Mum Life

Does Your Family Need A Screen Time Detox? Read on

by Rosie McKay

Need to call time on screen time? Lee Watson shares her tips for how to pull away from technology and reconnect as a family outdoors...

I won't lie there are times that I rue the day iPads and mobile devices were invented and other days where they're literally my saving grace - like when I have an unexpected job pop up and really need to work on the computer for a few hours or we attempt to have a nice breakfast out and need to keep our lively Sammy still for 30mins or so! However like many parents, the amount of screen time I allow my children to consume is a constant source of guilt - even Maia at 7 months knows what's up when she sees an iPad or mobile phone (insert "see no evil" monkey emoji here)!

It's the same battle, Lee Watson, wife of Aussie cricketer Shane Watson and mum to Will (age 4) and Matilda (age 2) understands as she too juggles motherhood with the running of her business Let's Activate, a sports program for young children. "When I am with the kids I like to totally switch off and be 100% present," says Lee. "It's not easy and it's always a work in progress. I want the children to grow up in an environment without iPads and phones constantly in their faces. I have very fond memories of spending time with my parents playing in the backyard without any distractions."

It's these vivid memories of her childhood largely spent outdoors, that prompted Lee to partner with Golden Circle and Heath McKenzie to pen Nothing Happens Outside, a children's book that encourages more family bonding outdoors so kids and parents can reconnect in real time. 

In this exclusive interview, the first-time author, shares her go-to activities to keep her kids off devices, how she and husband Shane, find the right balance when it comes to screen time, what's surprised her most since consciously making an effort to spend more time outside and why they're packing up their home for a bit to spend time travelling as a family before Will starts school in 2019. 

See Need Want Motherhood Screentime Detox
Credit: Image courtesy of Instagram User @leewatson24, shot by Dave Wheeler for Stellar Magazine
What are your top 3 go-to activities to curb screen time with Will and Matilda?
  1. We take Will and Matilda to Let's Activate each week which they really enjoy. They get to learn about a whole range of different sports in a fun and engaging environment. 
  2. Hide and seek in the backyard- It's Will and Matilda's favourite game and they would play it all day long if they could. 
  3. We take the kids to our local park for a game of soccer. It gets extremely competitive. As you can imagine the girls always beat the boys! 
See Need Want Motherhood Screentime Detox 2
Screen time affects all parents trying to keep busy kids occupied – what are the rules about it in your home?

It's all about finding the right balance. Will and Matilda can watch their favourite show each day but the rest of the day is spent being active. Will and Matilda are in their happy place when they are outdoors in the sunshine. iPads are great when we have long car trips and flights. 

What has surprised you the most since making a conscious decision to get the kids off devices and back into nature to enjoy real moments?

They are much more content when they are using their imaginations and playing with friends and family away from the TV. The kids are much happier and less likely to argue when they are climbing trees and playing hide and seek in the backyard. 

See Need Want Motherhood Screentime Detox 6
I can attest that having kids changes things – how did do you juggle being a hands-on mum with your business ventures including Let’s Activate with your career aspirations?

I have dedicated time where I work on Let's Activate which is usually before the kids wake up and after they go to bed each night. When I am with the kids I like to totally switch off and be 100% present. It's not easy and it's always a work in progress. I want the children to grow up in an environment without iPads and phones constantly in their faces. I have very fond memories of spending time with my parents playing in the backyard without any distractions.  

Did you always want to take a career break once kids came along? What have you loved the most about being able to be around for your children?

It's been an even busier time away from the TV land as with Let's Activate I never really stop working. Having my own business and being involved in every aspect of it there is never a time to rest. It's extremely rewarding watching the children at our Let's Activate clinics and birthday parties learning so much whilst having a greater time in the process. 

See Need Want Motherhood Screentime Detox 3
Walking away from a career for motherhood can also be a real identity crisis for some women – what - if any - are some of the challenges you've faced?

I have never stopped working. As soon as I left Fox Sports I began creating the concept for Let's Activate. The biggest challenge I have had is trying to be the best mother I can be and at the same time attempting to stay on top of every aspect of the business. I try to be as organized as I can be and the biggest lesson I have learnt is not to try to do more than one thing at a time. Some of the best work I have done is at cafe's or at the LA clinics and some of the worst work occurs when I am at home with the kids. 

See Need Want Motherhood Screentime Detox 7
Tell us a bit about your new book Nothing Happens Outside – how did the idea spark and how long did it take to write?

Golden Circle approached me just after I launched Let's Activate and we both wanted to create a positive tool to encourage more family time and highlight the benefits of physical activity. Usually it takes the best part of 6 months to write a children's book but we were under a tight deadline so it took 3 busy months to put the book together. Heath McKenzie was an absolute dream to work with, definitely one of the best in the business. 

See Need Want Motherhood Book Nothing Happens Outside
Did you ever picture yourself to be an author?

I have always wanted to write a children's book particularly when I became a parent. Will and Matilda absolutely love it when I read to them and it's such a special time as it's a great way to unwind before bedtime. 

Why did you want to partner with Golden Circle to get the book into as many children’s hands as possible? What do you hope it will spark in the kids that read it?

Golden circle contacted after I launched Let's Activate and it seemed like a perfect fit once they told me about the strong message they would like to portray with the book. I really hope it encourages more beautiful family moments in the sunshine and kids continue to spend as much time as they can in the outdoors. 

How are you feeling about spending time abroad in Europe and in QLD with Shane’s family ahead of Will starting school?

It's a really exciting opportunity for us as i think the kids will absolutely love travelling around the world and experiencing different cultures around the world. We will always be based in Sydney but will spend some time with Shane's parents in Brisbane before Will starts school in 2019. 

What do you hope the kids will take from their travels?

We are all just really looking forward to lots of family time. Over the last ten years Shane has spent majority of the year interstate or overseas. It will be nice to have quality family time. 

See Need Want Motherhood Screentime Detox 5
What’s next for you?

Let's Activate children's sport themed Birthday parties! They are active parties which we tailor to the Birthday child's favourite sports and games. It's great to see the kids on the move from the start to the end of the party whilst having a wonderful time.

WATCH: Lee on "Nothing Happens Outside"

Available from Monday, 15 January 2018, Nothing Happens Outside can be redeemed after purchasing any three Golden Circle juice or drinks from your local supermarket.

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