Screen Time Control for Kids

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Online schooling has been the better choice of schooling method for us this year. It is our first time trying it and it has a lot of favorable advantages. It also comes with some disadvantages. One of them is the increased screen time of our kids which we are trying to keep at a minimum.

We read some studies that tells how much using phones and tablets make kids cranky, giving them the feeling of being tired but not sleepy. It also disrupts focus and basically lacking physical movement. To help control it, we rolled out a process on how they can “earn” screen time. Of course this does not include the school screen time.

The process I am talking about is the use of “coupons” which they can earn by doing tasks independently such as: taking a bath, making bed, feeding pets, etc. Each coupon earns them 10 minutes of screen time.

It worked well for us. The kids bought the idea and abide by it. We rarely go about the argument of getting more screen time once their coupons for the day are all used up.

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13 Lockdown Activities to Break the Boredom

Well, we surely all know by now how the pandemic of 2020, named COVID-19, changed the way we live and the way businesses are handled. It brought along many side effects both negative and positive. For me, I chose to look at the positives: more time with the family, being able to finally tend to our garden, fixing furnitures and rearranging the house, and cleaning those corners or rooms that have long stored unused dusty stuff.

Of course the kids enjoyed it too. Having mum and dad at home all day was like a dream holiday for them. Until the quarantine period stretched and stretched and stretched.

Four months now, and we are still staying at home full time. It easily became boring for the children. To ease that boredom, we would come up with activities that will bring fun, learning and most importantly break the monotony from time to time. I will be sharing the things we’ve tried so far. Keep reading! You may find one or two activities you’d like to try with your kids! Or parents.

Lockdown Activity 1: Face Painting

These times have refueled not only mum’s creativity but also dad’s!

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Lockdown Activity 2: Making DIY Animal Puppets

The kids did not just have a great time playing with their dog puppets, they had loads of fun making them.

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Lockdown Activity 3: Dress up and have a photo session

We might not be able to travel anytime soon but the lockdown can’t stop the girls in putting on their favorite travel attires. It was a fun way to reminisce our last autumn trip to Seoul, Korea. Oh, how we miss traveling.

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Lockdown Activity 4: Cook your own favorite snacks.

Today we tried the waffle maker which mum got in exchange with N95 and Pitta masks from a barter community. Our usual pancakes and hotdogs turned to waffle hotdogs! Yum!

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Lockdown Activity 5: Repurpose old items into something that would spark joy

Who would have thought the girls’ old pairs of socks would make such cute kitty plushies?

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Lockdown Activity 6: Transform your living room into a home cinema.

Having fresh popcorn, relaxing on DIY recliners set up by the big sister and watching one of mum’s favorite childhood film for the second time makes the best family movie night experience.

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Lockdown Activity 7: Set up a study area and play pretend school.

Pretend school is a win-win for us parents and our kids. The big sis just loves being the little teacher and the lil sis, who hasn’t been to any formal school yet, gets to practice how it is to be in school.

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Lockdown Activity 8: Grow your own monggo sprouts.

This is a fun way of indulging the kids in an experiment on plants while they help us in growing our own food.

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Lockdown Activity 9: Step outside and go on an educational field trip (may it be just at your backyard)

The kids picked up some leaves and made fun art by tracing the leaves with crayons. We also sang action songs before we ate our snacks.

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Lockdown Activity 10: Transform an area at home into an indoor playground.

The kids were missing going to Kidzoona (an indoor playground) so…we built Kiddie Town at home. Our customers were very pleased. 

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Lockdown Activity 11: Have the kids wear their Halloween costumes for a day.

The kids get to relive the fun without the trick or treating part, of course. And while they still fit into their costumes, you can redo this on random days.

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Lockdown Activity 12: Create a beach day right at home

A sand box, some beach toys and our picnic under the sun. Might be missing the sea in the picture but it was just like spending an afternoon at the beach.

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Lockdown Activity 13: Play charades with your kids.

Charades is a simple activity the whole family can play to ease boredom. It helps our kids pay attention, practice a bit of acting and most importantly, have fun less the noise. 

Let me know which one’s your favorite. Have a nice and non-boring weekend ahead!

My Daughter Turned 5

 

My eldest child just turned five (5). That also means I became a father five years ago. I’ve been repeating that to myself a few weeks now, and I still can’t grasp it fully. It’s surreal. The feeling of happiness watching her grow, the joy of being with her as she learns about the world around her, the surprise in seeing what she is now able to do and then there’s that bittersweet feeling making me ask quietly in undertone ‘why do you have to grow up so fast?’.

It has been five years but I still recall things as if they just happened last month. The hospital admission, the long wait outside the delivery room, the trembling and the anticipation. And then the first time I saw her behind the glass of the nursery room. I still can’t believe how amazing that felt. It was indescribable.

Five years went by so fast. She’s no longer an infant but a schoolgirl. She is able to do a lot of things on her own now. She can even help watch after her little sister and she’s able to get her own snacks and drinks from the kitchen whenever she’s hungry. I’m truly proud and happy about her developing independence. I’m happy for her, but, I’m scared for my self.

I’m scared of the fact that in the coming years, she’ll need us less and less. One day, she’ll be totally independent. I know that’s still a long time from today, but I don’t trust that it will feel that way when it comes. Just like how fast five years felt like right now. Specially if I used the time in between carelessly.

Realizing this, I decided I will be even more keen in spending quality time with my kids when ever and how ever I can. I will make sure any time I spend away from them is never a waste of time. I will do my best to be with them as much as I can so that in the future, I will be able to say I have spent all the time I can with them. I know though, that won’t save me from feeling sad should the day come for them to leave home. But at least, I hope, I will not have to put up with regret of being absent during the times they needed me most.

 

My Dad’s Watch

This watch is from my father. I used this sparingly through grade school, high school, college and a few years while working as an IT professional. I used it on my wedding day too.

Now a days, though, I have been keeping this watch in my drawer. I haven’t used it for quiet some time now, but it is in every bit as meaningful as it always have been because this watch reminds me a lot of my dad and the lessons he taught me.

Here are a few of the most treasured lessons my father taught me:

1. Think first before talking.

Reflection: Take the time to pick what you’ll say and how you’ll say them. Words hurt more than actions even when you don’t mean it.

2. Be on time.

Reflection: This is actually a discipline that helps your mind stay organized. Other than that, you are also giving respect to other’s schedule more than yours. I wrote one blog that touched this topic too. You can see it here: Keeping Up with Time

3. Clean your room.

Reflection: Take the time to tidy up. Another discipline to keep yourself and your stuff organized.

He took the time to teach me those lessons then, and I turned out to be just fine.

To my father:

Pa, now I think I understand the lessons you shared to us better than I ever did before. Thank you for being a very good example to us, your children. May you always have good health and more birthdays to come.

Happy Birthday Pa!

 

Unravel

I read an article written by purposefulparentingjourney which talked about a process in the world of crochet called, “unravel”.

According to the article, to unravel is “to undo what you have so lovingly and patiently created to, usually, make corrections.”

I loved the article, not because I am interested in crochet, but because of how the author related the process [unraveling] to life. Below is a snippet from the article that really pinched a part of me:

Sometimes we mess up, sometimes we feel stuck, not growing nor progressing. Sometimes we feel as if we are not in the place we want, not in the place where we could feel fulfilled and where we could better serve our purpose. Remember, you don’t have to stay there. Remember that you always have the option to unravel and go back to start over.

Here’s a link to the full article if you want to read it: Unravel and Start Anew.

I was able to relate because I have been in that situation and what helped me get back up is the process of ‘unraveling’.

In my experience, the feeling of being lost or stuck entered progressively. It started small and seemingly innocent. And then it affected one part of my being, and another, and another. It kept me busy chasing, just trying to keep up with life’s demands, trying to keep things together and yet no matter how much I try, they still fall apart. Nothing was seriously wrong about my life. In fact, when I look around me, all I see are good things. Everything was great, save for little wrinkles (we can’t have all sunshine right?). So I wondered why I felt that way.

One time, I got very tired of what was happening so I decided to sit down and assess. In my head, questions such as “Why am I feeling lost?”, “How is it that things felt so unorganized right now?”, “How were things before?”, “How did it make transition from feeling great to feeling bad and I didn’t notice it while it was happening?” kept popping  up and I was unable to answer. I realized that first, I had to accept that I’m caught up in a growing feeling of emptiness and being lost at life instead of trying to put back how things once were. Maybe if my life was a crochet, maybe it’s just that the yarns aren’t going where they’re supposed to.

Since my questions relate to the past and what happened between then and now, I went through a year long process of retracing my steps trying to remind myself of who I was and what I cared for some years back by remaking parts of the experiences. I didn’t go back in time, I just tried to remember the feeling of being there.

During the process, I visited my parents. Just being there with them, being in their house and going through my old stuff in my old room, brought back a lot of pieces already. I went through my Zoids (they are toys if you’re not familiar with them) collection, dusting them off with my daughter. I checked my old guitars. I listened to the music I used to listen to. And spent a lot of time either talking to my wife or just thinking quietly. Oh and I chugged down a lot of coffee too (and beer)!

It was a long mentally and emotionally painstaking process but it was all worth it. I knew I surpassed it when I, once again, am able to appreciate what I currently have and  understand where I wanted to go with who I currently am. I’m glad I made it through – of course with the support of family and friends.

That’s my unraveling experience. Are you feeling stuck, not growing nor progressing? Do you feel as if you are not in the place you want, not in the place where you could feel fulfilled and where you could better serve your purpose? Remember that you always have the option to ‘unravel’.

Last Christmas

2018’s Christmas season was the longest break I enjoyed so far ever since moving out of my folks’ house.

Seven days passed since getting back from the trip and I find myself still ecstatic about it and kept recounting and savoring the moments I had from our recent home-coming.

And because I love those moments so much, I would like to share some of them with you:

That’s our little happy family above. From my parents, to their grandchildren (apologies on the blurry shot). We were gathered to celebrate my sister’s birthday last December 26th.

Now, unlike our usual very short Christmas vacations, this one allowed me to spare some time and meet up with my old buddies!

The picture below is from our dinner meet-up with my best buddy Philip and his girlfriend Lou.

Also was able to meet-up with my ex-bandmate and college friend, Jeff with his son, Rej – my godson (picture above). We both have a complicated schedule and so if you noticed in the picture, we met at a local grocery. While running errands!

Below is a family lunchout. We drove 2hrs, give or take, to visit this vegetarian resto. (No pics of them though). The ambiance is very relaxing and the food is very good. The travel all the way getting here is worth it!

Below: With my grandma on Christmas day!

And my cousin/goddaughter (below) who was the game master of the Christmas family reunion. She entertained the kids and adults alike and added liveliness to the event:

It was sure a great time for bonding, relaxing and rejuvenating. I’d wanted to share some more photos but never had the time to ask permissions so maybe next time.

We were supposed to miss the family reunion due to schedule conflicts here and there, but I’m very happy and thankful we were able to make the trip. With that said, I would like to thank everyone who supported me in making this trip possible. Special mention to my wife who suddenly got busy booking for our flights and packing our stuff on my last minute decision.

I’m looking forward to 2019’s Holiday season but meantime, it’s back to reality. Before that though, here’s one last:

I hope you also enjoyed your break. Please feel free to share your experiences too!

Unplugged: Spending Less Time on Gadgets

My wife and I had several conversations on lessening screen time for us and for our kids as well. The goal is to spend more time interacting face-to-face and without distractions.

We have recently started practicing less cellphone use at home by depositing our mobile phones to a designated area. And when we sleep, our phones are stored away from the bed, out of easy reach and on Do Not Disturb mode. By doing this, we have enjoyed our weekends more and slept better and longer. We played with our kids more in our backyard and has been – well, always working on it – creative on the games and activities that would tick the interest of our toddlers and at the same time contribute to their learning and development.

The time freed up from staying away from our phones and T.V. already gave us a lot of room to do other things. Interestingly, on top of  achieving the goal of more face-to-face interactions and the plus points from getting better sleep, and being more physically active, we have noticed a lot more positive results on our kids. They have become more attentive, more patient and more caring towards each other.

Now, I’m no expert to say how spending less screen time really affects a kids behavior, happiness or their developing brain, but I’m liking the results so we’ve decided to continue on.

Have you tried establishing less screen time at home? Or are you more of a traditional who implements a limited time for T.V. and gadget use at home? Please let me know your experience around this topic in the comments. I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Oh yeah, I found this link below which I thought is also worth sharing.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/09/30/less-screen-time-linked-to-better-cognition-in-kids-study/#36fb3a2f21ee

Conversations with Iya: I Don’t Know How to Work

Conversations with Iya
Conversations with Iya

It was a fine morning.

We were on our way to my daughter’s school. As we stopped for a red light at an intersection, a man in ragged clothes approached our car and stood outside the passenger door. He knocked and gestured ‘give me [money]’. He’s a street beggar. For our own protection, we kept our windows closed and our doors locked. He stood there for a little bit and then moved on to the next car.

Green light came on, we took a right and into the street. My daughter, Iya, asked us (me and my wife), “Why some people just ask money?”. I said, “Because working [for money] is hard and maybe they don’t want to do it. Or, they can’t get work because they did not finish school”. I glimpsed at her, wondering if I made my point. I could have said a lot more possible reasons why the man ended up the way he is – like some of them are victims of circumstances and so on and so forth – but I was trying to make use of the situation to inspire Iya on going to school so I cut my response short. She replied, “Mommy, Daddy, when I grow up…”. Those words were enough to send our thoughts at an alarm. My wife, An, feared the next words would be I will just ask for money or something along that line. We braced ourselves for what’s to come. It was as if everything was in slow motion and soundless until the next words “…I will just take care of Ivi (her baby sister)”. I noticed a certain note of sadness and sincere concern in her voice. I was curious as to why. Then Iya continued, “I don’t know how to work”.

An and I were both quiet. Carefully crafting a way to handle the situation. We recently learned that kids at her age act by emotions and not by rationale, so telling her ‘you will learn how to work eventually’ or ‘you’ll need to work when you get older’ is not a good option. Then what to do next? What could she have been feeling?

Then I understood. She’s probably referring to what she sees mom and dad are doing when working. She doesn’t know how to do those things right now. I recall one time, I was working late into the night. She woke up and saw me engrossed with my tasks. She sat beside me and said, “Can I help you?” Because she wanted me to get some rest already and in her young mind, she thinks if she can help, then work will be finished faster. So I gave her my laptop and she quickly figured she don’t know what to do. Thus, she don’t know how to work! However, she considered taking care of her baby sister, because that’s something she thinks she can do. Because she sees us – babysitters included – doing that. And it is something she understands at her age. We concluded that she was acting on her emotions with inputs from things she already understands and has exposure on. So instead of bringing the conversation elsewhere, and become a limiting parent, I simply said, “Ok, you can focus on taking care of your sister for now.”

Understanding our childrens feelings or emotions is something we found to be useful when dealing or conversing with them. I used to force rationale in our discussions but I realized I am only limiting her imaginations and choices. We have been practicing and experimenting on this recently and we have been getting good response. If you are a parent, (aunt, uncle, grandparent, babysitter) you might want to take this approach next time you get in a counter rational conversation with your kids. But, keep in mind that every child is different and this might not work the same way for everyone. Please feel free to share your own approach in the comments.

Keeping Up with Time

One afternoon, I found myself scurrying around the block to get to the building beside the one next to my office for a meet-up to do a business deal closure. It was almost five o’clock in the afternoon and I wanted to get to the rendevous on time for two things: 1.) being late really makes me feel uncomfortable regardless the importance of the meeting, 2.) I am squeezing the appointment between other appointments that are only 30 minutes apart!

All the while, I was hoping that the other guy arrives on time and that the activities we need to undertake will take only twenty minutes or less. Otherwise, I miss the next item on my schedule and it will affect the next one, and the next one. Then, chaos!

Now, how did I get myself in this situation in the first place when I woke up in the morning to a straight forward schedule?

Here’s what happened:

I had an appointment at 10:00 AM and I was at the agreed location for a full hour, starting to wonder which ‘ten o’clock’ we had agreed on because no one was showing up nor am I getting any updates on my phone. I finally received an SMS saying that he can’t make it on time – get this – an hour and thirty minutes after ten o’clock in the morning.

Fast forward, he finally decided to send someone else in his stead seven hours past the originally agreed time. That left me no window to re-arrange my schedule so there I was scrambling for an appointment, uncertain what will happen next. On account of someone else’s inability to put his affairs in order.

That’s an experience I certainly would not want others to have on account of my actions. So, I’m glad my folks spent the time to build in me and my siblings these very simple things which had been very helpful in keeping up with “time”:

    Wake up at the same time everyday. Even if you slept late last night. I never truly understood what this meant until I had my own family. Specially when our first born came to our lives. For babies, consistency in schedule must be followed – or at least that’s how we did it. So we had to wake up the same time every morning to prepare and give the baby a bath. We do this up to this day. But life’s grinds don’t always allow us the luxury to wake up at the same time strictly anymore, so at times, at least one of us, between me and my wife, gets up to keep things going. But we never fall far from the standard wake up time. This is not only useful for having kids. It has also been useful in keeping schedules. Waking up early gives us flexibility to adjust whenever we come across schedule or task challenges.
    Be 30 minutes earlier than call time. When I started working at an IT company, one important thing my dad told me was target to be at the venue/office at least 30 minutes earlier than required time. This is to mitigate possible obstacles on the way to work. Think traffic jams, long queues at bus terminals, a car broke down on the high way, etc. You get the point.
    Show up at the time you said you would show up. And perhaps during this smartphone age, let people know if you can’t make it on time. There are a lot of means now a days. It is very different if you just show up late, than if you show up late but you informed ahead. People will understand your situation and also will be able to adjust their own plans.

Time is your most precious commodity and yet most of us live our lives as if we have all the time in the world. – Robin Sharma

Dad’s Little Fixers

One morning, our kids woke up too early for our energy to match. (Well, really, they woke up around the right time. It’s just that my wife and I were both exhausted from work the previous day and we were having a hard time getting up. I was also unwell then.) So these kids, who woke up too early, entertained themselves by playing with each other and playing with whatever stuff they found interesting in the bedroom – like ottoman converted to indoor slide. After too long, they got bored and decided to poke and prod their mom and dad.

We were still too drowsy and were thinking of a way to buy a few more minutes of rest. My wife remembered about the gift we brought home the other night. It was for my 2nd daughter who just turned 2 a few days back. So my wife said, ‘Kids, there’s a paper bag beside the ottoman, open it and you’ll find a gift inside’. Eerrrmm…of course I winged that sentence because I was still half a sleep then, but my wife said something like that.

Our four-year old, upon hearing the word ‘gift’, went straight to the bag and pulled out the package. She asked her mom, “Can I open?” (She likes opening gifts. She opens her gifts by herself – mostly – since she was 10 months old). Her mom said, “Yes, open it for your baby sister” She was so happy and started the deed with no second thought.

When it was finally out of the wrappings, our four-year old, cheerfully announced that it was a building set. Probably upon seeing tools. But then she identified the kind of tools in the ‘toolbox’ and realized, it’s a doctor set!

She looked at me excitedly and said, “Dad you’re sick, we’re gonna help you!” She turned to her baby sister and said, “We’ll gonna be doctors for Daddy, right? Because Daddy’s sick all the time. We will fix Daddy!”

That moment was both fun – seeing how excited and happy they are with their new toy, and touching – noting how they first thought of helping fix my sickness.

That moment brought me to a realization. To give my health priority. To take rests when needed. To not overstretch my physical limitations for less important things.

I have to be healthy because I want to enjoy more moments with my family. And so do you for your loved ones.