At the beginning of my son’s school year I attended a workshop about the importance of reading to children. To be totally honest I was really there to get a free gift card for sitting through the workshop. But I gained so much more. I already knew the importance of reading to my child, but I didn’t know that too much TV and screen time (iPads, video games, smart phones, etc) can have a detrimental effect on children under the age of five.
According to Kidshealth.org;
the first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.
It bothered me to learn that by the time kids enter kindergarden teachers can tell which were allowed to sit and watch TV all day and which were read to and encouraged to do non-screen activities. A warning sign of excessive screen use is when children can’t sit at their seats for at least 5 to 10 minutes without interrupting class or getting distracted.
As much as I’d like to say that my husband and I limit TV time for our kids to 2 hours a day, there have been occasions when we’ve allowed them to exceed this limit. And I’ve seen some of the negative effects of screen use in my own kids when it comes to their favorite movies and TV shows. We thought we were okay because we don’t allow TVs in the children’s rooms. But I’ll admit that when I need to cook or sit and make a phone call, television has been my best weapon to keep my kids occupied. I did my best to put on shows that are worth watching. But it did bother me that I was promoting screen time over toys and books.
Given all this, when I heard about the national “Screen Free Week“, I decided to take on the challenge! And let me say it really was a CHALLENGE! But it was so impactful that my husband and I have decided to try it at least once a month (no promises). We want to show our kids how to learn and be creative on their own, and that they didn’t need TV, computers, and games to stimulate their innate gifts and creativity. Besides, it’s recommended that the very first thing you should introduce to a toddler is a simple box for them to explore. Interesting right?
Here’s how we kept busy and free of screen time for an entire week!
1. We invited family and friends to join us for Screen Free Week
We told other families and friends about the Screen Free Week. Some were not too crazy about the idea, but the ones who were committed helped the week go by much faster. We set play dates with them, giving our families an opportunity to sit, play games together, and talk.
2. We attended free events in the neighborhood
I checked our neighborhood listings for anything that was free and fun. It just so happened that my daughter’s school had a family game night that week. The library was always open and full of activities for the kids. And the park is ALWAYS free!
3. We took walks
This seems like a simple and normal thing to do, but if it’s not your family’s habit, it can feel like a brand new experience. We took walks right after dinner with the kids. It helped us to get exercise, talk and ask/answer questions that we probably wouldn’t if we’d been watching TV to kill time.
4. We caught up with long distance relatives
This was my favorite! I’m originally from New Jersey and have lived on the West Coast for two years. Because of the time difference and our TV viewing habits we are not always able to call and speak with relatives. Well there were no excuses this particular week. We had the opportunity to speak to plenty relatives back home, and they were just as excited as we were. We even FaceTimed a few relatives and friends and it made our week so much more special.
5. We donated old toys
I got to see how many toys my kids have and do not play with! We made room in their closet and donated their old toys to Goodwill. The kids were very involved in the process and surprised to discover how many toys they had at the bottom of their trunk.
6. We read more than usual!
You can never read enough. My husband usually does this with the kids every night before bed. He usually reads a couple book, but he was able to slip in an extra one which the kiddies absolutely loved because they fell right asleep after the extended story time.
7. We made up games
We made up a game to dance in the living room until we got tired. The goal was to see who could last the longest without stopping. It’s something we probably wouldn’t have normally done as a family. It was a workout and a lot of fun. The kids still ask to this day if we can play the made up game of dancing. Who knew?!
So that is how we succeeded with our screen free week. We communicated and interacted with one another much more and we learned that we could be creative, more social with friends, and give back. Most importantly we had our children’s attention and they had ours. ? Of course we could have done all these things whether or not there was a screen free challenge, but many of these areas in our lives were being neglected because we were giving away time to television and electronic devices.
Mommies, how do you limit screen time in your home?
Kim is the author of where she discovers what it means to be a woman of GOD, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and entrepreneur.