Screen-free week: free-ranging the kids and making a list of alternatives
Participating in Screen-Free Week now is not nearly as daunting as it was the first time three years ago. We've gotten a grip on our screen time, and my kids will tell you that too much TV can turn your mind and your body to mush. (Brainwashing, anyone?) During these warmer, lighter days requests for screen time are less frequent than during the dark winter months. And thanks to the book Free-Range Kids and my own loosening up, a bigger world has opened up to them that is far more interesting than anything Ruff Ruffman could concoct (though, I must confess, I do like his show).
One of the biggest free-range changes we've made? They get to play in the street. Yes, folks, we've taken back our residential street and will not be intimidated by motorists BECAUSE THEY CAN FIND A NEW SHORTCUT TO TAKE. Obviously there are rules that we've gone over and over, and I sat outside and monitored their behavior the first couple of weeks we tried this out. But my confidence in them has bolstered their own confidence and independence, and they are careful. They watch out for each other. "Car!" As a bonus, my 2nd grader now gets to walk about 1/3 of a mile by herself to visit a couple of friends in the neighborhood -- huge.
I asked my kids to come up with a list of things they'd rather** do than watch television/play Wii/play on the computer:
ride bikes, scooter and skateboard in the driveway and street - throw paper airplanes - play catch with the baseball - pretend battle games - catch (and release) garden snakes - play with the neighbors - make mud soup - build a fort - play Little House in the Big Woods - sandbox - shoot hoops - draw and paint - read - listen to music - dance and sing - play Uno - play Bakugon/Pokemon/Magic - build giant train tracks - write books - puzzles - take pictures - dress up like superheroes - build Star Wars galaxy out of blocks and Legos - play babies - build inventions - play with horses - build cities - play house - build a house - hide & seek - play restaurant - watch the birds - build robots - make an elf workshop - take a nap (really?) - play Legos - climb trees - walk to the park/library/school (with an adult) - bake muffins with mom - play with stuffed animals - make shadow puppets - help make dinner - tell knock-knock jokes
And do you know what I'm going to do with this list? (Wah, ha ha.) The next time they whine about 'being bored' I'm going to hand them this list and say, "But look at all of your exciting options! Pick one!" Brilliant, yes?
** Do I believe they'd rather do those things than watch screen? Not entirely. Screen is pretty seductive. But when they have so many options that they've created for themselves (not to mention the ones they haven't even dreamed up yet!), screen is not always in the forefront of their minds...minds that are probably (hopefully) not turning to mush.