How we did lockdown without screen time

By Renate Engelbrecht

Thursday, Apr 30

When our daughter, Catha was born we made a decision: No screen time before she’s three years old. She is two now and we were not going to let something like lockdown mess with our house rules, that’s for sure.

The World Health Organisation recently said that infants under 1 year of age should not be exposed to electronic screens and that children between the ages of 2 and 4 should not have more than one hour of sedentary screen time daily.

Wikus and I are firm believers in sticking to routine and not saying you’ll do something this way and then allow circumstances to make you do it differently. The same applied to when we had to decide on how to keep the kids busy during lockdown. Don’t get me wrong – at times I really wished that I could just pop my phone into Catha’s little hands and let her watch a couple of YouTube videos. That would have given me a bit of a breather and it even felt like I would be spoiling her a bit (which in hindsight I don’t believe would really have been the case, as I would actually be taking from her the ability to stretch her imagination and learn to keep herself busy).

Here are some of the things we did (while Wikus and I also worked full-time and with a 3-month-old baby in the house too) to keep Catha busy without having to resort to letting her watch television, tablet or cell phone (unless she wants to watch photos of herself…):

  • Pinterest and Facebook sure were a great help in the early stages of lockdown. We printed out animal faces and glued them together – nose in the right eye’s place and the tail for a toe, but if Catha can glue things together, she’s in seventh heaven!
  • Being the first grandchild in the family (on both sides) Catha has way too many toys. Some toys have been packed away and we often rotate the toys to keep it interesting. During lockdown Catha enjoyed playing with a new (old) batch of toys again and her dad (hero that he is) built her a really cool house from cardboard in which her teddies could eat, sleep and play. It’s amazing what you can build with household items!
  • We painted toilet paper rolls, glued them together and made a tunnel through which we threw balls from top to bottom.
  • We are one of the lucky families that have a garden. Catha rode her pink three-wheel motorcycle (which was given to Wikus and me as a wedding gift before there was even talk of kids) around the house numerous times and even got daring at times, chasing our Great Dane, Majoor around as she got more confidant.
  • We picked leaves in the garden and pressed them into clay I bought from our neighbourhood Spar for under R20. She loved how the leaves left their shapes in the clay. Then we used the same clay and built little birds with nests and eggs.
  • The next day we made new clay from a recipe we found on Facebook, because Catha didn’t want to break the birds.
  • We sang songs.
  • We read books.
  • We baked flapjacks.
  • We baked pancakes.
  • (We mopped the floors…)
  • We explored Catha’s WackyBox day by day – from playing with coloured water in different holders, planting pasta in clay and gluing a flower together to making our own garden on felt and matching flower pictures.


  • On Easter weekend Catha even pulled out the Christmas tree to decorate and we did that with great smiles, because we celebrated Jesus’ birth, as well as the fact that He died for us and is risen! All in one weekend! It’s official: Catha loves Christmas as much as I.
  • We kept our eyes peeled for little insects and animals in the garden and got to see a giant moth, many butterflies, a funny-looking beetle, many worms (especially in the veggie garden), ladybugs and even a mouse! Oh, and we spotted some toadstools where we are convinced fairies live.
  • We painted. And, we painted and we painted and we painted! Red, blue, yellow. With sponges, with paintbrushes, with string, with toilet paper holders cut into stars. Catha even painted her nails.
  • We picked flowers.
  • We took photos and even tried (and failed at) a combined #QuarantinePillowChallenge.
  • We exercised with JEFF Together and Alive & Balanced – Catha can do squats better than I can!
  • We tried Yoga through the Nike Training Club app (their premium version is free until further notice due to lockdown)
  • We dressed Catha’s dolls with brother Elian’s clothes.
  • We threw soft toys like balls and laughed a lot.
  • We hosted a teddy bear picnic.
  • We made coffee for dad and spoiled him with rusks.
  • We changed Elian’s nappies and lay next to him under his mobile, showing him all the different toys.
  • We got some small tasks from the school (which came exactly at the right time) and learned about cows.
  • We stuck spaghetti into a sponge and glided straws of different colours over it.
  • We made pasta.
  • We built blocks.
  • We read some more.
  • We danced.
  • We cut out pictures of flowers from old magazines and glued them onto blank pages.
  • We made binoculars from toilet paper rolls.
  • We played hide and seek.
  • Catha climbed, hung and glided on her jungle gym.
  • Catha jumped on my fitness trampoline (which has now become hers).





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