On June 3rd, 2020 at 12:00pm ET via Zoom, Children and Screens held the #AskTheExperts webinar “Summer of COVID-19: Tots and Tech?” The webinar focused on parenting very young children (0-5) during a summer of social distancing and shelter-in-place orders. A panel of distinguished experts shared evidence-based practices and practical tips for parent to help their young children thrive during the summer.


  • Rebecca Parlakian, MEd

    Senior Director of Programs Zero to Three
  • Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, PhD

    Stanley and Deborah Lefkowitz Professor of Psychology Temple University
  • Heather Kirkorian, PhD

    Laura M. Secord Chair in Early Childhood Development School of Human Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Louise Dorrat, MEd

    Early Childhood Consultant
  • Laura Markham, PhD

    Editor; Author Aha! Parenting; Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life

[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Welcome everyone and thank you for joining us today for another ask the experts virtual workshop. I am Dr. Pamela Hurst __ President and Founder of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development. Your host for this series on digital media and child development. We will be holding these workshops weekly throughout the summer. For those of you who have joined us for the first time, Children and Screens advances the science of children and media by funding interdisciplinary research grants, and convening (?) meetings and conferences of clinicians and researchers. And we provide evidence based guidance to the public about what the science says. During the pandemic, Children and Screens is also funding research projects investigating how screens are helping family and friends stay connected and how increased screen time may be impacting children and screens during and after the crisis. This summer is unlike any other you have experienced. You are undoubtedly struggling with the idea of unknown vacation plans and gatherings, more months of limited outside help with child care and not being able to get out and about with you little ones. Part of this struggle may include guilt about giving your little one too much screen time, an effort to limit digital device use without knowing how or when to do so. If you are struggling with device related challenges, know that you are not alone. We are here to help, along with our esteemed moderator and four incredible panelists. There are hundreds of people on this zoom call from many states and countries, all on the same boat. We hope that the conversation today will ignite further discussion about what’s working and what’s not. We hope to give you ideas to strengthen family connections and aid in infant, toddler, and child development. I’d like give a big thank you in advance to our extraordinary panel of experts for sharing their expertise today. Our panelists have reviewed the questions you’ve submitted and will answer as many as they can. If you have any additional questions, you may type them into the text box and they will answer them if you can. We are recording today’s workshop and will upload the video to youtube. You will receive a link to our youtube channel tomorrow, you can find videos to our past webinars there as well. It is now my great pleasure to introduce our moderator Rebecca Parlakian, who is a renowned expert on early childhood development, who shares insight with families around the world about her work as senior director of programs at the national non profit organization 0-3 focusing on the healthy development of very young children. We are so pleased to have Mrs. Parlakian here with us today, welcome Rebecca!


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Thank you so much, I am thrilled to be here and very honored to join this incredible group of panelists. Our speakers today are going to explore screen time in the context of Covid-19! Which as you know social distancing, mask wearing, and staying in much more than usual has become our new normal . We will begin today with a presentation from Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek who will share what children from birth to five need in the early years and how parents can support their development. Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek  is the director of the infant language laboratory at Tempel University and recipient of the american psychological societies for a lifetime of outstanding contributions to applied psychological research. We are so very thankful to have you here today, Kathy. 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]: Thank you so much, it is truly a pleasure to be here today and I am just thrilled that you’ve put these together for parents. Thank you so much, it is such a gift to the community and I am happy to be part of your community. Now, Pamela asked me to start out by giving you a drive by, 5 minute course in child development. So here you go child development 101, and I am going to focus here on the first 3 years. You know those kids, they were kind of random at first and then all of the sudden they get a bit more organized by 3 months of age, you saw them swiping at things. Then you saw them reaching 4 months of age. Then by 5 months of age pulling themselves into a sitting position. By 6 months of age, hmm, does that mean they can even start to look at a screen? In language, they start out by crying a lot. Most intensely at two months of age, so if you can get to three months of age and get that smile, that social smile, you have won. Did you know that you can have a conversation, a back and forth conversation, with a baby? Who’s just two and a half months old? Amazing! And they laugh at three months of age, god what a pleasure that is. So they notice you, they follow you, they know you’re different than another other object. Now we move into their second half of the year, after six months. In motor, they’ve pulled themselves up to a stand. By 12 and 13 months they are taking their first steps. By 6 or 7 months they are recognizing the words mommy and daddy. You may notice those babbles. They start out more general and then they become more language specific by 8 months of age. First words pop out at around 12 months. Fine motor? They are banging cubes together, in fact they are banging anything they can get into their hands, a block and a cup, at 14 months old. But don’t ask them to take the block out of the cup, taking things out is a lot harder than in. Socially they are trying to feed themselves, now they can play patty cake with you. They can even wave goodbye when your friends leave from a visit. God that makes them feel sociable. Is it possible they can focus on facetime? 12-14 months they are running, and running, and running, it seems to me that they don’t stop running until they are about 4-5 years of age and they can even kick a ball at 18 months. A budding soccer player, getting ready. Picking up common language at 18 months. What’s up? What’s up? They are asking for the names of things. They are putting two words together, and they even have a language spurt sometime around 19-21 months of age. Which is overwhelming and gets us so excited because they are learning and ready for this… they learn nine new words a day. Fine motor, they are now scribbling that means they can hold. Notice its in this position but they can hold some type of pen or pencil. They can build a tower! They can drink from a cup and play with a ball. Twenty four to thirty six oh my god they’re so sophisticated, they can get dressed with help at 20, brush their teeth at 30. Run run run and motor. And language pretend play starts to enter. They are telling stories and having full conversations and the fine motor they are driving figures some puzzles and socially, they socially they are really getting it together and can even do some very primitive puzzles. Not at 4 and 5 they are your friends, they will walk around with you, they can recognize your friends, they can talk to them and yes they can even do some of that on facetime and as many of you already know, they recognize the familiar faces on Sesame Street and Paw Patrol. And Frozen 2, Frozen 2, and Frozen 2. Alright, let me go to the second part of the power of social interaction. I am still okay on time though. The power of social interaction, the first three years are about people, people,need people. That may be the most important thing I tell you today. People need people. And little guys need real honest to god back and forth conversations and human interaction even more than older kids do. Which means that popping them in front of something, not a good idea. But having them converse even if it is something like facetime is actually okay and there is scientific data on that. Not all the time, I wouldn’t wanna hire an online babysitter, they wouldn’t do real good at diapering your child. But they can have conversations and they can recognize grandparents and aunts. People learn from people. It means we really do need to limit something a little bit in the early years with respect to our screentime. We can come back to those questions in a bit. But i will tell you we actually now know the brain mechanisms that promote brain growth based on the back and forth conversation. And finally, tips for the summer. Well, I would imagine that the summer for you as it is for me, is just the same old same old in Covid-19 world. I frankly don’t notice much of a difference between March and June. I can’t even tell which day it is anymore. And for those of you who are parents out there who moved your office in your house, your kids in the house, your schooling in the house you’re my hero I don’t know how you do any of it. My advice to you? Is let them be bored, they do not need to be entertained at all times. And if you let them be bored, it may be the most important thing you teach them during covid and during summer. Fill your time. We later on in life call that bosses rather than worker bees. Secondly, take your vacation if you’re going on a vacation. Just kinda take it in your backyard. We were kinda taking the kids. We have grandchildren, one is two and one is five and they are very disappointed about not going to Scotland. So we are having the highland games and making shortbread cookies in our own house. Finally, looking for apps for little ones. Find things that are active, not passive. Engaging, not distracting. Things that are meaningful to the kid, not disjointing. Things that are socially interactive and prompt social interaction and things that are joyful. Follow that tweet active, engaging, meaningful, and joyful. And I promise you, you will find the best stuff on the market. Thanks!


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Thank you so much Kathy! It really struck me that notion, people needing people and that the first two years really are all about people and human relationships. 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]: Mhmm 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: I also really love that idea about having just knowing that children, toddlers are learning nine words a day brings out how important those interactions really are. 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]: Yeah 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: So you know we received a lot of questions before today’s gathering and questions are coming in. so why don’t we take one right now and then we will return to questions afterwards. So we got one through parents saying how can we encourage, as parents, for children to play less on the screens. 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]Mmm, 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Do you have any tips for that? 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]I really do, I will tell you that it was actually by my daughter in law and son, considered somewhat impossible. To get the five and two year old off the screen. By the way we are about to have one heck of a lightning storm so I hope I don’t lose you due to the power. 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: *laughs* 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]: But, one of the things you do is limit it and don’t have the screens. 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Mhmm 


[Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek]Now, I know that sounds almost crazy in today’s world. But, my kids were thrilled and all of the sudden they found out they had bots. And they–*lost connection 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: We may have lost Kathy because of the storm.. So you know I think what we were hearing from Kathy is really that proximity to the screen is really going to bring about more demands for the screen. So by removing it from the childrens setting we create opportunities to discover what else is available for them to explore and play with. So I’m sure we will hear more from Kathy later as she reconnects. For now, I am going to move on. Dr. Heather Kirkorian is our next speaker. Um, Kirkorian is based at University of Wisconsin Madison at their school of psychology. She is going to offer us an overview of what we know about young children and screen time. Specifically, in terms of healthy and unhealthy digital media use for young children. Dr. Kirkorian’s research focuses on cognitive development and its impact. Her current projects explore the extent to which infants and toddlers can learn from videos and the impact television has on young children. Particularly as it relates to parent child interaction which I know is a topic of mind for so many parents this summer. So welcome, Dr. Kirkorian. 


[Dr. Heather Kirkorian]: Hey, thanks everybody and thanks for the great introduction and thanks for joining me and thanks for Kathy for the great introduction to our panel. So I was really tasked with introducing to you all today what the science says about children and screens. So I’ll be focusing on what we know about kids and screens and what kids should or should not be doing when they are on screens. And I know the other panelists will be talking a lot about what they are doing or what they should be doing when they are not on screens. So I wanna start with just a few key take home points to give context to everything that I am going to be sharing with you today. The first is that this is not normal and you don’t need me to tell you that we all know we are not living under normal conditions so all of the research I am going to share with you today about what we know about children and screens should be taken under that context. So we can talk an awful lot about what kids should and should not be doing in an ideal situation but we are not in an ideal situation and I can’t emphasize that enough. The second point that is related is that be kind to yourself. I also feel like part of my job in this role is to forgive parents for not doing what they think they should be doing all of the time. And the third main point here is that the most important thing for kids is that they feel safe and loved. Screens don’t necessarily have to do with that. Screens can even help with that in some cases but I’ll talk more about that later. If you are ensuring that your kids feel safe and loved then you’re doing just fine. So one thing to know from what we know about kids and screens, these numbers are based on a brand new study my colleagues and I just published in the Journal of Pediatrics. We know that parents are not always aware about what kids are doing on their screen time. So part of my job today is just to help parents become a little bit more aware. So in our study we had asked parents how much their kids used their mobile devices. In this case these were preschool aged children and we also used a new app that we developed to sense how much the device was being used. And we found that parents were both over and under estimated. So you might think everybody underestimates how much they use screens. The reality is that just under a third of parents underestimated how much their kids used their mobile device and just over a third over estimated. About thirty percent were accurate. And I use accurate as a sort of ball park. So parents are often unaware of what their kids are doing. The other thing we know about kids and screens fall into these buckets that a lot of folks call the “3 C’s”. And I am going to talk about each of those just for a quick minute or two. The “3 C’s” refer to context and that means a whole bunch of things. It means things like kids using screens alone or with other people. Are those other people kind of passively watching them or are they actively engaging and talking about what they are doing. Is it the foreground activities actually what the kids are doing or is it in the background, what we might call second hand screen exposure. So just, there and they’re not actively using it. Also what’s the larger context that kids are in? The impact of screen time on young kids is like what else would those kids be doing? Do they have access to high quality educational resources in and out of the home? Do they have safe, clean spaces to play outside of the home? So the extent to which screen time is good or bad for kids depends on all of these different context factors. The second C is content and I’ll talk about that more. You probably know what I mean about this, the most important thing we mean by this is age appropriate, educational content. Is it violent content or otherwise potentially harmful content? Is it somewhere in the middle? And then the third C is the individual child, so kids will have different effects depending on who they are as people and that depends partly on the child’s age and their abilities and other kinds of things that I will show you later. So just to quickly talk about research on context. I want to give you a couple of examples in a side by side comparisons that I think about a lot when I think about contact so here you see two different families. I like to focus a lot on the activity and the goal of that activity rather than the devices used so in this case we see two examples of a family game session. One case that use a video game system and one case that used a board game system. In both cases they are engaging family contexts. Here’s another one for you, a family shared reading context with a  toddler so in one case we are using a print book and in the other case it might be an electronic book on a screen. And the research told us that parents can engage in very similar behaviors when they are reading books for little ones whether the book is on screen or on print. So again think about the context and what is the goal of that activity and how can you engage in that activity to make it a positive time for babies or children regardless of the device being used. All right that was the first C context the second C is content I already mentioned this and I’m sure you know exactly where this is going very few studies you might see a lot of headlines about screen time kind of broadly defined for infants and young kids most of the research suggests that that’s not the right question talking about time isn’t really the best way to understand the effects of screens on young kids what’s much more important is content so very few studies you might read about in the news talk about actually measure the content of the screen time but those that do invariably find that content matters so educational age-appropriate content and  I use Sesame Street here as an example because it’s the show that has received by far the most research attention over the decades but there are many many many other examples of high quality content for kids but educational content is typically associated with positive outcomes whether that’s language development, attention development, lots of other metrics of child development and outcomes. Educational content tends to be associated with positive outcomes, if any. So some studies find if it’s educational content it doesn’t really matter it doesn’t affect outcomes for good or ill. Other studies find educational content can be positive for development. The second category I have up here I call entertainment and that’s just broadly defined I was trying to find a good image for this and picked a circus this is not to pick on circuses in any way but I tried to come up with an image that would illustrate entertainment that doesn’t necessarily have an educational goal. It’s just meant to be entertaining. This kind of content in the research is associated with sometimes negative outcomes for young kids and again if any. So sometimes just plain old entertainment without an educational goal doesn’t predict good or bad outcomes, it’s just kind of neutral. Other times it can be negative depending on the study. And then the third category is violent content and as you might expect in any study that captures violent content as a specific category for young kids typically finds negative outcomes associated with that content. Okay the third C is the child themselves the individual child. So as you know children are people and people are different from each other and the extent to which kids differ will determine the impact of screen time on them. Age is one of the biggest ones that has actually been studied, Kathy mentioned this a little bit already. So I divided this the first two panels into ages for infants zero to two years old and then preschoolers two to five. The research pretty clearly shows that infants learn best from people they learn relatively little from screens so screens are not likely to have very much benefit for babies especially if it’s not really socially interactive with other people in the room. Preschoolers on the other hand can clearly learn a whole bunch of things from screens and that could be good or bad depending on what they’re learning and they definitely can learn from screens. They’re likely to learn a whole lot more if they have some support from other people like their parents who are watching with them. and then I just added a third panel for other differences and we know a lot less about these kinds of things. Research is only just starting to happen but we know that kids’ individual abilities, their temperament, their self-regulation, inhibitory control all of those things might determine whether screen time is more or less effective or harmful for different kids. One of the take-home points I’d want to make is to think about a balanced media diet. So I’ve talked to you about the three C’s. We know that media effects vary a lot depending on content, and context, and child characteristics. When I talk to parents about screen time I often talk about a balanced media diet so I’m sure everybody has seen something like this–full disclosure I don’t know if this is the current recommendation. But you’ve all seen things like this that divide the plate up into different types of foods and what we might want more or less of. We can think of a child’s day the same way. So if you think about what you want your child’s day to look like or your child’s week to look like this summer what kinds of activities do you want them to have in their day? Sleep cannot be emphasized enough. Sleep is going to be a very big part of a healthy child’s day and that is likely to not involve screens in any way. The research is pretty clear on that one. Meal time so you might want to make sure you have some kind of focused screen free family meal times throughout the day. Those things are really important. Physical activity there are clear guidelines about the kinds of activity kids can get; it doesn’t have to be outside that can happen inside. It doesn’t always even have to be screen free so we talked a lot about screen time being sedentary that doesn’t have to be the case so there are plenty of opportunities out there for kids to dance along to a video or engage in some other physical activity prompted in a game. So those examples might be few and far between but there are some good ones out there. So if you’re really at a loss for how to get screen time on a rainy summer day and how to get physical activity on a rainy summer day there might be some opportunities out there. Outdoor time is important, even if it’s just sitting outside. We know that sunlight is good for a healthy vision for example. So getting some time outside might be important. Some focused one-on-one interaction time that is screen free is also really important play time. and Kathy already said kids can be bored if that’s okay. I’m just giving kids time to play with the objects they have in the house. It could be pots and pans, it could be cool blocks to play with but playtime is super important for infants and young kids. And then also I encourage parents to forgive themselves and take a break every day. I genuinely believe we become better parents when we have a break once in a while. For infants that’s probably nap time as many of you know it’s a good time for parents to take a break. For older preschoolers that might involve a little bit of screen time and as long as that’s a small slice of the pie throughout the day it’s okay to take a break especially if it’s high quality educational content for young kids. Some other quick points about a balanced media diet. I already mentioned selecting good content there are some great resources out there for parents too that I’ll mention there are others as well but to that I always refer to our Common Sense Media org they have great lists like recommendations for parents with kids of different ages depending on the educational goal you have or the social goal you have. And what I like about Common Sense Media also is they have tips for what parents can do or talk about with their kids with different media products. PBSkids.org is another great one for that so the content is great and there are excellent resources for parents for activities they can do to enhance any educational goals in the real world and that’s super important for young kids. The second suggestion here is to monitor usage. That partly means you can use built-in tools and mobile devices to monitor how much kids are using the device. And then related to that would be to establish some screen free zones and that refers to times and or places bedtime that hour before bedtime dinnertime and in terms of places the bedroom is a common one the research is pretty clear on this one so to the extent possible keeping screens away from bedtime, meal Time and out of the bedroom that’s really good for young kids. And then the last thing I want to mention here about the balanced media diet is to be aware of secondhand screen time so in my research we tend to call this background TV, it’s also been called techno Ference, so interference from technology. The research is pretty clear that this can be harmful for infants and young kids and it’s not possible to eliminate this 100% of the time for most families. Especially in the current moment but just be aware of it and make sure if you can carve out times in the day when there are no screens around. The last point I wanted to make, if time permits, is to talk a little bit about transitioning away from screens. And I wanted to include this because so many of the questions that our attendees submitted in advance asked about “how to take the device away” or “how to transition to less screen time as we’re allowed to go outside more” so I pulled together just a couple of tips that I have for that. And I think that’s going to come up later in the panel as well but these are just a few tips that I came up with to help parents transition away from screens. The first is it’s just so important with infants and young kids to establish consistent routines. So if kids know what to expect in the day they know when screen time is allowed, where screen time is allowed, and when and where it’s not and that that’s consistent and predictable. That’s one of your best tools that you have. The second suggestion I have that I don’t often see come up in conversations around screen time is to choose meaningful transition points. So a lot of families will have time-based limits on screen time so 30 minutes a day or an hour per day and that’s okay to have that kind of limit but I think you’re going to be more successful transitioning away from the screen if you have meaningful transition points. So maybe it’s the end of an episode for a TV show, maybe it’s once an achievement is reached in an app or digital game, so having that meaningful transition point is more likely to result in a smooth transition than just cutting things off at a certain time point. There’s at least one studies showing that kind of a time obsessed end marker like counting down you have five minutes left you have one minute left that might actually increase a negative behavior for kids because it just increases stress about the end of that pleasurable activity. So having a good predictable chunk of content that kids can do might be helpful. Third tip: reward healthy behavior, and this goes without saying for any parenting strategy. Make sure you’re not inadvertently rewarding the behavior you want to get rid of, so if your child gladly hands over the tablet at the end of tablet time that’s good behavior to be rewarded. So make sure that you’re rewarding patterns with your kids are rewarding the behaviors that you want and the fourth tip is to provide attractive alternatives. So just telling kids to turn the TV off, or take the tablet away without giving them some cool other options to do that’s less that’s going to be less successful than saying now would you like to do this great thing or that great thing. Giving kids attractive options to do afterwards. So in closing I just want to pull up this first slide I shared just two mind you. These are not normal circumstances, please be kind to yourself and just make sure your kids feel safe and loved you’re doing okay. 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Thank You Heather that was really helpful. I know for me as a parent I’m in the midst of having these discussions and finding this balance and that’s really what I loved about your frame of the balanced media diet. It really helps us think about where media might fall and the idea of making media sort of the last and not first resort when we’re suggesting activities. Children and screens also has some great tips for parents in their website, if folks on the webinar today want to check out and learn and learn a little more. We have had a number of questions come through just about this whole question of choosing content. And there are so many products, and programs that you know say that they are educational in nature. So, do you have any thoughts about how as a parent we curate and screen those and really figure out what is high-quality content? 


[Dr. Heather Kirkorian]: Yeah it’s a great question and as every parent knows this is so much harder in the digital age because we talk a lot about the Digital Wild West. So in terms of television programs especially broadcast TV there are clearer places we can point families to and they can be pretty confident there’s going to be good content there. I mentioned PBS KIDS for example in the App Store for instance, there’s essentially no regulation of creation and creators can tag their content as educational for young kids without meeting any criteria at all they can just tag it as educational. And there’s research showing the vast majority of those things tagged as educational don’t do the kinds of things that research those are likely to be educational. The kinds of things I suggest parents do are to use resources you are not alone in. There are great online, free resources that provide great advice about how to choose good content, and what content might be good for kids at different ages, and what parents can do to extend those lessons outside of screen time. So I mentioned a couple, some general principles parents can think about and Kathy mentions very similar things earlier. You definitely want content for young kids that is focused on a very specific goal without a lot of distracting bells and whistles that pull away from it. So I saw some parent questions and that came in earlier about ebooks so the research on ebooks is pretty clear that very simple ebooks look a lot like print books but on a screen, we can use those the same when we use print books to some good effect. The kind of ebooks that have lots of games and bells and whistles and animations tend to distract from the story. So look for content that it really focuses on a lesson or a story without a lot of distracting things. I don’t want to talk too too much about content but I’m happy to talk more Rebecca. 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Yeah but I think that’s really helpful in you know guiding us to be just informed consumers as parents as we approach yanno the app store and other sources of content. Next we’re going to switch gears just a little bit and we’re so pleased to welcome Louise Dorat from Melbourne Australia where it is both winter and the middle of the night so we really appreciate you being here. Louise has worked in the early years profession for over 30 years having taught the Bachelor of Early Childhood Education at a number of universities in Victoria. She also assisted in the setup of the first Victorian bush kinder and worked in the bush setting for about two years. So Louise we are just thrilled to hear you share more about nature based learning and the development of resilience, as well as some ideas for what we can do right now to really nurture and enrich our children’s playtime. Louise I think you’re on mute so. 


[Louise Dorrat]: Here I am, thank You Rebecca! Well it’s 2:00 a.m. here in Melbourne Australia and I’m on were on Wurundjeri land of the cooler nation and they’re the Aboriginal people that have been here for 60,000 years and they have taught us about play and just real real authentic play with just what nature provides. And now it’s a question to all of you out there what were you doing when you were a child, think about what you were playing, think about who you are playing with. Now in Australia we have fabulous technology and I can actually hear if you just call out I can hear everything that used to say I can hear you yes you were climbing trees and you were you were riding the bikes that’s right you were on the at those the the playgrounds with the seesaws and with the with the wizzy dizzy’s. And that’s right and playing with the mud and the sand and the dirt and with your neighbors and your siblings, and what were the rules the rules were that you came home when the streetlights were on, or when your parents you know when it was dinnertime, and as we know what a children doing now? Even before Covid they’re on the iPad the iPad the iPod all of those. And so about ten years ago another preschool teacher, a kindergarten teacher Doug Fougger, thought this is getting ridiculous. Children aren’t doing what they should be doing: just playing. Which is a bit what Kathy was talking about the development before what children need is to do what children always used to do. As in climbing the trees and running and jumping and playing with the balls and without even thinking about the screen. So he set up the first ever Bush kinder and that was in 2011 and it was now in Victoria there are more than a hundred and eighty bush Kinder’s. So children are dropped off at 9:00 in the morning and picked up at 12:00 without any toys, no resources, no it is just playing with what nature provides. And so children were climbing trees and of course there’s rules I mean risks are not eliminated, they’re managed because then children can self assess the risk. So children can climb trees however if the branch is wobbly they climb it,  if the branch is thinner than your wrist well then they don’t climb it. So that means that children actually self assess the risk, like what we did when we were young. And of course they played with sticks and we had rules around sticks that you can walk with sticks but you can’t run with sticks. And of course there’s mud and running and jumping. And interestingly the first time that the children were dropped off at Bush kinder they appeared bored because they’re used to and Cathy and Heather mentioned this too before they used to stuff too many toys they’re used to bells and whistles and so when you strip that away they actually have to play and so the first few weeks we played hide and seek with them because they there was no swings, no slides. What were they going to do? But then research shows from the forest schools in Europe that if you go to the same place every week well then that becomes their space, their sense of belonging, their identity. So then we saw them just playing by themselves all with the others and so it’s and as Cathy said earlier it’s um children should be allowed to get bored because then you know they can use their imagination and be creative and that’s so crucial. So this is pure play. What is play? Play is a child’s work so play provides opportunities for children to learn as they discover. They create, they improvise, they talk, they roleplay, they experience conflicts, but then they work it out if you know it plays a context for learning for which children organize and they make sense of their world. You know and it’s about engaging actively with people, objects and representations. So and the most important you. Lemme just get to the next slide, so the most important foundation for children’s life is play. And let me just uno memento, okay just okay let me I’m just stuck here. Okay there we are,  so the most important foundation for children’s healthy development is play. And the benefits carry over into adult life now we don’t know the jobs that our children will be doing. They haven’t even been invented yet, but what we do know is what children need regardless of what job they do and what they need is resilience. They need curiosity, they need effective communication, they need to be able to get on with others, and they need social-emotional learning and also self-regulation. So to be able to self-regulate the emotions. And so the best way to teach this is through play and play is: it’s open-ended, so it’s no right or wrong, as Heather was talking about the bells and whistles–you don’t need that it’s just as these two children to play I’ve taken all these photos so they’re just playing with pots and pans. So think when we talk about play open-ended, no right or wrong. Like a puzzle is fantastic but it’s not actual play because it’s close. If you if a child puts their puzzle on their head well then let’s play. So it’s also about child’s work. And this is defining play so open and as I said enjoyable so not for the adult to say I want you to do this. It’s pretend it’s active and voluntary so that it’s intrinsic comes from the child. It’s also process orientated so we look at the doing not the end product and self motivating. So you can see in these pictures there’s dress ups as play because it’s open-ended. And mud and sand and water that is the most beneficial experience for children to play because it’s open-ended, there’s no right or wrong and it’s a children’s world. You don’t need the adult to be saying “Oh what are you doing oh it looks like you’re making a cake Oh what kind of cake you’re making” this is where you don’t need the adult to step in. But children aren’t used to playing by themselves and that’s why they say to the parents on board, whereas if children are used to it well then they get caught up in their own, in their own world. So now these are the stages of play Mildred Parton taught us this you know almost a century ago and we still, we still, teach this in uni. So we start off. I mean there’s many stages of play but I’ve just chosen four for you. So we start off with solitary play which is for infants and that is children just play by themselves and as you can see this picture here this is inside and I’ve just got a tray with just sand and just stones and animals. And the next one is parallel play and this is the same through roughly two to three and that means that children are playing by themselves but there with playing with alongside other children. So this means that you need duplicate materials. So you need so instead of one truck between two, you actually need two trucks because children of that age usually and I’m generalizing can’t find it very difficult to share. So parallel play is working alongside each other. Then you’ve got associative play which is roughly around three so they’re starting to work together so this is children having like a tea set and in home corner. And then cooperative play so from four on and that is when they’re playing cooperatively, and there’s rules involved they have to negotiate, they could be role-playing. And you can see that all of these skills we need to be for our healthy development to be a healthy adult. And so these are some ideas that so that you at home can do, so parents can do so sheets and cushions just for cubby houses. We’ve got the boxes and the teddies and a box there also with outdoor home corner stuff. Just boxes with tablecloths and dolls etc. And children need to be outside for a few hours a day, that’s for health. In Australia from Elizabeth Murdock Institute we have a lot of children with allergies and research shows that we have a vitamin D deficiency and to get vitamin D we need to be outside. Regardless of weather.  in Bush kinder it’s been going now for ten years and it’s only been closed once. Because we believe that there’s no such thing as inappropriate weather, it’s inappropriate clothing. And the only time it was closed was because of an electrical storm. So children need to be outside for at least a few hours a day. So, and this is my children, they’re all old now they’re all in their twenties but because I was qualified in early childhood before I had children I maintain you know I am in play from the word dot. And so we what what Heather and Cathy were talking about the screen. We never had the television in the family room where our kitchen was. That was intentional, it was purposeful because then there wasn’t that distraction. So we always had the bottom. We always had a desk or an old table right next to the bench in the kitchen. They don’t want to be playing in their playroom three doors down the hallway by themselves, they want to be there with you while you’re cooking. So we had the table and we always had different things on the table and on the shelves. It’s only for about 10-12 years of your life then you can put the adult furniture back. And also we had an area for the floor as well so we had the table and the floor. And outside we always had water and sand. So this was our pool back then and just plastic items in the pool. And they learn so much through the digging and the pool and all all all elements of play. And cubby houses so these, are you know that’s my thirty year old daughter there and her friends, and so as you can see all of these resources they don’t cost money it’s just stuff around the house and then you leave them be and then they start creating and imagining and using all their cognitive development and role-playing and it’s best that you don’t unless someone’s you know scratched an eye out you don’t need to interfere. We hover too much. Children should be able to make mistakes in their play because that’s how they learn, that’s how they build their resilience. That’s how they work out how to do it. And so this is inside, just stuff so you can see my son Harry at the top with all of his toys, and my other son Joe with the little crazy bones and sending them up and he’s now Harry’s now studying architecture and Joe’s in construction management and I’m and I’m sure that all of that sorting and all of that all those little pieces lining them up and you know with the colors and the and the sizes that contributed. And of course dress-ups are another fantastic thing, just to have an old tub, case of clothes. That’s my daughter at the top who’s in the top photo and because play was intrinsic in the children’s lives, the children, the friends that used to come over, they just dressed up as well. Even and you can see the bottom photo, they’re quite old there. But it’s just all of this is just child’s work, and so for parents you know that the ideas are the pots and pans, the water play, dancing, going the dolls, the sandpit, the cubbies, and the blocks, and also going to the park. I know in Australia we’re all still in lockdown but we can go to the parks, all the playgrounds they’re all covered over but the parks we can go to so that means that children it’s extraordinary the parks have never been full like this. There’s families now rolling the ball and kicking the ball and running and jumping, and the dogs are getting so many walks. And I’ve been chatting to families and they’ve been saying oh I’m over the school I’m over the kindergarten and the preschool they keep sending me emailing me all these sheets to do you know we’ve got to color the letter C, we’ve got to do this I’m over it and I said you’ve got to tell them no stop sending these worksheets just playing gives you all the learning and all the teaching that a child needs. I mean they learn you know every possible learning area math, science, emotional learning, language, literacy all through dressing up, cooking, dancing, reading, jumping, just play! When children play they get every single thing that they need. And as I said songs so I’ve just gotta a song for you and of course I’m putting on my gloves of course because that’s what we’re doing. And can you all I’ve got 300 pairs here can everyone Laura can you put yours on Heather can you put yours on can everyone else yes Rebecca can you put yours on okay all of you parents at home and students can you do this please. SONG: I have ten little fingers. They all belong to me. I can make them do things I would like to see. I can shut them up tight, open them up wide, clap them together and make them hard, put them up, put them down low, fold them like this and fold them so.  END And of course we can’t not do a song about masks can we so and these are what you can do with children and as you know Kathy said it’s about interaction doing it with your infant with your fetus in utero you just do it! Sing sing sing! So I’ve got this on here this is my mask now can everyone I can only see um Heather Laura and Rebecca but could you please just do this please. Here we go! SONG: Oh Joan muddle comb lost her mask she looked everywhere and then she passed where’s my mask? Where do I begin ? Silly Joan muddle come you’ve got it on your chin! Now this is how you wear it, keep it on like so not spreading germs now let’s go! END So that’s it from me! 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Well thank you so much Louise I think these were such great ideas. And what I loved is that they were so actionable, like as a parent I can leave this webinar today and I have ten new ideas, plus a song that I can share with my little ones. So it really struck me as I listened to two things. First it was the gift of boredom, that boredom for children is a gift because it creates opportunities to find activities that really answer something in you as an individual and that children have their own preferences they’ll find something. And the other piece that struck me is this idea of the importance of risk as a critical component in play that actually risk contributes to the joy of play and to what children are learning and of course it’s safe, age-appropriate risk but it’s fun to do something risky and master it. 


[Louise Dorrat]: Well hampering children’s development if we take away the risk 


[Rebecca Parlakian]:Mm-hmm absolutely in fact one of my favorite memories as a child is I built my own tree ladder and climbed up a tree! So it’s, it was–it was my secret place to go. 


[Louise Dorrat]:  to be managed not eliminated because there’s risks in life and children need to be able to self assess the risk 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Absolutely and we had a really interesting question from a parent who said you know with social distancing and sheltering in place can children do imaginative play on their own? Or do they need to have a play partner? What are your thoughts on that? 


[Louise Dorrat]: Well if children are used to playing by themselves and that’s the idea of course they can. Because with some in early childhood we’ll set up experiences for one child and some children have no idea what to do because they’re used to all the bells and whistles you know as um Heather and Kathy said. However if you have just one table with just some resources on them, like natural resources, or different colors, or blocks then children you might as an adult you start them off if they’ve never done that before. “I might put I might put her over here I might put this person under here” so it’s practice so the adult has to if the child has never experienced that well then the adult can start that off. 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: and the adult  is modeling 


[Louise Dorrat]: Yes yes and to be fair to yourself which is what you know you’ve said earlier that if the child wants to play with you you you can say to the child “well what I’m gonna do I’m gonna be playing with you for an hour for half an hour or an hour and then I’m gonna do my work” so it’s clear limit and that’s how we always worked with the screen as well then the screen you know at this time and but this is what we do now 

[Rebecca Parlakian]: I think you’re right children really thrive yeah that’s right 


[Louise Dorrat]: And you’re the parent, you make the rules. When parents, because, I do parent seminars in Australia when parents say “I can’t get the iPad” or wait, now this is before Covid,  “I can’t get the iPad away.” Would you allow the child to eat 40 chocolate biscuits? I can’t! Of course not! It’s you are the adult, you set the rules, and you have to have rules in the house they’re guidelines, they’re limits, we have rules about everything else. But it’s so hard for parents because screens are in this generation and it’s difficult. However the children will, my children, tell me they “Why are we that the most daggiesst house? We’re not allowed to do this, and this. Now as adults folk, so thankful. And children of their friends remember that we were the family that always played the cards after dinner. I didn’t want to. All I wanted to do is have my cigarette, have my drink, whether parenting is hard and you have to put in to get out what you want. And so cards after dinner from an early age from you know two and three I’m like skip-bo, memory, it’s just children to turn take. It teaches and sometimes the child will be crying because they lost, and you never let a child win it’s all that’s about resilience. You acknowledge that “I know you were really sad tonight when you lost, however tomorrow night you will play again you know it’s not just a little game because it’s big to them.” 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Yeah well you know and I feel, I feel like you’re making a really good point about the safety that children derive from consistent limits and family routines. And I think children really look forward to that they feel nurtured by that and it strengthens their bond with you, when they know that you’re consistent and that they can trust you to you know respond in that nurturing way. Our job is not to remove every disappointment from our child’s life. our job is to help them manage those natural disappointments in life. 


[Louise Dorrat]: I mean now ___ ___ everyone gets surprised, when did that happen? You know with disappointment well it out there. 


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Yeah and I think the other issue is that our children we’re getting out of our age range for today’s talk but you know children know you know when they haven’t won a game right they know so even if they’re getting the trophy it doesn’t mean as much to them because they know what their performance was and I think validating that and how I’m talking about that what could have gone better where what skills would you like to learn right? And I think that’s what’s to your point, building a resilient child and it starts young and it continues across the life span of parenting I think. If my own conversations with my mom or any are any measure we continue to seek that from our parents for a long time. So I think we’re gonna. Thank You Louise and I think we’re gonna switch to our final speaker who is Dr. Laura Markham. Dr. Markham has served as a parenting coach with many many families and in fact is touching over a hundred fifty thousand moms and dads on a weekly basis through her coaching position at ahaparenting.com.  Dr. Laura hopes to really support parents and in so doing nurture healthy development of children across the country in the world. So she is going to be talking with us today about something I know a lot of us are struggling with, which is how to manage those screen use dilemmas that arise as well as some ideas for parent-child activities. So I know many of us are thinking about these issues at the moment and I welcome you Dr. Laura. Oh I think you’re on mute. 

[Dr. Laura Markham]: You are right, sorry. Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be with you. I wanted to comment on the question. I loved Louise Dorit’s answer to can children do imaginative play by themselves? And I wanted to say that’s most of what young children, do you know when your son has toy engines and they’re talking to each other and they’re racing each other. That’s imaginative play you know with his train set. My daughter used to play with her imaginary friend Betsy and she could play with Betsy for you know 45 minutes at a time when she was four years old and if I tried to listen because of course as a psychologist I was quite fascinated she would glare at me and say “Betsy and I are having private discussions”. So I think children always are doing imaginative play if we encourage that. You know screens are a huge experiment, because we have never, we haven’t had this kind of access to screens for children and we don’t really know what effect it has on brain development. Although we’re tracking that and some of this was mentioned earlier, but it that doesn’t mean as a parent you can’t use screens it does mean again as Louise just said that we do need to set limits around screen use. So, that’s what I want to talk with you about today and the first thing I would say is even before you get to that moment where you have to help them turn the screen off there’s a lot that happens. Maria Montessori famously said “Don’t control the child, control the environment, so the child can thrive” and that’s what we want to do here. We want to set up an environment and a context. So the child expects what’s gonna happen and is we’re able to go along with it you know if you have a schedule that you’ve decided how much screen time you’re going to allow and when you’re gonna do it in the course of the day then you’re not just defaulting to the easiest thing at that moment. And also your child knows what to expect. It’s a consistent schedule so every minute is not or struggle about whether a screen is gonna happen next. So start by setting a reasonable goal for yourself: what if you’re working at home in the middle of a pandemic you’re gonna allow more screen time than you might have otherwise, that’s okay! That’s completely fine, decide what you think is reasonable. And some of that time can be educational. We talked about a balanced media diet Dr. Kirkorian Sorry Dr. Kirkorian shared this idea of a balanced media diet. So important because you know maybe you want to let them go to audible to listen to a free audiobook there are audio books for all aged kids they are in many languages and your child can stream them. That’s considered quality time educational time and you can even set your childhood with markers to listen as they’re listening to the story that they can illustrate it as they go. So you’re on a conference call? Tell your three-year-old they get to listen to the story but you want them to share with you what happened in the story once you get off your call. So here’s the crayons, here’s the paper they can draw pictures so they can tell you about the story afterwards. Or maybe you want to go and do one of the daily educational activities at scholastic again they have them for starting at pre-k so really at 4 years old. So you can choose some part of that screen diet to be educational, which given if you’re working at home you’re gonna have a lot of screen time you really want as much of that as much of the screen pie to be something that’s more educational as you can. And then of course you’re gonna have some treat time you’re gonna have a show that your children really love to watch and that’s okay too but before kids do that make a chart with your children of what goes on in the course of your day. So that even three and four-year-olds love to see a picture of themselves brushing their teeth eating their breakfast getting dressed and check off their chart and if you want a child to develop a prefrontal cortex that has good executive function where they can manage themselves through the morning tasks and you don’t have to be yelling at kids to get ready or do anything set them up to be in charge of themselves with a schedule. And then once their checks are there and you’ve checked it then they can go and have their screen time. If you have a child 5 or under and you’re working at home, you’re probably gonna have screen time more than once a day. So maybe that’s the morning screen time and in the afternoon they can have screen time after they’ve had a rest time, after they’ve had one-on-one time with you, if you have more than one child maybe one has screen time while the other has one-on-one time. You want to make sure that you’ve decided the order of the schedule and they will come to know it just like they do at preschool and they won’t be fighting with you about when you get to have screen time. Another thing that you want to make sure of in your day is pre play and we’ll talk in a minute about independent play and how to foster that. But you might start by coming up with a list with your children of activities they like to do if you if they’re old enough, I love the list of you know mud, and sand, and water, because those sensory activities children love. If you’re in a New York City apartment during a pandemic, you can’t do that but what you could do is give your child’s sensory bags, you can put shaving cream in, you can put rice that you’ve dyed different colors, or you can do sparkles and bubbles. Lots of duct tape, strong, strong velcro you know, strong velcro but sealing bags that seal themselves with lots of duct tape. And you can even give them to babies and it can keep a child busy for a very long time and you can take it away at the end of that session or the end of that day, put it away and pull it out again next month, and it’s like new. So there are ways that you can give kids these sensory experiences that keep them riveted and also are calming and that’s a way of easing into independent playtime if your child has not been used to it. So all of these things precede the screen time and then you want to talk with your child about what they’re gonna do with the screens. So if you say you can watch one show you can watch Daniel Tiger one episode now, your child it’s great if you can have a way to just have that one episode that you’ve recorded and it automatically shuts off afterwards. Otherwise you have to be on it to be there at the end because if you’ve ever binged watched Netflix, you know that as soon as the next thing starts playing you’re mesmerized on the screen and no child fiber under has enough brain development to self-regulate at that moment to walk away from the screen and when you come and interrupt that new episode they’re forgetting the agreement they made with you to get off. So the agreement in advance is you know MOM: “What are you gonna watch you want to watch Daniel Tiger? Okay that’s great how many shows? Were watching one show this morning, right? And then we’re gonna have lunch and this afternoon after we go outside we could watch one more show? But right now one show right, hmm now what if it’s hard for you to turn it off?” CHILD: “Oh no mommy I’ll turn it off” MOM: “I love that but what if it is hard sometimes it can be hard to turn off the show” When you’re done right what could we do to make it easier now here’s the secret to making it easier you need a routine you need some sort of a ritual that your child is used to. So when the show is turned off the child will absolutely protest but you go right into what’s next on the routine. And it needs to be something the child can move toward with enthusiasm. So preferably time with you. So if you use this show to go to your conference call with your boss or whatever, when you come back and you move them away from the show, they need to have something like your gonna read with them, you’re gonna have a snack with them, you’re going to do outside time together, something that they enjoy or maybe it can still be a screen, but it can be some being that is you know–kids yoga class or a little exercise class, or a family dance party where you put on music. Movement is actually super helpful to shift a child away from a screen, because when you’re in the trance of the screen you glaze over your brain goes into different brain waves where the child is just like in a trance right to break that trance it’s very helpful to get them moving. So a family dance party is a great way to move kids right into a way to connect with you, move, and it shifts gears because you put on music they love a song that they love. It’s sort of like when the preschool teacher puts on the cleanup so that when they know what’s next they hear that music, yes it’s family dance party time! We always start with this particular song so make sure you have some sort of a routine or rituals set up and then you save your children “hmm what if it’s hard for you to stop, I know family dance party gimme five! okay shake on it! we always keep our promises right?” Now this doesn’t mean your child won’t squawk when it’s time for the show to go off but when you come out and you say MOM “Warning it’s gonna be off in one minute” your child’s like “no no I’m watching Daniel Tiger “but then when it hits the end of the episode if you’re ready to turn on that dance music your child is much less likely to go into a tantrum. Now what if they throw a tantrum? That’s hard right, you set a limit. Sometimes kids do go into a tantrum, especially if they’re not used to that limit. The way you do a limit that works for kids is you start by empathizing “it’s so hard to turn it off when you love that show I know you love that show didn’t you” then you set the limit and “now it’s time to turn off the screen, now it’s the end of the episode ,we turn it off” and then you tell your child what they can do instead. This is true for every limit you ever set. Three steps: you empathize hard to turn off, you set the limit now we’re turning off, and then you tell the child what they can do. “We’re gonna dance!” and if your child doesn’t melt down you just remind yourself that it’s a learning process. They won’t have the meltdown every day this week. It’ll happen the first day, maybe a shorter time the second day, and after that your child’s a quick learner they’re gonna get that this is something you’re serious about and they’re gonna move on to the family dance party. So I wanted to spend just a couple minutes talking about co-viewing Dr. Kirkorkian mentioned that you can watch shows or anything else on a screen with children and that they retain significantly more if you do that. If you’re working you’re probably not going to be doing that right now but it’s a very important thing to remember because it encourages your child to be an actively engaged media not just a consumer but they’re doing active viewing and they’re engaged with what they’re learning on the screen. They’re bringing more of their cognitive faculties to bear and they’re developing those cognitive faculties at the same time. So if you’re viewing with your child, you’re asking questions ,you’re gonna hit pause every so often and say “Wow that’s scary isn’t it? Are you scared I’m a little scared?” or “Hmm why do you think he said that?” or you might talk about values “Wow it looks like they’re saying the boy is brave but the girl isn’t brave or strong” or whatever they’re showing “Do you think girls can be brave and strong too?” So just by asking questions you’re helping your child think critically about the media they’re consuming. You can also help your child think critically about what they would do in that instance “What would you do?” or “Mm-hmm should she tell her mom?” or just help your child understand their experiences as they watch “Wow that must really hurt that child’s feelings on the screen. What do you think?” That’s co-viewing. And even if you’re not doing that much of it right now during the pandemic, it’s important to keep in mind as your child gets older and continues to absorb what they’re taking in because remember screens are a very effective teacher. You want to be involved in the lessons your child is getting from screens. The final thing that I want to share with you and I’ll make it pretty brief is about independent play. As we have passion, as we heard passionately from Louise Dorrat, play is so important for children it’s how they learn and research shows that children who regularly lose themselves in play develop not just academic intelligence but emotional intelligence. The qualities that will help them master whatever they pursue for the rest of their lives. They develop increased capacity to problem- solve, to persevere, to manage frustration, to focus, to use their imagination to create play is how children learn and it’s how they discover who they are, it’s how they become themselves. So and I would add simply from the perspective of living with children, play is what keeps children happy and absorbed. So they aren’t whining or fighting with each other. And after their, they’ve had a good play session they’re happy! Whereas after they’ve had a long screen session, well you ask yourself what is my child like after they’ve spent a lot of time on screens it’s different than when they’ve been playing. So remember that independent play is actually good for your child don’t feel guilty if you’ve just spent some time connecting with your child, which of course every child needs every day but if you just spent that quality time with your child, don’t feel guilty that you aren’t continuing to play with them. Set up structure in your home with places to place a place to build things, maybe a table so there they’re able to build something where the two-year-old won’t get at it the thing they’re they’re Lego structure. Set up an area for messy play so you won’t worry that the sand is getting spilled or that when they’re using art supplies, if they’re doing play-doh make sure it stays on a tray. Set up areas in your home with those lovely slides with a box with the teddy bears. Set up  cozy areas for them. And put and everyday, make sure it’s clean in the morning. And put out things that will interest your children to spark their curiosity and draw them in. There’s so much more we could say about how to foster independent play but I think my top tip would be the more time they get to play and move through that boredom of wondering well what do I do with myself the more they will find what interests them. And what can really help here is for you to get your child started on something, and then to gradually move yourself away. “I have to quickly check that email from my boss I’ll be right back” and you’ll be amazed once you get them started how they take that ball and run with it because children are designed to play that’s their job in life.


[Rebecca Parlakian]: Thank you so much I really appreciated that Laura and in fact you know you already have answered one of our questions which is you know, how do we get children involved in play in the same space while the parent is working? And so this idea of engaging a child in an activity and then gradually phasing yourself out, is such a good one for parents. I think I really also resonated to this idea of a schedule, where we create rituals for transitioning these intentional rituals for transitioning and that we transition from a highly preferred activity for many children which is screens to another highly preferred activity. Right, we would never want to transition from screens to you know a worksheet or something because that is not a fun transition for children. But to go from one preferred activity to another, I think is a great tip for parents. And may not have you know naturally occurred to me, so thank you so much for helping us all you know get a little bit of work done these days. And I think you know we did get a question about facilitating play among children who are different ages, so do you have thoughts about helping a three year old and a five year old who are siblings you know play because they’re really at different stages. 


[Dr. Laura Markham]: Yeah that’s so common obviously, most people don’t have twins so they’re trying to work that out. And I would say try to find activities that can be done by each child not quite together, more like parallel play. So if you’re giving them clay, they can each use the clay to do what they want to do with it but they don’t have to actually engage. You’re not gonna expect the three-year-old to be at the same level as a five-year-old. Maybe they both want to make monsters! But they can still make different monsters at different levels. I will say that five-year-olds and four-year-olds love to play with someone else and they might be willing to put up with a three-year-old not being quite the perfect play partner, just so that they can have some play time. But of course that’s hard when you’re on a conference call to have your five-year-old running in saying “MOMM he doesn’t know how to do this!” And often you’ll have to help them negotiate in advance of the game “Oh you want to play store! Oh and you want to play astronaut! This is a tough situation. How will you decide what to do?” And you might have to help them decide that they’re gonna have a store on the moon! And so yes you’re not your five-year-old can be the astronaut while the three or four year old is busy setting up the store on the moon absolutely. 


[Rachel Parklakian]: Yeah and I I do have to say though one of the benefits of us all working at home is having children drop into zoom meetings, it has been the upside of being on zoom a lot from home. But yeah I think that’s a great idea, and you’re absolutely right the older children will tolerate younger ones just to have the pleasure of engaging. So, so thank you and next we’ll be talking through, maybe we’ll just take one last question, before we transition and if we have a question about: how do we create these messages for parents about their own screen use? So do any of you have thoughts or maybe I’ll take one sentence of tips from each of you because we heard from a number of folks who were just wondering, how do we raise this issue of parents’ screen use? And I think they’re referring to screen use that’s not related to work roles but more the entertainment screen use that we we all are pulled into at times. Would anyone like to take that? 


[Dr. Laura Marham]: I’ll give you one line, you’re the, you’re the role model!


[Rachel Parklakian]: Yes so yes the parent is the role model. Very helpful that’s very true my own kids are shocked yeah go ahead Louise 


[Louise Dorrat]: Well adults need rules as well, so if we have the rule that no screen like when they’re older and Tina knows no no devices after six or no devices at the table or you know we have and it’s hard for us because we’re it’s on our hip now isn’t it! So we have really conscious we don’t take it with us to a walk when we’re walking with the children. It has to be an intentional act.


[Rachel Parklakian]: and I think that’s so important because I’ll sit when my when I’m talking to one of my kids, and my phone dings that I’ve have a text message, they are so conditioned to immediately check it and I’ll say “no it’ll wait I’m focused on you right now”


[Louise Dorrat]: And keep it on silent unless your partner is expecting a baby or something, keep it on silent! 


[Rachel Parklakian]: Right absolutely. Heather, do you want to have the final word from the research perspective? 


[Dr. Heather Kirkorian]: Sure I’d love to. So I would echo what’s already been said for sure, and also add that it doesn’t have to be a hundred percent of the time. It’s more practical for parents to focus on carving out those special times in the day for screen free, focused high-quality interactions. Rather than feeling guilty anytime their phone gets caught in their hands.


[Rachel Parklakian]: Absolutely, well thank you and I think that’s great guidance that will help all of us approach this summer with a sense of balance and a whole toolbox full of strategies for managing these screen questions that arise with our children. I just very much appreciate how you each shared your expertise so generously this afternoon and now I’d like to ask the founder and president of Children and Screens Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra to close us out today. I think you’re on mute Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra.


[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Thank you all for coming and for your excellent questions. And Thank You Rebecca, Kathy, Laura, and Louise, and Heather for a terrific panel and for so many useful tips and so much insight and advice for parents. The conversation will continue on Friday with the webinar moderated by Dr. David Hill, former chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s Media Committee with a dynamic panel packed with ideas for parenting school-aged children this summer. On Monday June 8th Dr. Robert Bilder, director of the Tenenbaums Center from the biology and creativity department at UCLA. He will lead a fascinating workshop that “teens and screens during the Summer of Covid 19”. Sorry I couldn’t miss that rhyming opportunity! We hope that you’ll join us both Friday and Monday and please share the YouTube videos you’ll receive of today’s workshop with your fellow parents, teachers, clinicians, researchers, and friends. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it! When you leave the workshop you’ll see a link to a short survey. Please click on the link and let us know what you thought of the workshop. Thanks again and everyone stay safe and well!