We’re not big on screens for entertainment here— we don’t even have a television. Adam and I do, of course, stream shows or movies from time to time on the computer, but that’s about it. I didn’t have much access to TV when I was younger, as my family lived in the middle of nowhere and there were only 3 channels. So sitting for hours in front of the tube has never felt natural for me. As such, my son has extremely limited screen time.
I want to offer up-front that screen time is a personal decision based on a multitude of factors. I’m neither judging, nor on a soap box— I’m simply sharing our reality. Adam and I work from home and have only have 1 child, and all three of us are healthy and able-bodied. As such, it has been easy for us to stick to our plan as far as screen time is concerned. This is certainly not the case for many families. To each his/her/their own— we are all trying to do our best!
West is never allowed a device in the car. If he gets upset, we pull over. By his carseat, he has a divided basket of books, window clings, and soft toys that he can access on his own as he chooses.
He’s also not permitted to watch an iPad or iPhone during a meal. If he loses his cool, we take him outside the restaurant until he calms down, and very rarely we just abruptly pack up and head home. We almost always use a to-go kit of books and activities at restaurants to keep him interested when his attention to the meal and conversation wanes. (More on that below.)
When West wiggles wildly during diaper changes, we give him audio/mechanical greeting cards to keep him entertained.
Adam and I do let our toddler watch an 8 minute episode of Sarah and Duck or Puffin Rock after he showers while I’m brushing out his long, messy curls and clipping his nails, because otherwise I think he’d be terrified of that somewhat uncomfortable routine. And, occasionally in the early evenings when Adam is making dinner and I’m not yet done with work, West gets to watch an episode. When he was sick with a fever recently, he watched The Snowy Day. He also uses FaceTime with family for however long the conversations happen to run.
I frequently post Instagram Stories showing West at restaurants with his little to-go trunk of books and activities, and I’ve received many inquiries about the contents of the bundle, so I’m sharing details via this post.
While we change the items up slightly every week to keep things interesting, the collection usually contains these or similar items. West is nearly 2yr3mo, and has been using some variation of this kit for about a year. I’d say that 9/10 times, it keeps him happy and engaged for an hour-long meal or event.
I read Bringing Up BéBé when I was pregnant, and wondered if I’d stay on-track with raising a child who was content to sit, eat and interact with the rest of the group at dinner. While I’ve fallen short of that thus far, I gotta say that dining out is still totally delightful and manageable… most of the time. (On occasion, it feels like running a marathon. But c’est la vie.)
Another thing I like about the to-go kit is that it helps us cut back on waste. A refillable little stainless steel ramekin is enough for his water or ice cubes, so he doesn’t need a restaurant sup-cup. A few items, such as his magnet-box and mini-mat easily double as a placemat or plate, so we’re not likely to break any porcelain.
A chewable silicon straw and set of bamboo cutlery or a stainless folding spork helps keep him safe while allowing him to engage with his meal like the big kids he so admires. Some chalk and/or a roll-up crayon pack allows us to politely decline new, individually packaged sets often handed out at the host stand.
The toys are a mix of things we were given, picked up at local shops, or nabbed as hand-me-downs. Everything is a success— particularly the pack of magnetic blocks (not pictured).
We keep everything in a sturdy and beautiful Steamline Luggage train case that has traveled with us via train, plane, bike, stroller, wagon, and car, but we’ll sometimes syphon off bits and pieces into a mini canvas bag that West can carry himself when he wants.
Both containers fit easily in our tiny home, and work with our decor as well.
If we’re going to an event with a bit of room, we bring his combo play-mat + storage bag instead. While he doesn’t stick to it, it’s a good rallying spot for kids and toys, and takes mere seconds to gather up and go.
I hope this helps!