Thursday, April 25, 2013

Screen-Free! Now what??

Alright, you've done it!  You've made the decision to go screen-free to some degree.  Maybe you've gone for broke and eliminated all the unnecessary screen time from your life and your children's lives or maybe you've committed to screen-free family meals a few times a week.  Whatever your level of screen-freedom, you've done something wonderful for yourself and your family!  I commend you!

Sooooo........(fingers drumming).......(foot tapping).....what in the world do we DO???

Unfortunately, the screen-free lifestyle often gets a bad rap because there seems to be a misunderstanding that the time previously spent watching TV, using the computer, playing video games, texting, chatting, whatever-ing, needs to be 'filled'.  To many people, filling time means organized outings, sports, extracurriculars, etc.  I can tell you, this is NOT the case at all.  You might be amazing at how easily and inexpensively you can 'fill' your time on your own or with your children when you go screen-free.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

- Read a book - Even if you are sitting on the couch reading your own book while your child plays nearby, you are setting an example that will last a lifetime.  Both my husband and I are avid readers - he'll even have multiple books going at once - and we want our children to see us escaping into our stories like they do with theirs.  OR, read books to your child, no matter how old they are.  My mom and I read books together until I neared my teens and I loved every minute of it, even if I could read the words faster over her shoulder.

- Cook a meal - Don't get crazy on me, people, I'm not talking gourmet here!  This week, my son and I made turkey and cheese crescent rolls after I saw it here and thought, 'Gee, this is easy, why haven't I tried this before?'  Some of his other favorites are quesadillas, pita pizza, bread (adding the ingredients to the bread machine), grilled cheese, pancakes and french toast.  These meals might take just a few minutes to prepare and eat, but for your child, a short amount of quality time spent with you doing meaningful work is worth hours and hours of half-attention on your part.

- Create something - Anything!!  Whatever you have around the house can be used to create.  Build towers, color, glue, cut up magazines and make collages, make stamps from potatoes, use anything you can find to make patterns or shapes, throw a sheet over everything and have a picnic in your fort, anything goes and the kids love all of it.  If the kiddos are napping, create something just for you.  I can't sew anything but straight lines with my sewing machine, but I make place mats each month for my preschool.  I'm proud of them and the children comment on them often - simple, simple, simple.

- Sing - Yes, even if you are tone-deaf.  If your child is young enough, he won't care, he'll love your voice anyway.  Or, if you feel really uncomfortable with it, sing in a silly voice on purpose.  We bust out our 'Brady Family Musical' quite often - we literally sing EVERYTHING and my son thinks it's hilarious.  This works especially well if you feel yourself getting frustrated with something that's going on - just sing it out and you'll feel better - and your kiddos will be more likely to comply with whatever you might be requesting.

- Take a Walk - Again, not going for a 10K here, folks, just a walk.  Fresh air is good for you and so is the sun, get your Vitamin D for the day and take a little stroll!  For us, this is a simple as walking to the mailbox, which is just across the street, but for my kiddo, it's a big ordeal.  There are shoes to be found and bikes to be ridden.  He gets to find our mailbox number, open it with the key, grab the mail, lock it up and we head on home.  Sometimes, we luck out and there's something worthwhile in the mailbox, so we get to spend some time reading a new magazine or opening a package. 

- Chores - Do you know why children dislike chores?  Because they see us grumble about the dishes or vacuuming or dusting.  If you approach your chores with care and a fair amount of gusto, so will your children.  I have two spray bottles in my classroom, along with a bucket full of washcloths.  My windows/walls/tables/chairs are cleaned almost every day by a willing child.  They love real work and they love to imitate the adults in their lives, so give them a bucket of soapy water and a few dishes and let them have a blast.

- Play - This is what most of our screen-free time is spent doing - playing.  Both of my boys are amazing when it comes to independent play.  My older son has always been independent and was off and running (well, scooching) by about 4 1/2 months.  My little guy needed some encouragement to play on his own, but now, he's a play super-star - at only 7 months.  Please don't be discouraged by things you read on blogs - even this one - or anywhere else, no special effort is needed, except maybe the willingness to allow messes to happen and being prepared to clean up.  You really don't even need toys!  Your children will be satisfied with items from your house - pots and pans, sheets, towels, pillows, random recyclables, old clothes for dress-up, etc.  Water is always a good one - just add some kitchen tools and they're off!  If you have older kiddos and they're 'bored', I like to paraphrase from Simplicity Parenting and say something along the lines of, 'Something new/fun/interesting is just around the corner'.  It might take practice and patience for the older ones, but they'll get it and you'll be awed by their creations.

Will you be participating in Screen-Free Week?  Do you have anything special planned?

Our Screen-Free stories are here and here.


  1. this week we decided to make a concerted effort to cut down on TV time. Normally we start the day watching TV because my son gets up so early and I'm so tired. But instead we played, and you know what, the TV stayed off all day. Not because I forced it, but because my son was enjoying playing. And he did the same on his Dad day too. I thought that my son was desperate for TV, but now I've discovered that its our fault for setting that habit its been really easy to change.
    Thanks for linking up to the Sunday Parenting Party, I'm sharing this on the SPP pinterest board

  2. Visiting from Montessori Monday. I'd love for you to share your family-friendly crafts and ideas at Monday Kid Corner at See you at the party!



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