The WHO now says no screen time for the under five set, but what's a parent to do instead?

We know we're supposed to, but I think most of are struggling with how to unplug our kids from those screens.

Look, I know I'm not supposed to let my two-year-old daughter around an I-Pad, smartphone, or TV screen, but I also know that sometimes at 6pm, I need to cook dinner and she's screaming "Sofia." She's in full meltdown mode because she wants that screen and she wants it now.

In order to start teaching our kids how to unplug, we need to have alternatives that aren't just fun for the minis. We need alternatives that are fun for us, as well.

First, a disclaimer: I totally get it. I've read the research. Zero screen time is the rec for anyone under five-years old, but we took our then one-year-old to Croatia last summer. I, the man who once said he would never let his kid watch TV, was literally training her to sit still and just watch a cartoon for five minutes. Spoiler alert: it didn't work and that first plane ride was a literal hellscape where all our dreams went to die.

The point is that sometimes screens happen. The ten minutes of Sofia the First may not be my idea of a good time, but it's also not destroying your little one's chances to become a normal, functioning member of society...someday.

I think the reason we sometimes cave to the screen is because we don't have readily available alternatives, alternatives that are fun and engaging but also don't require us to set-up some kind of elaborate Picasso-esque art station.

Screen alternatives should be fun and easy.

Here are 8 strategies to get your kid to unplug for me:

1. Just Stand Back and Watch

Don't know what to do about your difficult child? Want to cave and hand over the I-Pad? Just stand back and watch instead.

There are times when I want to cave. The toddler wants to watch TV, and I don't want to be some kind of entertainment director on the lido deck. In those moments, I try to just take a step back.

Parents often go from one fire to another. Just putting out toddler dumpster fires. We clean up the spilled milk, kiss the boo boo, and talk off ledges. So it makes sense that sometimes we lose some perspective and aren't seeing the whole picture.

So take a step back before taking action.

Little one screaming about how they want the I-Pad or Dora or whatever? Just become a passive observer. You don't have to do anything.

In my more observational moments, I've learned that my little one is actually just tired when she starts screaming for TV. She doesn't necessarily want Sofia. She just can't think of a better way to relax at the moment. It's my job to start teaching her other ways chill.

2. Monkey See, Monkey Do

It may not be the most mature option, but I just do what my little one does when I'm suffering from lack-of-activity-idea disorder.

One of the major reasons we're not supposed to plug our kids into those screens is because it prevents them from learning how to, oh I don't know, interact with other human creatures.

So, I like to get real basic with it. Instead of caving to the magical allure of Sofia, I just copycat my kid. They smile, you smile. They run, you run. They gurgle ga ga, you gurgle ga ga.

My one caveat here is that you don't take this mirroring to the next level and start mocking your precious little one's emotional state. You don't want to seem like you're making fun of their feelings, so this exercise might not be ideal if your baby is having a tantrum or legit super sad.

We love to feel like we are being seen and heard. In a genuine way. Children want our attention, and they'll go about getting it in whatever way they can.

So before they go Basquiating the walls in your living room, put down your phone and the spatula and do what they do.

3. Dance Party

Nothing beats Sofia like a good old fashioned dance party!

Drop everything and dance. That's as simply as I can put it.

When I'm frazzled and my toddler is frazzled, and we both just want to couch potato it up, we drop everything and dance.

There are some pretty sickening remixes of "Baby Shark" out there, something for the whole family, if you ask me.
I dare you to stay in your seat when this jammer comes on Spotify.

The old fashioned dance party has a couple of really sweet benefits.

First, you aren't watching TV.

Second, you are connecting with your child through music. Something that's great for both body and mind.

Third, you are releasing some sweet sweet dopamine just like back in the day when you used to go to Twilo and Limelight...but this kind of dopamine doesn't require $30. And glow sticks are optional.

4. Just go the Hell Outside

Sure, your backyard might not look like this, but any outdoor anything beats the dazzling allure of Sofia and the Pinkfong Youtube channel of death.

Another trick I like to try is to just get outside when baby is feeling cranky or hungry for media. Being outside is a great way for both of us to reset.

And being outdoors has lots of residual benefits:

Being outdoors allows kids to practice free play, which has been shown to help them feel more independent, autonomous and stave off future anxiety and depression.

Outdoor time allows everyone to get some much needed vitamin D.

Being outside lets us experience and appreciate nature.

The powers that be now suggest between 4-6 hours of outdoor time every day. We're talking big benefits with outdoor time here: like they will literally be happier adults some day.

Kids need to be bored. It can be hella boring outside. This helps them get creative and be their own damn concierge.

And finally, getting outside makes it easier to avoid those screens.

5. Read a Book

Because story time is better than screen time any day.

Your baby ultimately wants your attention. Sofia cannot give them attention. She is not real. And also, she's super busy learning the ropes of newfound princessdom.

Building a habit of reading into your day helps your little one pick up the habit later. It's also just a super relaxing time to snuggle up together and chill the hell out.

"But my little beasty can't sit still for even one second of story time," I hear you clapping back.

No worries. Just read anyway.

Read while they're roaming around the room. Read while they explore.

Because eventually you will wear them down.

And they will snuggle with you.

You don't even have to read things they understand. I've been reading Harry Potter to my daughter since she was born. I don't think she gets what's happening with Hermione now that we're on book 4 and she's two-years-old, but it doesn't matter. We're reading, and it's soothing. And Daddy does funny voices for all the characters.

It helps with their verbal development. And one day, they will totally understand that Daddy has been Team Hermione from day one.

6. Try Some Relaxation Techniques

Think your kid is too young to learn how to calm themselves down? Think again.

Now let's not get ridiculous; I'm not suggesting you sign up for a baby yoga class or anything. But I do think it's important to know that kids are never going to talk themselves down from a major case of jonesing for the screen if we don't give them some strategies. We need to start teaching them a little mindfulness of their own.

One of my favorite techniques to help my daughter calm herself the hell down is to hold out my fingers and have her "blow out the birthday candles." She inhales and then exhales hard to blow one of my birthday candles (fingers) down. And on and on until she blows out all the finger candles.

Now, sometimes she just yells, "No," at the very suggestion of the idea, so you gotta be flex here, you know?

You can have your kid trace their hand, inhaling when they trace up a finger and exhaling when they trace down. Or they can put one finger on their nose and breathe slowly. My daughter's also a big fan of the squeeze, squeeze, squeeze your hands and toes. And then release. Whatever works.

Just know that you'll be laying the foundation for better emotional regulation down the road.

Sometimes the only way out of watching Sofia is through. And by through I mean your child will throw a major shit fit, and you will be there to try to teach them how to deal better with said shit fits.

7. Make 'em Laugh

Make a game out of trying to make your child laugh. Besides, you're likely a good deal funnier than that holier than thou Sofia. I mean, who does she even think she is?

If things are getting desperate and you've pulled out all the stops, and your little love is still screaming for their fix, just try to make them laugh.

Imagine you're this amazing comedian, probably in the '80s or '90s, you know, at the height of comedians doing comedian things. You know, when they were all getting their own TV shows. That's you. Like, you're super funny.

And you have this really tough audience tonight. And by audience, I just mean your child/children. They want TV? Hell no. They're getting Lenny MF Bruce.

Make faces. Dance. Do impressions. Tell jokes. Do any wackadoo thing to make 'em laugh.

Even if they're not laughing and just rolling their eyes at you, you are still winning because you've totally pulled focus from Sofia.

8. Put them to Work

No room for free loaders at your house. Put your kids to work when they want to watch TV. Besides, they totally love to help...until they don't.

The earlier you put your kids to work the better. I'm sure you've seen that article about how the Mayan moms are better than us because they make their kids work fresh out the womb.

Don't let the Mayan moms win.

Put your kids to work.

Make them hand you utensils from the dishwasher, so you can put them away in the drawer. Let them take their own dirty clothes to the hamper. Encourage them to fix your carburetor before your big family road trip.

Just have them help out around the house and pull their weight for a change.

And allegedly, they'll continue to help out as they get older. Think of it as training them to do all the things you'd like to not do anymore when you're 50.
This is the Sofia theme song repeated for an hour to let you feel what it would be like if you succumb to the pressure of the screen. Don't do it, friends. Just don't do it.

Don't Press Play. Unplug and Just Play.

Every second you're letting your little one watch TV by themselves is a minute that they aren't learning how to control their emotions or kick a ball or, hell, talk to animate beings.

I know there's a lot of pressure on parents to be perfect and avoid screens and do all the activities and on and on, and I'm not trying to add to the pressure. I'm just giving you some tricks and tips to spend what once was TV time playing, dancing, going outside, regulating feelings, reading, and breaking child labor laws.

For more about the benefits of play and learning through play, please check out Play your Way Sane. I've developed everyday games you can play to become more positive and rediscover how to enjoy your life again.

Learn more here.