Making Screen Time Therapeutic
By: Allison Richard, SPT
With new electronics from the holidays and colder weather sticking around, the temptation to sit in front of screens for longer periods of time is ever present. This period of physical inactivity can be harmful to our overall health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics physical inactivity and screen time are linked to childhood obesity. The AAP recommends:
Only video chatting for children younger than 18 months. To introduce screen time, choose high quality programming you can watch together to help children understand what they are watching.
1 hour a day of high quality programs for children 2-5 years old and watching media with them to help them understand how it relates to the world.
For children 6 years and older, place limits on screen time as you feel appropriate. However children should still have quality time for sleep and physical activity.
HOWEVER, in moderation screen time can be okay, and you can even make screen time therapeutic. Below are some ways that you can increase strength or stretch muscles while watching TV or playing video games.
Stretching: Below are some ideas for how to stretch while playing games or watching programs on your TV, Ipad, or computers:
Stretch those calves (gastrocnemius)! You can use a belt or a sheet to assist. Place the belt or sheet around your foot and pull back with your toes pointed toward the ceiling. You control the amount of stretch!
You can also stretch by getting into the downward dog position. You can do this while watching any show or movie you chose.
Try to do this at least 3 times and hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds!
Get those hamstrings stretched out! While watching your favorite show or playing your favorite game on your handheld device, you can place your feel flat against a wall with good posture and hold this stretch! To get an even better stretch, lean forward as far as possible with a nice straight back. You should feel this stretch in the back of your legs.
Become a frog! A great stretch for your groin muscles (hip adductors) is the frog stretch. As depicted here, bend your legs back and place your knees and elbows on the floor. Allow yourself to relax and let gravity to its work. You can hold this stretch for as long as you like, but try for at least three minutes.
Stretch like a seal. This is an easy stretch to perform before, during, or after those long movies or exciting runs on a video game. Lay on your stomach and press up on your hands, making your elbows straight.
Strengthening: Doing exercises during screen time can be easy! Here are some suggestions below:
Watching TV or playing games with good posture. Think “pull shoulder blades down and back”! Try to be mindful of your posture. To further challenge your abdominal and trunk muscles, sit on uneven surfaces, such as couch cushions, pillows, or therapy balls. Keeping your shoulders down and back should help strengthen those muscles that help you keep good posture throughout the day.
Supermans and bananas. Do these during commercials! Typical commercials last about thirty seconds. Holding these positions (pictured here) are easy to do during those boring commercials. They will get you active and moving and are an easy way to keep track of how long you are doing the exercise.
Challenge your balance! Watch your favorite show on while standing on one leg! To make it harder try standing on a pillow or couch cushion. You can do this during commercials too. Try to make it one whole commercial on one leg without falling!
Here at Synergy Family Therapy Specialists, we encourage living an active lifestyle and making the most out of your free time. You can still stretch or strengthen during those cold or rainy days when you’re stuck inside. There are some relaxing and fun qualities to screen time, but make sure it is in moderation! With the above suggestions, hopefully you can make the most out of screen time any time of year! If your child is in therapy, discuss additional options with your therapist!