to find another game or show to watch. Any content she consumes has to be educational. So even though Ian works in kids' television and his company makes a plethora of amazing shows and movies, right now we're sticking to Elmo, Thomas, and Daniel Tiger. It just feels right to keep it simple for now.

3. There has to be a time limit. While sometimes we end up pushing it a little too long, ideally we try to keep it to 30 minutes or less, and then it's "Say 'bye bye' Thomas," and we better be prepared to offer her something even better like a ride in the car or a trip to the park. Luckily there usually comes a point where she's  happy to say goodbye and move on to something else.

4. Be kind to ourselves. This is the newly added rule, and one I'm still working on. I'm trying to be forgiving of myself for allowing her to consume technology from time to time. At the end of the day, Sailor is a well rounded child and she loves a plethora of activities from playing outside to reading books, dancing, and going on outings. And parenting is hard. If technology sneaks into the mix sometimes, it's not the worst thing in the world. I honestly think if your intentions are in the right place and you're doing the best you can as a parent, then you and your child are going to be perfectly fine.

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I really want to know how other parents handle this. Does anyone successfully have a no-technology household for their kids? Teach me your ways!

Photography by Ashley Burns

 

 

Real Talk With Real Moms / Chores

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It's so crazy to me that I'm writing a post about Sailor doing "chores" right now when it just feels like a matter of months ago that this child was a blob of an infant who did nothing but nurse, sleep, and poop. How can she already be put to work as an actual helpful member of the family? Well we're definitely on the young end of kids' ages that would make sense to be covering this topic alongside the rest of the Real Talk With Real Moms bloggers but much to my surprise (and delight), Sailor has been starting to do things that could sort of be described as chores, so here we are. But we're definitely very new to this one, so I'm surely going to be looking for insight from my fellow moms who are also posting on this subject today! Be sure to check out their thoughts too:

Hey Mama / Ave Styles / Design for Mankind / The Effortless Chic / Design Addict Mom

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Growing up, my chores were very much a part of my daily routine. I was expected to make my bed, keep my room clean, and help out around the house. On weekends my sister and I had more involved chores like folding laundry, helping with cleaning, and whatever else my parents needed done. Not that we were put to work all weekend, but we'd definitely have a list of a few chores that we did NOT want to do, and then we were able to enjoy ourselves for the rest of the time. Now I see how valuable those rules were to making me a contributing member of the family, and someone who understands as an adult what it takes to run a household.

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Sailor is at an age where she loves to mimic what she sees us doing, even if she doesn't quite understand the purpose of everything. Her new thing just this week is pushing the kitchen chairs up to the sink, and getting up there to do "dishes" which entails trying to drink the soapy water out of whatever cups are in there and splashing everywhere. She'll do it for an hour and LOVES it. We've discovered that if she feels like she's helping out, she's much happier than if she's just being told to play or read her books. So I've started actually asking her to help me out. Picking up the makeup brushes and putting them away. Gathering all her books on the floor and putting them in the basket, etc. Having little receptacles around for her toys and books has been perfect because she will start to clean up on her own as an activity. She's perfectly happy to spend her time taking toys out of a bin only to put them back in. Obviously this is awesome. I try to let her know how much I "appreciate her help" and she's pleased to get the affirmations. She may be too young to understand what it really means to help out but I feel like we are teaching her how to make herself useful and for right now that feels like a win.

If any of you mamas have older kids I would love to hear how you start to incorporate chores as they become old enough to actually get stuff done, and what it means to do chores in your family!

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Dress by Elm Street Textiles (my mom)

Photography by Ashley Burns