Can I Have My Screens Back Please?



“I need my screens back. Please. I just need to text Ryan. I just need to finish this Musically with Maya. I just need to see when the Math Homework’s due.”

I’m a bit suspicious about Math Homework in the summer, but sure. If it’ll keep you quiet, go ahead.

Really? Don’t you think your kids have had enough screen time?

Amy, I know I can’t let them spend 18 hours a day online. But I can’t handle the complaining once the screens are taken away! There isn’t enough red wine in the world, I mean deep breathing yoga, to counteract my stress level.

Panic not. I have unearthed someone who is going to give us a few practical ideas.

Hint: What toy is the furthest thing from an iPad?

Lego! We are going to get help from a bona fide Lego artist, Mike Doyle. Click here to see his amazing work.

Mike started playing with Lego when he was 8 years old, and now he has built museum level exhibitions out of Lego and published a few books.

Wait a second? Are you saying that I need to quit my job and move to Sweden to play Lego all day? No. Of course not. Lego is Danish. You can move to Denmark.

But seriously, when your kids are complaining about their screens being taken away, there’s only one thing you need to do: make sure viable entertainment options are available.

And Lego is the only possible option?

No, of course not. But Lego is a metaphor for any creative toy that can be used in tons of different ways. Do your kids like clay? Markers? Crayons? Lime Jell-O? The point is to have on hand a range of things that can be played with by a range of people.

Check out the practical tips below.

Tip 1: Give Up the Dream

Are you proud of your neat playroom? Is everything neatly labelled and put away? Well, you may win the Homemaker of the year award, but no wonder your kids are on their screens. They can’t find anything to play with. Mike suggests that we “have the pieces handy, perhaps out in a box or bin that is open in the play area for viewing. Anything closed or out of reach becomes a barrier (out of sight out of mind) in this case.”

Well, I guess I can clean up when they go to bed.

Not so fast, Mom. Mike has another plan in store. “Perhaps they build a little town or castle and then want to come back the following day and add to it or play with the creation.” Try to leave an area where you can live with a (temporary) mess.

Wait a second. I thought you were giving me ideas for things they could do on their own. My youngest can’t even read! How is she supposed to follow Lego instructions?

Tip 2: Instructions are Optional

Have you ever gotten so involved in building with your kids that you look up from the instructions and they have gone onto something else? Um, yeah, no, me neither. Mike says we should focus on the lighter side. “The idea here is that of the doodling aspect of Lego. It goes like this. A child looks over and sees a couple pieces in a box that is close by, begins connecting and then digging through the bin for a couple more pieces. Soon the doodle becomes a thing that they build towards and a few hours have gone by.”

So making things exactly like on the package isn’t necessary?

“I don’t think there is any right way to do it. That said, the greatest benefits for creative thought and longer play come from using the toy as a medium for creative expression and innovation. But, as noted, some individuals aren’t suited to that – which is fine.”

Creative expression is great, but where’s the teamwork? I don’t want everyone in their own zone. Oh, fear not, mon amour. We have you covered too.

Tip 3: Make Lego Into A Game

You want your kids to put down their screens and play with each other. Or the neighbours. Or a visiting cousin from Lithuania. Even if they may not have a lot in common, Lego can unite. “Bag up 20 or so pieces in Ziploc snack bags and then hand each child a bag. They then have 10 minutes to build something out of the pieces. It becomes a challenge and is great when there is a group of kids around to see the variety.” This game works no matter what the age, gender and language variance in your group. It also may be a good thing to bring along to a restaurant or party and leave the screens at home.

Thanks, Mike. Is there anything else you wanted me to point out that I didn’t ask you? Yeah, all the great resources available online for Lego builders.

Oh. Ooops. Maybe I should have told him exactly what this article was about.

Suggested Links
  1. (the eBay of Lego) 
  2. Huge lego blog of people’s creations  
  3. Massive gallery to post Lego creations

About Author

Amy Fish is a Canadian who writes about complaining. She is the author of the non-fiction book The Art of Complaining Effectively. Amy has been interviewed on national and local television and radio as a complaints expert, and as a writer. Her work has been published in  Reader’s Digest and the Globe and Mail (Canada’s national newspaper) and she has won writing prizes from both Writer’s Digest and the Quebec Writer’s Federation. Amy loves to spread the gospel of complaining effectively and has appeared as a keynote speaker at conferences, professional meetings and garage door openings. Visit Amy online at

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