Those early years of parenting can usually be summed up in one word.


Life with little ones starts before the sun comes up and leaves you scrambling until well after sunset.

It’s no wonder we run on coffee and Jesus!

Trust me; I’ve been there, too.

When you’ve been up all night with the baby. When you’re juggling laundry and dishes. When you’ve already vacuumed once this morning, yet still manage to find that one lone goldfish and grind it into the rug. 

Sometimes mama needs a break!

It’s during these exhausting times that we usually turn to screen time for our toddlers, right?

No shame here, mama.

But today I want to show you how you can limit screen time for your toddler and still find a few minutes of peace to yourself.

You see, so often when we think of limiting screen time, we’re focused on removing something. We remove screen time, and then what? We’re left with a big old hole. 

Our toddlers are still bored. We’re still stressed. And we wind up resorting back to screen time in no time at all.

Instead what we need are sustainable, real-life practices and habits that will help us naturally limit screen time for our kids.

That big hole that’s left after we limit screens? Let’s fill it with experiences, play, and life that are real, fun, and rich! 

3 Easy Tricks to Limit Screen Time for Toddlers

This is a guest post from Julie McCorkle at Jules & Co. Here is a little more info about her:

Julie is a mom of two who knows that what moms really need is a nap! Since she can give you that. She’ll give you the next best thing. An open heart! 

She knows you want to thrive as a mom while you teach and love and hug until your arms are tired. 

Julie covers topics from discipline advice, to activities to ignite curiosity and creativity in your child. From everyday scheduling tips, to walking with Jesus in your motherhood. She’s got you covered! 

Three Tricks to Limit Screen Time without Tears

Today I’m sharing with you three tricks that I use in my own home. I pull out these strategies if my kids start whining for a TV show. Over time, we’ve learned to depend less and less on screen time. 

Trust me when I say it gets easier with time!

Tip # 1: Encourage Real Play

One of the best ways to start limiting screen time is to encourage independent play. Try this to get started:

  • Set out open-ended toys. Combine a few toys like magnet blocks with a metal baking sheet for an instant invitation to play.
  • Start by playing with your child, asking questions and interacting with him.
  • After a few minutes, say, “I’m going to the kitchen for a few minutes; I can’t wait to see what you’ve created when I get back!”
  • Start with 5-10 minutes of independent play, and then gradually draw out this time as your child becomes more capable.

Related: Indoor Toddler Activities

The beauty of independent play is that it satisfies your child’s real needs: He thinks he needs to be entertained by shows or games on the tablet. But this is just a symptom telling us that his creativity muscles need to be stretched!

Those muscles of creativity and self-expression will grow stronger each time your child engages in independent play instead of screen time.

Tip # 2: Try other Media First

If my kids start whining for screen time, one of my favorite responses is to turn to other media first. 

It’s so simple! Just offer music or books first. 

Music and books are more interactive than screen time. They involve your child’s brain and body in a much healthier way.

Try these ideas to make music and books a screen-free alternative!

  • Have a playlist of your toddler’s favorite songs ready on your phone. We play music through a portable speaker at the house so my kids aren’t tempted to mess with the phone.
  • Break out musical instruments, or make your own with kitchen utensils!
  • Keep a basket of books in the most used rooms around the house. Rotate the books every few weeks so the selection is fresh.
  • Read together in a new spot to keep things interesting. Take a blanket outside to read, or bring a flashlight in the closet and read in the dark!

When your toddler wants screen time, just try a simple switch with music or a book instead. You’ll be amazed at how a little distraction can help limit excessive screen time.

Related: Cheap & Easy Summer Activities for Kids

Tip # 3: Stick to a Routine

When I first started out as a stay at home mom, I relied way too much on screen time to entertain my child. But as I got into a groove, I was able to limit screen time and focus on more positive ways to spend the day with my child. 

Creating a solid daily toddler routine is a great way to limit screen time. 

I don’t follow a schedule down to the minute, but I do designate certain times of the day for different purposes. 

For example, our routine includes:

  • morning time for mom
  • together time (play, errands)
  • independent time (naptime, independent play)
  • meals

If you do need a few minutes to prepare dinner, just plan a bit of screen time for your toddler later in the evening. When you know what to expect throughout the day, it becomes so much easier to say no to screen time.

As your child becomes used to your new routine, you’ll be able to limit screen time more easily. And you can even allow just the right amount of screen time at appropriate times of the day.

easy tricks to limit screen time

Your Turn

Ready to hit pause on screen time? Remember these three simple tricks:

  • Encourage real play, and practice building those independent play muscles.
  • Try a quick switch to music or books before turning to screen time.
  • Create a predictable routine full of screen-free fun. And plan for a small amount of screen time if appropriate.

Want a more in-depth plan for limiting screen time? You’ll love my step-by-step guide to taming screen time for good. Access the Unplug + Unlock eCourse here!

What is your biggest struggle when it comes to limiting screen time for your toddler? What tips do you have for creating a screen-free culture in your home?

Connect with us in the comments below!