Tip #4: Encourage sensory play

Provide easy play options, like sensory play—which gives children the chance to explore using their sight, touch, and other senses—to engage kids while you get things done around the house.

True Story: Jenny wondered if there were enough screen-free activities to occupy her 2-year-old daughter Avery for extended periods of time. And she found the answer: sensory play. Jenny sets up water and toys at the kitchen sink and Avery plays for long stretches. Because Avery is so engaged in the activity, Jenny can accomplish other things nearby while keeping an eye on her. Jenny also introduces art supplies and playdough to her daughter at different times during the day. To keep cleanup manageable, Jenny says "less is more." She suggests using just a little bit of soap and a few carefully selected toys or safe kitchen items for water play. For art activities, she suggests using a small table so the mess is contained.

Outcome: Avery keeps herself happily entertained at home and is engaged in much more dramatic play since her screen time was significantly reduced. Her mother says Avery doesn’t seem to miss the screen time and enjoys the other activities more.

Jenny says: “When I had to do chores or other things around the house, I often relied on screens to entertain my daughter. But sensory play keeps her occupied while I’m busy, and she really enjoys it. We’ve even been able to eliminate screen time altogether on weekdays!”

Did you know? Young children learn through exploring with their whole bodies, including all of their senses.1 


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1. Schonkoff, J. & Phillips, D. (Eds.) (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; and Healy, J. (2004). Your child’s growing mind: Brain development and learning from birth to adolescence (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Broadway Books.