3 ways to help kids transition away from screens smoothly

As many parents would have experienced, young children need to learn emotional self-management to be able to transition from one activity they are enjoying to the next activity without a meltdown. Many parents find helping a child finish using a screen device challenging.

As part of a study funded by the Australian Research Council called “Young Children in Digital Society”, Playgroup WA families have been trying out different ideas to support their child transition smoothly from using a screen to the next activity.

The project was a collaboration between Playgroup WA, ABC Kids, Raising Children Network, Australian Catholic University and Curtin University.

Parents found 3 ways to help kids transition away from screens smoothly:

  1. Strategising:
    letting your child know that you can see they are/were enjoying the screen activity, then suggesting the next activity.                                          Setting routines: for example, finding the combination of strategies that works for your child and consistently using them whenever facilitating a transition.

    giving your child advance notice that they will need to end the screen activity.

    creating your child’s interest in the next activity, for example setting up a craft activity they can move to.

    Providing choice and some control:
    giving your child a choice, for example presenting two options for an activity to transition to or letting your child choose a toy they will take with them to the next activity … and some control, for example holding the remote to turn off the screen.
  2.  Singing: singing a song with your child to break the visual connection with screen viewing and link to the next activity. The song could be about the next activity, for example brush the teeth song, or just some song your child likes singing. Audio technology can be used to help with the song too.
  3. Inspiring: you and your child co-viewing content guided by you that shows some activity – to inspire your child to want to leave the screen and do that activity. This could be:
  • fun active play like building an obstacle course or a treasure hunt, or
  • fun ideas for craft or cooking, or
  • creating an interest such as going to the beach, nature in the park or trampolining.

Parents reported that using these ideas helped reduce the difficulties their children had in smoothly transitioning to different activities.