We can already feel the tension spreading through our bodies: It’s time to put away the iPad, but there is a small person who is almost certainly going to lose their mind when you tell them. Whether you resort to a countdown timer or go the “this is your last show” route, it’s pretty much always a struggle.

Perhaps you need a new strategy. Parenting coach Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta recently shared her method for successfully ending iPad time, and it combines a little bit of the two approaches above with some voice modulation and sensory input.


♬ original sound – Dr. Chelsey Hauge-Zavaleta

Here are the steps:

  1. Curl around your kid and join in what they are doing for a minute or two.
  2. Make your announcement: “I’m starting the countdown timer” or “We have one more song.”
  3. Put your hands on the iPad (because you know your kid might try to run off with it), and when the timer goes off, say, “5-4-3-2-1, iPad is all done.” Offering sensory input with the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown is a good addition for kids who may not hear you with all that’s going on.
  4. You can either offer your child the choice to shut the iPad or add some melodic intonation while singing, “Now it’s time to shut the iPad” and do it yourself.
  5. Take control of the iPad and say, “iPad goes to the charging station.” Plugging the iPad into the charging station closes the experience for the child.

A few things to note about this method. Using language like “We have one more song” instead of “This is our last song before we leave for school” focuses on what the child is doing now versus what you are doing in the future. It’s easier for kids to accept the transition this way.

“Melodic intonation” is when you use a sing-songy voice to make a statement. It helps kids notice what you are saying and acknowledge it. Take a look at Miss Rachel and a lot of the other preschool-focused programming and you’ll see it employed often. Using melodic intonation for the phrase “iPad is all done” helps to signal the transition for the child.

It’s important to remember that even when using a technique like this, it will take you doing it the same way over and over several times before your child catches on and gets with the program. If they have a meltdown, don’t engage, stay calm, and move on.

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