I was recently in conversation with a friend of mine who is a mom of a busy 5 year old. She said the kindergarten teacher had instructed the parents to limit their child’s screen time. The theory is that spending too much time in front of the screen shortens attention spans, which in turn makes maintaining focus at school harder. We get that as parents, but practically speaking, this mom still needed to do laundry and cook meals! You can’t just cut a 5 year old loose in the neighborhood, they need some sort of supervision, but how do you supervise, without screens? Enter the Private Time Bag!
What’s A Private Time Bag?!
I came up with this idea when we had our grandkids for the week for Vacation Bible School. Now, one rule we insist upon during VBS week is that electronic devices are not allowed. We don’t even turn on the TV during the week. That’s an unrealistic expectation for parents, but for us as grandparents, it works for that week. We tire them out with outdoor activities and they tire us out! Believe me, everyone sleeps well that week! What I started to notice, however was around 3:30 pm, tempers got testy, patience was running thin, and hanger was starting to set in. I’m talking about both the adults and the kids here! We needed something to keep the kiddos busy, keep them separated and give me enough time to pull together a quick meal. That’s when we started Private Time.
Keys to Success: Interesting, Independent, Varied
When I introduced Private Time to the grandkids, I made sure I was prepared with activities that would be independent, varied and would keep their interest for at least 10 minutes. Private time would only be an hour. I gave the time limit because I wanted the kids to know private time had a defined ending. I also made it part of their schedule for the day. They knew exactly what time to expect private time (between 4 and 5 pm). We even put them in different rooms in the house, all within ear shot. And when time was up, everyone seemed so much happier! It was a great tool to settle them down right before dinner. And the most miraculous thing happened! They actually started to ASK for private time! I’m not kidding, they would ask, “Can we start private time a little early today?!” When I told my friend about my little bag of sanity, she loved the idea! And she convinced me to share it with you, along with some recommendations of what to put into the private time bag. So, here goes! I’ve provided links to the products in bold type.
Put It All Together
Obviously, you can put your own spin on this, but here are the elements that I recommend. All should be age appropriate and even a little easier. You are not trying to help them learn anything new here, your goal is to keep them engaged and interested.
I used a drawstring sport pack for each child. Whatever you use, it just has to be large enough to hold the contents. And we keep this separate from the other toys. The ONLY time we use the bag is during private time!
Something to Build
I used the mini version of magnetic tiles, PicassoTiles. I used these because I found that the younger kids had trouble building with traditional blocks or legos. They couldn’t get their architectural masterpieces to stay together long enough to show off to me! And some younger hands aren’t strong enough to get legos or bristle blocks to stick. The magnetic tiles are usually for ages 3 and up. Make it something different than they normally play with though, that keeps it fresh for them.
Something to Read
By now, you know I love to read and recommend books to you! Get something age appropriate that will not be too much of a struggle for early readers. Here are a few of my favorite selections, each chapter is short but meaningful and easy to read.
- Jesus Storybook Bible
- God’s Wisdom for Little Girls
- God’s Wisdom for Little Boys
- Pooch and the Pearly Gates
- Fox and the Hard Day
If you have older children, 4th grade and up, a good chapter book choice is the Adventure Bible Handbook: A Wild Ride Through the Bible. The time travel comic strip that parallels the Bible stories will keep older readers engaged.
In the case that kids can’t read yet, you can put something else in the bag. I used Melissa and Doug magnetic paper dolls with our grand daughter, she loved changing the outfits! And they make these for boys, too! Melissa and Doug Joey Set
A Craft to Make
Again, these will need to be age specific. For younger kids select something that does not require scissors or glue (you don’t want to have to supervise and you don’t want a mess to clean up!). I found that sewing kits, with plastic needles and holes pre-punched so they could follow along, were great! Animal Sewing Kits are perfect for boys or girls. And the bonus is you can use the animals they make to talk about creation!
Think coloring books, crayons and colored pencils. Our grand kids even loved just having a blank sketch pad to make their own drawings, which we usually hang on the fridge, just like you do! I even found a roll-up chalk board at a craft fair that they use for chalk drawings. I think an Etch-a-Sketch would be hugely fun! I might even play with that one!
A Solo Game
Puzzles are great to include in the private time bag. For kids 10 and older, consider a 3-D puzzle like Dogpile or Catstax. Scramble Squares are a great challenge for kids age 12 and over. There are even blank puzzles, where children can draw a picture on the puzzle pieces, creating their very own masterpiece. Rubik’s Cube is another good solo game. I would add one of those dollar store push pop fidget toys as well. Our grandkids seem to love those right now!
No, I don’t mean take out a loan to put this all together! What I do mean is ask grandparents to put this together for you as a Christmas or birthday gift. You are going to want to rotate the contents of the private time bag. This keeps it age appropriate and fresh. I try to add something new each time the kids come over to play. That keeps them engaged with the idea and keeps them interested. So explain the concept to a grandparent or aunt, and believe me, you may never have to purchase a thing, unless you just want to!
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