About a month ago, I began to feel uncomfortable with the amount of television my children were watching. Well, maybe I should admit I felt guilty before then, but a month ago I decided to do something about it. Lest I invite the harsh scrutiny of others, I won’t say exactly how much they were watching, but I felt it was too much. I will also tell you that my kids do not watch ANY commercials because we use a Roku to watch TV, rather than cable. Incidentally, I highly advocate everyone eliminate their monthly cable bill and get a Roku! We pay for our monthly Netflix and Hulu plus subscriptions and that’s it. Everything our kids watch is selected and pre-approved by us.
Still, regardless of how educational (and, I feel, valuable) some of their TV viewing is, I still felt it was too much. My husband even felt so strongly about it that for a while he installed the BOB Screen Time Manager, a contraption that hooks up to your TV and turns it off after the viewer’s pre-designated screen time has been exceeded. I think the BOB will be useful for when the kids are older, but it was overkill for us at this point.
From the time we become parents, we have it pounded into us that “the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television before the age of 2″ and that “children who watch too much television may suffer from attention deficit problems in school.” I was gratified to see that in other studies, “preschoolers who watch high-quality educational television programs tend to score better on reading and math tests.” The factor seems to be choosing quality over quantity, which is what we do in general, but still, kids need to be able to entertain themselves.
My husband and I decided to make Sundays a TV-free day in the house. I’ve since discovered quite a few of my friends do this in their homes as well. In our case, it’s not related to any sort of religious views or anything. We could have just as easily picked Saturday. But we felt it was important for it to be a weekend day so that the whole family is together and actively participating with one another.
I knew we’d made the right decision when, the first Sunday, my older daughter asked no fewer than 10 times to watch TV, and even my younger daughter, who has a very limited vocabulary, even pointed to it and asked a couple times. Clearly, they are relying on the boob tube a little too much for entertainment. That first Sunday was rough–lots of sibling fights, a seriously wrecked house as they pulled every toy from its bin, and copious amounts of whining. But each Sunday gets better and better. They are learning to play together better and using their imaginations more. We are interacting with them more and doing fun activities that we might not have otherwise. A happy consequence of TV-free Sunday has been that the kids are less interested in TV on Monday and still playing well together.
We tend to rely on tried and true activities like Play-Doh, dress-up, coloring with chalk, markers, and crayons, and baking together to stay entertained, but if you need inspiration, check out this list of 100 Screen Free Week Kids Activities.
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