The mom opens up about why she's keeping the baby's sex a surprise, how her kids are getting ready for a sibling, and why she's "feeling at peace" with all the changes pregnancy brings

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Hilary Duff Family
Hilary Duff/Instagram
| Credit: Hilary Duff/Instagram

Quarantine has been anything but quiet for Hilary Duff and her family. In addition to managing online schooling for her 8-year-old son Luca Cruz, potty-training a toddler (2-year-old daughter Banks Violet), celebrating her one-year wedding anniversary with husband Matthew Koma in December, serving as Chief Brand Officer for Happy Little Camper Baby, getting a new puppy and working on the Lizzie McGuire reboot (sadly, now canceled), the actress is also due with her third child in 2021. So yeah, it's a lot going on — which is why, like many moms in 2020, she's had to rethink her approach to screen time for her kids. But she's managed to make it a positive.

"It’s been a tricky time with finding the balance between school screen time and recreational screen time," Duff tells PEOPLE. "It was definitely more of a free-for-all in the beginning, but now we use it as a tool. He still earns time on his iPad. If I need to cook dinner or work, I let him connect with a friend on Roblox. We play word, number, or spelling games to try to make it educational sometimes ... [but] I’m a big believer that kids need to decompress and have some downtime too."

Luca's Christmas gifts included Roblox on Prime Gaming (Duff is partnering with Amazon for their Digital Week) to play with friends in his "pod," but the family indulged in some lower-tech fun around the holidays as well: "We usually have a Monopoly night once a week, decorate gingerbread houses, go on a walk on Christmas Eve to see if we can spot reindeer, and leave cookies for Santa! All of the basic, but fun holiday things."

Hilary Duff Prime
Credit: Paige Sara Photography

Now, with the holidays behind her, Duff can focus on plans for 2021 and her impending arrival. This time, she says, she's much more relaxed about the pregnancy than she was with her second.

"This pregnancy feels easier because there was a lot of fear with bringing a new baby home when Luca was already 6½," she said. "I’m more tired because of having a toddler, but have less time to focus on the pregnancy because I’m busy with my kids and work. It’s a nice distraction because I’m not googling everything and obsessing over everything that’s happening with the pregnancy."

She adds, "There’s a security in knowing what we need with having a newborn in the house since we kind of were just there with Banks. Both kids are super-excited about the new baby and that’s a comfort I didn’t have the first time around."

That excitement from her kids is manifesting itself in different ways, she says: "Luca was pumped! He’s very patient and obsessed with Banks. We just casually told him one weekend and he was '8-year-old cool boy excited'."

Banks, on the other hand, "is aware there’s a baby in my belly ... but I’m not sure she knows what’s coming for her," Duff jokes. However, "she has taken a bigger interest in her baby dolls. She likes to swaddle them, put them in their stroller and then pushes them around the house in her plastic heels and stops to take pictures of them with my phone. Looks like we’re gonna have a built-in nanny and baby photographer living in the house — sweet!"

Hilary Duff Family
Credit: Hilary Duff/Instagram

Also adding to the excitement? Keeping the baby's sex a secret until it is born. "We had a gender reveal with Banks and it was such a fun memory," Duff said. "Unfortunately, during these times we felt it wasn’t really appropriate. The way we are creating some excitement within the family is to wait to find out the sex on the baby’s birthday! It’s a mixture of friends who are excited about the surprise and then some who are just really annoyed with us. Luca is falling under the annoyed category!" (He's hoping for a boy, she says, "so he can share all his old toys.")

Though she's able to enjoy this pregnancy more, Duff has been keeping it real about her ambivalence towards some of changes it brings, recently sharing a photo on Instagram that said "would be lying if I told you I didn't miss this body."

Hilary duff
Credit: Hilary duff/ instagram

"I’m not one of those women who loves being pregnant by any means, but I appreciate what my body’s doing for me and our family," Duff explained. "So any given day, it varies between me missing my body that I get to put really cute clothes on, or feeling at peace that this is probably the last time that I’m going to be pregnant and trying to enjoy how sweet this time can be."

She's also grateful for the quality time she's gotten to spend this time around, with a partner who has helped make it all easier. "One of the greatest parts of this quarantine for me was having a solid teammate to take on half of the responsibilities because there has been so much added to my plate," she says. "On the memory-making front, it’s been nice to lower the expectations a little bit and enjoy our time together, and just be appreciative of what we have."