If your little one demands a gadget during every meal, it’s time you give her a digital detox, says DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON. Here’s how to do it.
Electronic tablets can be very effective at keeping your toddler entertained during mealtimes. Watching Youtube shows on the device has become a habit for her as she feeds herself.
You may find that when you try to take it away, she will kick up a fuss, refuse to feed herself and won’t sit still.
How can you wean her off the iPad – during mealtimes, at least? Here’s the strategy:
Devise a plan and stick to it Expect her to object strongly when you attempt to make her focus less on the screen and more on the plate.
She’s very happy with the way things are at the moment, thank you very much, and she wants that to continue indefinitely. Stay determined despite her ferocious objections.
Avoid the cold turkey treatment Much as you would want to hide the tablet until her next birthday, you should aim for a gradual reduction in her usage of the iPad at mealtimes rather than an immediate withdrawal.
She’ll respond best when she is given time to adjust to the new arrangements. Remember that if she is in a good mood when she starts to eat, she’ll consume more.
Keep her busy as mealtime approaches Chat with your toddler as she sits in her high chair waiting for the meal to be served, and keep talking to her as you put the food in front of her.
Your attention and interest take her mind off the tablet, and she might even start eating.
Sit with her as she eats If possible, make time to sit with your toddler as she munches her way through the meal.
She loves having you beside her while she eats, especially if she has you all to herself with nothing else to take your attention. This strategy reduces her need for the iPad to keep her amused.
Reduce usage progressively On the first day of implementing your plan, keep the tablet away until, say, she has taken her first few mouthfuls of food. You’ll find this more effective than to remove it towards the end of the meal because she may get upset and decide to stop eating at that point.
After a few days, introduce the tablet only when she has been eating for, say, a minute. Slowly increase this delay every three or four days.
Provide alternative distractions Maybe she would be happy to listen to her favourite songs while she eats. Try not to give her a toy as she may prefer to hold that instead of the spoon.
Eventually remove the tablet altogether At some stage – probably within two or three weeks – you’ll reach the stage when the iPad should not appear at all while she eats her meal. Stick to that plan, even if she complains.
Set a good example yourself You can’t reasonably expect your toddler to give up screen-time if she sees you check e-mails on your smartphone when you have your dinner. Put away your device, too, so the both of you can share a technology-free meal together.
"You can’ t expect your toddler to give up screen-time if she sees you check e-mails on your smartphone when you have your dinner. Put away your device, too."
ILLUSTRATION CHENG PUAY KOON