Montessori At Home Screen Time: A Practical Approach

Navigating screen time for my kids has at times felt like solving a complex puzzle. I have three young children, and I know there are negative impacts from too much screen time. At the same time, my kids are drawn to screens. They love watching cartoons, playing screen-based games, and even doing video dance classes. I have wondered, “How much screen time is the right amount?” and “Are some screen time tools more or less beneficial than others?” Parents may also wonder how screen time can fit into the workings of a Montessori home. Over the years, I have used a handful of strategies to help solve the screen time puzzle in our home. Here are a few ideas for how to approach Montessori at home screen time:

Consider How Kids Should Spend Time When Developing a Montessori at Home Screen Time Approach

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One of the ways I have navigated screen time in our home is to consider how I want my kids to spend their time. There are many things I want them to do that don’t utilize screens. By being intentional about the things I want my kids to do throughout the day, I focus less on taking away screens and more on facilitating opportunities for meaningful activities.

Montessori at home emphasizes many types of activities and experiences for kids. Teaching kids practical skills is a priority. Additionally, spending time outside and playing with meaningful toys are both important. As parents, we can focus on facilitating these experiences and making them accessible for kids at home. Providing tools for an outdoor gardening experience is one example of how parents can mediate Montessori-based activities. (The Montessori By Mom Shoots and Sprouts Toolbox makes this easy.) By prioritizing these activities before bringing in screens, there is less emphasis on taking away screens. This perspective also assures me that my kids are doing the activities that are most important for our family.

In recent years, we have implemented a list of “must-dos” in our house before screen time is available for our kids. This is especially relevant on days that our kids are home all day, such as during school holidays and summer breaks. Our kids must get dressed, brush their teeth, read, spend time outside, and practice piano before spending time on screens. While screen time is not unlimited after these activities, this practice ensures that some priority activities are achieved before we turn screens on. Some other ideas for activities to complete before screen time are homework, household chores, a walk outside, or caring for a pet.

Set Consistent Limits And Boundaries Around Screens

Another idea for how to approach Montessori at home screen time is to set consistent limits and boundaries around screens. Giving children freedom within limits is an important part of the Montessori philosophy. Children are often given agency and freedom to explore within the limits and boundaries designated for the area. One of our household rules is only allowing screens at specific times of the day. I have found that when I incorporate screens at designated times, like after lunch, it becomes part of our routine and my kids stop asking for screen time throughout the day.

I think it’s also helpful to approach these limits and boundaries with the understanding that they may change over time. For instance, we have a different approach to screens during the summer break when the kids are home most of the day than during the school year. Similarly, we have made changes to our approach during times that are more unusual for our family, like when we’re traveling or experiencing an illness.
Importantly, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization have issued guidelines on the recommended use of screens for children of various ages. These recommendations and information may help set the limits and boundaries that work best for your family. Some companies are making changes in the hopes of improving the quality of screen time for kids. Montessori by Mom reviewed one platform, KidTube.

Abandon Screen Time Guilt

Screen time can be a useful tool for parents to get a break. In my experience, I know that there are some things I cannot do with three kids running around. There are too many interruptions for any type of planning, whether it be retirement planning or meal planning. In my community, I have noticed that screen time guilt is common when parents use screens for a break more often than they’d like. Instead of hanging onto screen time guilt, I think it’s more effective to see it as a sign that parents need an actual break. Instead of blaming ourselves, it may be more helpful to look for support.
Support can come in many ways. Parents can consider hiring a babysitter or leaning on grandparents or friends for a break. Parent’s day-out programs and camps for kids can be helpful. Some gyms or recreation centers offer low-cost childcare. When finances do not allow for a babysitter, swapping babysitting with another parent may be a good option. I try to be gentle with myself and use creative ways to get the support I need in hopes of creating the life I want for my family. Abandoning guilt and getting support has been a helpful strategy for approaching screen time for our family.

There’s No One ‘Right’ Approach

In my experience, just about every family approaches screen time differently. I do not believe that there is one perfect approach. We all have different life circumstances and schedules. Screens can be used in many ways and different instances, shaping each family’s approach. Being intentional about how our kids spend their time and setting consistent limits and boundaries have helped our family navigate screen time with our kids. Additionally, getting support with child care so that I don’t lean on screens more than I want for a break has been helpful for me. I hope these ideas for how to approach screen time in a Montessori home are helpful as you cultivate your family’s approach.

Kelly Marie is a former scientist and mother of three young kids. She enjoys writing about her experiences in parenting and regularly creates free printable resources for parents and teachers for her blog Hey Kelly Marie. She currently lives in Kentucky with her family.

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