Every April and September, there is a National TV Turnoff Week. Recently, the name has changed to Screen Free Week, and, as it implies, it’s a week to spend with the television, video game systems and computers turned off. This month, Screen Free Week starts today, September 24.
The benefits of avoiding too much TV time are important ones: Kids who watch a lot of TV may be more likely to suffer from obesity than their more active peers, and they also might not do as well in school as classmates who spend more time reading than passively watching the boob tube. Not only that, but there is some speculation that video games are not much better than television.
So, how are you supposed to entertain the kids and keep them occupied without resorting to at least some television time each day? It might not be as hard as you may think! Here are some ideas:
- Include them in whatever you’re doing. Whether it’s cooking dinner or folding laundry, many hands make light work. Let them know that if they help you, you’ll have more time to play with them later. If your kids are very small, then helping you probably is play to them… though you’ll probably find that it would be quicker to just do it yourself. It all balances out.
- Try readalouds. My kids have loved spending hours listening to me read to them from a wide variety of books and series. If you don’t particularly like reading out loud, try checking out a book on CD from the library. It’s the same effect, and you can just relax and listen.
- Go for a run or kick around a soccer ball. If it’s still warm where you are, then go for a swim. Maybe take a hike or go fishing. In other words, spend some time in the great outdoors before it gets too cold to do so comfortably!
- Bring back a blast from your past. What did you used to do when you were a kid? You might have spent hours playing Monopoly, or maybe you played Kick the Can or Hide and Go Seek. Whatever your favorite non-screen-related pastimes were, introduce them to your children.
- Take on a home improvement or decorating project. Paint the dining room, put up fall decorations, or spend a sunny afternoon washing the inside and outside of the windows. You might also plant bulbs if it’s time for that in your neck of the woods.
- Leave them to their own devices. Chances are, you have a variety of arts and crafts supplies along with rooms full of toys that aren’t used on a regular basis. Tell them to go play and leave it at that. If my own kids get whiny and seem to want constant entertainment, I tell them that I have lots of laundry to fold if they’re bored. They find something else to do without fail!
Don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of a week without screens. They’ll be in school during the day and will have homework and extracurricular activities afterward, so it’s really only the time from dinner until bedtime, as well as the weekend, that you’ll need to concern yourself with. And you just might have so much fun, that you’ll want to extend Screen Free Week for another week or more!