A Screen Free Month

Over the holidays my kids were on screens every day. They met with friends and split up to watch a movie. Then sometimes they went to the friends’ houses and watched there. They looked up various things on the computer. They took photos and videos on our phones. They met with older cousins with phones who showed them things on them. The screen habit had gotten out of hand, and it showed in their behavior and energy levels as well as their arguments. 

So this month, we are implementing a video-free month. It’s not really screen-free because they still have screens for music/dance practice, and whatever is required for homework, phone and video calls to grandparents, and we adults are using email and computer as needed (and videos/calls/webinars if needed for work). But no tv or videos that are not necessary for school or classes (music is ok, and I plan to allow podcasts/audiobooks also). We sat them down, watched a last tv show one evening together, and committed to doing it ourselves also – from the 7th of January to the end of the month. We have promised them a movie at the theater at the end of the month as incentive.

Day 1 – So far they have been doing a lot of reading and more playing, and even some just lying around, and it’s great for me, too. My daughter is also like that, so I’ve started by giving her a short list of things to do on her own, and then I set aside a time to be together and do something special. She had a nice long playdate, then before bed we played a 15-minute game of balloon wall-ball, so many giggles!

Day 2 – Today there was homework. We tried to surprise their dad at a coffee shop but he was at home after all! Then my daughter helped me make the coconut-milk ice cream I’d been dying to try. We listened to a podcast about the Buddha’s life. While I cooked and did laundry, they completed homework and went on video with grandparents for an assignment. Dinner, then showers. I notice that I am reading more, especially the fun comics books we have lying around. 

Day 3 – It’s Friday, which means we usually go to ice cream. My daughter climbs a tree, we pick up her brother. But their dad is held up, so instead we have small scoops of ice cream at home (with the promise of more tomorrow), and they play with the balloon, or do other things, not really sure what while I cook for a religious festival. Then dad is home and we go to my sister’s – taking the food with us, and there’s lots of play, and an Alexa to play music for them to dance to, or ask random questions. They read, paint toenails, eat as if it’s just a chore, and go back to playing, until exhausted and fall asleep in the car on the way back. 

Day 4 – A morning of usual classes in the morning keeps them busy, and I get some household chores done. We eat leftovers, and I take them to the park for my son to practice baseball, and my daughter to play catch or on the playground or to climb trees. We spend the whole afternoon there – it’s been a long time since we did that! Then my husband arrives and we go to get ice cream, followed by a little grocery shopping. At home, I quickly cook and we have dinner around the table – taking turns playing various games, like our made-up version of Apples to Apples (each person picks a pairing they think the Chooser would like, they vote on the best), a variation of Boggle (we each choose a letter, and try to make as many words 2-letters and up with those 4 plus a wildcard letter as possible), and Sentence Builder, a hilarious game in which we each say a word starting with the last letter of the previous, trying to make a coherent sentence. We came up with, \”Insurance engagements should definitely yield D___ and Daniel licking German Nazis. Soon, Nepal longed, during Gettysburg, getting Gorbachev victorious sleep.\” (How do my children know these words?) We played and did drawings until bedtime, when husband noted, \”We usually would just turn it on and relax…\” then got some work done. 

We continued the month – tons and tons of reading, games together, silence, some podcasts and audiobooks, music, cooking together, chats and more. There were definitely requests for tv, wanting to watch, boredom, and even us adults wanting to see debates and short videos. I listened to any webinars and classes with sound only, and suddenly realized I needed a short list of things to \”watch later\” (if ever). I felt that the kids interacted more, not always in a positive way, but learned to be together. My daughter’s reading skills have improved markedly. 

All in all we have reached the end of the month – and will continue for a few more days before slowly and VERY CAREFULLY reintroducing television and movies. Slow and steady, but we know we can live without. 

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