Toddlers Unlimited

Manila's Premiere Preschool & Toddler Center

All Screens Off 1 Hour A Day Challenge

on November 9, 2016


Usually, a teacher can tell if a student has been using gadgets for prolonged periods of time. For older kids, they become irritable, easily distracted, and even a bit disruptive. For younger ones, verbal interactions dip, attention span is fleeting, even initiative to play is dampened. Sure enough, when we talk to their parents, they admit to an increase in gadget use at home. Naturally, we ask them to limit screen time and within days, see an improvement in their child’s behavior in school. But while we are taking children off their screens at home, we’ve realized that only half of the battle that is being won.

In today’s parenting world, we have grown so accustomed to multi-tasking that we can check our emails (yes, we have more than one), manage our social media accounts (FB, IG, Twitter), do some work, watch videos on youtube or play a game (Candy Crush perhaps), AND talk to our kids. We are so good at doing so many things at the same time that we haven’t realized that our children aren’t getting the full amount of parenting attention they need and deserve.

One evening, I was working on a report, when my 5-year-old daughter asked me to draw with her. When I said, “I’m almost done, I just need 5 more minutes,” she lamented, “You’re always working. You never have time for me.” That very second I closed my computer and asked, “Is that really what you think?” She nodded but smiled when she saw me move away from the computer. Then we got on the floor and started sketching, talking and giggling about our illustrations.

This made me reflect on the messages I was sending my children. And got me into research mode. After doing some reading and talking to some field experts one thing became clear. Many well-meaning parents today, would limit their child’s gadget time, but even in the presence of their child would continue to use their own gadgets to work, connect with friends or relax. So much so, that when their child calls out to them, they give a cursory glance, nod, smile or comment, maybe take a photo to post, and then quickly return their eyes to the screen.

We are becoming a generation of parents who are missing out on the whole concept of Serve and Return, identified as one of the most important experiences in the brain development of infants and toddlers. When significant adults watch babies babble, gesture, giggle, make facial expressions and then copy them, they help build connections in the brain. But, this requires the adults to be fully attending to the child, so that the child can receive the returned gestures and facial expressions their parents are making. Children continue to need this type of fully engaged interaction throughout the childhood years.

Face-to-face contact with our children is such a simple thing to do, but one that many parents in this hi-tech world are unknowingly missing out on. It is with this thought that I decided to initiate a Family Challenge called SCREENS OFF, 1 HOUR A DAY, so we can give our children the full attention and eye to eye contact they deserve.

Families are free to choose which hour a day they would like to spend together. Depending on your family schedule you could do this during dinner time, bed time when stories and prayers are shared, game time when you engage your family in board games or play time when you can be with your children as they play with their toys.

When done long enough, we hope your family gets to the realization that being in a room together engaged with one another is so much more fun and memorable than being in a room together all staring at different devices.

Positive effects we hope to gain from this initiative include improved skills in communication, thinking, self-regulation and collaboration. We also expect to see better development in social and moral aspects. Because communication is improved, discipline will become easier. Your relationship with your child will naturally be deeper and richer.

I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who was a housewife in an age when we didn’t have these many technological distractions. I remember our nightly family dinners with my 5 siblings, my mom, sometimes my dad, and a friend or two, where our dinners would last so long because we would always talk (ok, sometimes fight) but a lot of times, laugh and have a lot of fun. To this day, whenever something big comes up, my mom is the first person I call.

There’s a plethora of information out there on how to be good parents and what we should do to make our children smarter, successful, confident, compassionate, well-mannered, etc. How about, we try giving them our undivided attention, starting with one hour a day and see if by making our children feel important to us, they become the best versions of themselves they were meant to be.

I know it’s ironic that you will probably read about this challenge through a screen, but it is my fervent wish that all parents who read this, will share it with another parent they care deeply about. And then shut down their screen, and do actual Face Time with their kids. Let your SCREENS OFF, 1 HOUR A DAY journey begin today!

Teacher Thumby Server-Veloso


Teacher Thumby Server-Veloso is a School Director for Toddlers Unlimited, the first progressive preschool in Alabang, since 1995, which has been ISO certified since 2001. She is also the School Director of Thinkers Unlimited, a primary progressive school in Alabang. She is a partner at Spark Discovery Center in Makati. Thumby has been teaching since 1993 and has a Masters Degree in Family Life and Child Development from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. She also has contributed articles to Working Mom Magazine and Cudsly, and was a guest speaker on Playing Power: The Magic of Childhood, at the South PiNanays event in Alabang Town Center on August 2016.


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