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No cell phones. No games. No electronics — just 20 minutes a Day

Updated: Jan 1, 2019


What would happen if we removed all technology and played with our children 20 minutes a day–one-on-one, without distractions?

NO cell phones. NO games. NO electronics –for them or US. Just face-to-face play, following their leads, giving undivided attention.

When I came up with this idea, I thought I was being utterly original, but not so.  Limited orchestrated playtime has been propoed by other educators time and again to increase communication and connection in families.

But what is play? Is it instructing a child on his or her baseball throw or how to finish a school project or what color to paint the moon? We already know it’s NOT that.

Still, do we really know it’s getting into a child’s space, a child’s perspective, indeed a child’s world and relating from there?

  • Throwing a ball back and forth again and again any way the child wants us to.

  •  Playing make believe–even accepting that the animated Super Mario Squirrel lives in Minecraft as opposed to the forest we imagine.

  • Hiding under the dining room table in a game of hide-and-seek.

  • Drawing a kitty over and over again simply because we were asked to.

  • Maybe even watching them playing a video game or play with them until they want to play something else (this will happen).

We can always make suggestions. Propose putting the engine at the front of the train instead of at the back,  draw green grass instead of purple grass, be a kind fairy godmother instead of a mean one. But in the end, it is the child’s call. Our job is to simply follow their cues and comment specifically on what they are doing.

” You drew the sun blue–here are the eyes you wanted.”

“Hey, look at you move your arms.”

Commenting about their process in concrete detail versus saying they are a great artist or great athlete leaves nothing to live up to.  It simply lets them know we care, we are paying attention to them, and we are connecting with them in that very moment.

Howard Glasser in Notching Up – the Nurtured Heart Approach, says connection is what they want all along.  All attention getting behavior is really behavior based on a desire to connect.


  • Set up a specific time IN ADVANCE (very important).

  • If the time must change, reschedule beforehand.

  • Never have “no shows”.

In today’s world, fitting in 20 minutes of free play with our children can seem challenging.   A 21 day trial run might help. If you have more than one child and 40+ minutes just can’t happen, then you might need to shorten the time or divide the time among your children.

In truth, 20 minutes might be all our children want.  Time to check in with us, experience our being totally there for them, so they can take off again to explore, expand their imaginations and satisfy their curiosity, confident and secure in our love for them.



*Feel free to take a look at my follow-up article.

If you want more information on how to practice noticing positive behavior as opposed to noticing negative behavior and its therapeutic value, check out Howard Glasser’s work here. Although he developed it for the difficult child, I believe it is a beneficial approach for all children AND adults.

“How we communicate affects our joy of being alive.” –   Linda

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