A Screen Free Week….. almost

Last Sunday I wrote about a rut the girls and I had gotten into involving way too much screen time and my realisation that this needed to change.  We’ve had just over a week without screens almost entirely.  The exceptions have been two episodes of Play School – where the girls were set the task of finding some inspiration for afternoon activities – and a couple of iPad apps for a few minutes after dinner on two nights.  These were literacy apps like Eggy Alphabets and Busy Things UK.

Play School inspired puppet making.

Play School inspired puppet making.

Having this much unstructured but screen free time has been an interesting development.  We’ve gone screen free in the past for periods and it seems each time is a little different, depending on how many other activities the girls have during the week (including days a childcare or kinder).  This time around we’ve had LOTS of fun, a few whingey I-want-TV moments and a bit of hard work for me… TV really is an amazing babysitter!  This is what I’ve discovered…..

1. When Miss Three and Miss Five haven’t got screens to rely on for entertainment they rediscover their extensive picture book collection….. piles and piles of books everywhere!  This is interesting because Miss Three has never shown this much interest in books and reading ever!  It’s definitely a great thing!  Miss Five and I have worked our way through a few chapter books including the first of the Wishing Chair books which was a favourite for both of us.

2.  The girls are much, much more active – obviously!  Outside play is big and long and involved.  And the best thing about this is that they are ready for bed before 7am and are asleep within minutes of the light being turned out.  Sadly this has not equated with sleeping through the night for Miss Three who is STILL a shocker overnight and ends up sleeping with Mr Good and I almost every night.

3. While screen free means I have to much more actively involved in keeping the girls busy, I have found this quite a creative and motivating position…. I kind of feel like a teacher again coming up with interesting and engage activities to do with them.  Miss Five is really interested in words and language, loves writing words and finding connections between books.  We happened to come home last week with three books about wombats so we’ve spent lots of time looking at the similarities between the words and pictures and stories and talking generally about wombats.  We also found a favourite book “Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker” which we’ve read every day.  We also listened to the music on YouTube and watched some clips of a Russian production of the Ballet.  I have to admit I have loved this part and feel that same satisfaction I felt when coming up with lesson ideas for my classes when I was teaching.  But I have to be careful not to turn to much into the ‘teacher’ and take the fun and spontaneity out of our days.

4.  Spending time together with the girls and with the whole family is lovely.  We’ve cooked together, gone for long walks/adventures, planted bulbs, plays games and puzzles and snuggled with books.  And this has been in every combination, Miss Five and I, Miss Three and I, all three of us, Mr Good and the two girls separately and together and the whole family.  All without a screen to be seen.

5.  I have had very little time to do the things I need to do or want to do, except the housework which they have been helping me with…. sort of.  I used to easily find an hour or two to concentrate on my uni work, to read a book of my own choice or to get dinner ready… or to blog.  Now I’m lucky to get fifteen minutes where I can really focus on something other than them.  My latest assignment is being done in frustratingly short bursts, dinner takes for ever as I try to help with the latest lego creation at the same time and reading for pleasure is strictly for once they’ve gone to bed.  Now some would say that this is as it should be, if I’m home all day with kids they should be what my focus is, but I NEED some of these other things to keep me from going crazy.

So will I continue with screen free?  Yes, for another week or so, with just the odd show or ipad time thrown in there.  In the long term though, no.  I see lots of benefits from some TV and some time using devices.  It sparks the imagination and breeds curiosity.  Because of TV we’ve explored abstract art which is Miss Five’s main inspiration for all of her paintings.  Because of TV the girls have long and involved role play games, taking on characters, establishing the setting and creating a plot.  Because of TV they’re vocabulary is much broader than it might have been otherwise.  And because of TV they have seen people, places and animals from all over the world.  Good quality children’s TV without ads – which we are lucky enough to enjoy in Australia (Thank you ABC!!!) – has so many benefits… even children’s author and literacy expert Mem Fox agrees with this.  Even when books could have delivered on some of these things, it is often TV that draws their attention and leaves them wanting to know more.  I feel the same way about good quality iPad apps and websites.  They add to the rich fabric of life rather than detract from it….. as long as it is all in balance and not a mindless staring at the screen for hours on end.  And that is what we will be avoiding from now on.

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11 Responses to A Screen Free Week….. almost

  1. rcra says:

    Congratulations on making it work for you. You’re ticking a lot of boxes thisweek! I completely agree with your last two paragraphs. Totally. I have friends who are “telly rots your brains” and there’s a lot you miss without telly. Foreign animals in action, far away landscapes with perspective and scale, performances, brilliant storytelling – curiosity and inspiration. And dynamic ways of learning things that are unique to screens. I put Play School on the telly via the PC/iview and it means I have 30mins where I can prepare dinner. Not a brain cell lost between us 😉

    • Barbara Good says:

      Gotta love a week that ticks a few boxes – makes up for the weeks that totally don’t! My next goal is to try and get the kids into some David Attenborough, I love them but they haven’t shown much interest so far. Start earlier with these I reckon! We’ve also watch some of a Russian production of The Nutcracker, after reading a book about it, a clip of River Dance (love You Tube!) and some aboriginal dancing. I love finding clips inspired by books or something else we’ve seen on TV. We play a Play School game which you might like when you little one is a bit bigger. We watch an episode together on iView, then try to remember as many things from it as we can, writing them down on their little white board. Then we re-enact it, doing the craft (within reason), finding a book that has something in common with the one they read, putting on songs either from You Tube or our kids song collection and finding a clip on You Tube related to the ‘Through the windows’ bit. Depending on the tasks this can keep them going for an hour or more and they love ticking them off on the whiteboard as we go.

  2. It’s all about balance I reckon. That hour when you’re trying hard to get dinner ready at a reasonable time is a killer when you’ve 2 (or in my case, 3) small but insistent interruptions occuring every few minutes or so and involving them in cooking isn’t always going to work. We’ve been screen restricted here this last week or so. The kids fault too. The iPad is broken, their other tablet is broken, Daddy isn’t game to share his tablet and the charger for it is broken anyway, my laptop isn’t going to be available all day for them (hey, mummy wants some screen time too 😉 ) and Daddy wants his laptop for working ont he train. The kids have learned a few valuable lessons. They CAN eat with no tv and they will lose things if they don’t treat them with respect as they will get broken. They know that if the iPad is broken again (they keep dropping it) then they will pay from their own piggy banks to have it repaired (it cost us $200 for it to be broken again within days). In saying that, I do miss having some form of entertainment aside from digging in the garden that will occupy the kids and give me a little time to do what needs doing. On the other hand, the lack of screens just before bed has proven to be a real blessing with kids not hyper stimulated by the screens. 🙂

  3. rcra says:

    JUST got this in my feed and thought you’d be interested: http://bit.ly/1nia6Yn

    • Barbara Good says:

      Loved this, thanks for the link. I totally agree about the content being far more important than the amount at least to a reasonable degree anyway. As a primary school teacher friend of mine recently said, if some of her students watched an episode of Play School, Sesame Street and a show like Pepper Pig every day, they’re language development would be far greater than many come in with.

  4. Balance is the key! We don’t have a TV at all but still manage to be more or less up to date with news and events. We use the computers/laptops to watch the occasional movie (may once a fortnight) but then we don’t have kids. We definitely spend a lot more time talking and communicating because there is no TV to draw us in and sit us down in front of. TV is a good babysitter and also a very good adult distracter! I like the quality screen time idea! – K x

  5. Jenny Pearson says:

    Hi Barbara, well I have to agree with you re television, but then I would wouldn’t I, after all I am of a certain generation, having said that, my kids did love to watch Playschool (great for getting the beds made, and the dishes done) and maybe one good show on the ABC after school. On a more personal note, I am finding that I am watching less TV now than I used to, as I watch only what I REALLY like, because otherwise I found that just automatically putting the damn thing on, and of course sitting in front of the TV (never during the day), I was wasting good reading and knitting time or catching up with friends/relatives – in other words depriving me of more interesting things to do – so it is not only the younger generation that can get into a rut – and it does take willpower to get out of said rut, so well done you (and I do so love the puppets!!!) On another note altogether – I have in my possession (from the magical Op Shop) a copy of Enid Blyton’s Adventures of the Wishing Chair, and The Book of Fairies also by Enid Blyton – let me know if they are suitable and I will pass them to our mutual friend to find their way to you.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I’m with you on the only watching good TV and not wasting time. Nowadays I really only watch the ABC or SBS or something that I’ve got on DVD or the computer (I found West Wing and Borgan long after they started on TV). If there’s nothing on I curl up under the blanket with a book and stay there long after I should probably go to bed! I really should get back to my crochet – I’m working on something for a certain 1st birthday!
      Thanks for the Enid Blyton book our mutual friend delivered to the girls last week. They look great and will be devoured once we finish the second wishing chair book that you found earlier. Miss Five has fallen in love with the Wishing chair, just like I did when I was a child. The Book of Fairies sound fabulous, yes please for that one! The other one we’ve got already so perhaps someone else would enjoy that one. Miss Five’s kinder teacher has been reading her class The Enchanted Woods (the first of the Faraway Tree books) and she is loving that as well. She would happily sit there all session and listen to someone reading it. Hope you’re all doing well.

  6. I loved this post, thanks for sharing. Screen time has increased so much in our house that we are getting emails from big pond telling us we nearly reached our download limit (my kids are older by the way). I was horrified! I have since set a screen curfew time of 6pm, but that doesn’t seem to be working at all – allowing screen time in daylight hours when the kids should be outside? what was I thinking? I will definitely be taking some tips from this post, and I congratulate you on sticking with it.

    • Barbara Good says:

      Oh yes, definitely swap your screen time for when it’s dark outside. We’ve been going for a couple of weeks now and although they do know watch perhaps an hours worth, or an hour and a half on weekends, I’m keen to keep the content good quality. We often watch an episode of Play School and then do some of the activities from it which keeps them going for another hour or so. Also the duplo and lego have become our go to task, making castles or recreating a scene from a movie or tv show and then using the duplo people and animals to act it out. Out after dinner routine now involves a family game of some sort and no screens at all – which is supposed to be good for developing healthy sleeping habits (my youngest is a terrible sleeper). Our tv time tends to be on and off from about 4.30-6, when it’s cold and dark but they kids are driving me mad and I need to get dinner on the table.

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