Screen-Free Without Judgment

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There are two possible reasons you clicked this article: because your eyes were rolling so hard when seeing “screen-free” that you clicked it to see how ridiculous I was, OR, because you are actually interested in adapting a more screen-free home.

I was/am both.

2020 has been full of tests and trials. An unexpected low point was in the spring when my TV started flickering. Okay, the plug was probably lose. Nope. Maybe the power was out? Nope.

Lord, sound the emergency alarm. I needed Bubble Guppies on STAT. The kids were ready to riot in the streets. I was replacing the remote batteries like my life depended on it. I was starting to sweat and get heart palpitations. COME ON TEAM, lets jump in the van and hit Costco. We need a new TV.

Pump those brakes. Rolling into summer, I didn’t want to drop $500-$1000 for a new TV. We had summer plans, a new baby, and a Disney vacation that we had to cancel because of COVID. My husband looked at me like I had lost my marbles when I said, “Let’s wait on the TV.”

We are generally pretty spontaneous. With a large family, we have learned to improvise and make things work. We decided to wait. We took that money and booked a family cabin getaway instead.

Transition Period

We went cold turkey screen-free. After our TV broke, that was it. We didn’t even get to say goodbye. We watched a pretty average amount of TV or movies with the kids. I utilized it quite a bit when I was preparing meals or for wind-down time during nap. I knew that I would need to evaluate the time that we were usually snuggled on the couch and reshape it into something that didn’t involve screens. I let the kids know that we were going to start finding other things to do instead of watching TV and asked them what they wanted to do. I made a list of the things that they said. I was encouraged and surprised by their ideas.

Screen-Free = Open-Ended Exploration

Being totally transparent, when I clicked the TV on, I was usually trying to finish a task without little hands there to help. Maybe it was when I was making dinner, writing a blog piece, or taking a shower. All of those things still needed to get done and here I was without a TV to aid in that process. I started thinking about open-ended activities. My children are 7, 4, 3, 1.5 and 6 months old, so most of the toy choices could be used by everyone. Some were better suited for little ones’ naptime.

My go-to options are:

  • Legos
  • Magnatiles
  • K’Nex Tinker Toys
  • Window Markers
  • Craft Supplies
  • Squigz

Get Outside

Getting outside to reset was an amazing tool. Anytime I found myself thinking, “Gosh, I wish I had a show to turn on,” I reminded myself that I could reset the vibe of our house by getting the kids outdoors. I would scoop everyone up and head to our backyard. I could bring my work outside with us or I would let them play on the back patio/deck area while I watched from afar. The wonderful thing about outside is that I didn’t need to supply anything to entertain. The garden hose and a pile of dirt usually sufficed. Collecting leaves, finding acorns, digging in the dirt and picking grass usually kept them busy and working for quite some time.

The average American boy or girl spends just four to five minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day and more than seven hours in front of an electronic screen. This statistic is not meant to be judgmental at all, it was honestly something I never paid much attention to…until I did.

BUT Mom… I’m Bored.

…and to this I say, “Good.”

1000 Hours Outside is one of my favorite bloggers to follow. She has a great piece all about this topic. Read her piece here! Without TV to easily click on, it forced my kids to find something to do on their own or with a sibling.

Sometimes, that honestly means just sitting on the couch and older sister braiding little sister’s hair.

Sometimes, it means counting cheerios.

Sometimes, it means helping me empty the dishwasher.

Sometimes, it looks like a box of crayons dumping while they draw all over a cardboard box.

Keep an Open Mind

Maybe you aren’t going completely screen-free. Maybe your TV breaks and you go without. Whatever your plan is: don’t say you cannot until you try. I never, ever thought I would be “screen-free” until 2020 broke my television. We saved some money by cancelling subscription streaming services, we occasionally watch movies on my laptop, and we may end up buying a TV when we move. It’s just not really something that we think about now!

I used to be the mom that rolled my eyes and thought “yeah right! TV saves my sanity.” But…to my surprise, my sanity is somewhat still in tact and I am happy to report that we are screen-free and surviving.

We know screen-free sounds like a big leap during this pandemic. Read more from Alyssa here to see some of the other ways she keeps the kids busy.

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