Screen Free Week (April 30-May 6) beckons, taunts and perhaps frightens as it approaches. Formerly, TV Turnoff week, it's now been expanded to be called Screen Free Week, which I suspect for many of us poses much more of a challenge than TV Turnoff. Earlier this month, in anticipation of this week, I decided to give it a whirl.
Here's ten suggestions based on my 4 day experiment with our toddler:
1. Make pancakes (or whatever fun cooking/baking activity your child/family enjoys).
2. Play! (Duh) Big hits/time takers for us included: playdough, magnet letters and, of course, trains.
3. Socialize -- the local kid-friendly coffee shop ranked high and lunch and dog-walking with a friend helped too.
4. Schedule a playdate -- when kids have other kids to play with, watching television or playing games on the computer becomes less necessary (unless, of course, you have a video game/texting obsessed pre-teen or teen. Still, I think they also enjoy spending time with their friends without devices -- really, it's possible. Of course, if your child is older, don't call it a playdate).
5. Paint! or Create! (We made egg carton puppets).
6. Get outside - go to the park, have a picnic, go on a hike, go for a bike ride, go to the beach. Just get out and enjoy nature. When we're outside, time just flies.
7. Run some errands. (Make it fun). The bank became a fun outing, in which my toddler got to help and a commuter rail drive-by along the way in which we saw some trains proved very exciting.
8. Nap (if this is still possible). If not, have some designated quiet time with some "new" books. (We did this in addition to the nap. I made sure I had some library books he hadn't seen before so reading time got extended and captured his interest even more than usual).
9. Water play - inside or outside. Kids always love playing with water, so get out the sprinkler or make water balloons or have do bubble bath painting. Keep it fun and be creative.
10. BE THE ENTERTAINMENT - have a dance party, as a family act out your favorite TV shows (think charades), write a story, make comic books, or use the opportunity to put together the family scrapbook or photo album that has gotten stashed in a box. I recently got a drum, 3 maracas, 2 finger symbols and 2 egg shakers at a garage sale for $2 -- combine that with the guitar my toddler got for Christmas and we now have any entertaining family band with the baby even getting in on the action!
What I learned earlier this month was that being Screen Free may require a bit more work on my end, but it is worth it. It produced some great moments (like building sand mountains and valleys in the sandbox together) and creative results (i.e. the popular Library at Home).
I also learned that being Screen Free proved much easier for him, than for me. Maybe I can come up with 10 tips for mommies and daddies!! I did manage 1 day screen free (no computer use at all!!) on a Saturday. (TV free is a breeze, but the computer is more challenging because of work). The strategy I think I'll be going with next week for myself is the "egg-timer" strategy, 10 minutes online twice a day (morning and after lunch) to tackle only legitimate and pressing work-related tasks. The rest, will simply have to wait.
FYI - In case you were wondering, my toddler (he's 2 1/2) usually gets to watch 1 or 2 episodes of whatever his current favorite show is on Netflix. This often happens mid-morning during what used to be his morning nap. Occasionally, he plays through the morning and I resort to a show during a challenging afternoon when he doesn't want to nap because he'll fall asleep soon after a show starts. On 2 of our 4 screen free days (the 2 in which we were at home all day), nap time was more challenging than normal. Extra reading time helped as did having a special activity for him to look forward to after nap time.