As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
~Henry David Thoreau
To the dismay of all three my children, this week is Screen-Free Week (formerly known as TV-Turnoff Week). This is an annual celebration of turning off screens and paying more attention to the things that really matter in life, instead of things that just suck the time away.
There are times when we are reminded of how lucky we are to have what we have. Use this week to remind yourself and use the time you might otherwise have been in front of a screen and make the most of out of it. That is when memories are made.
photo credit: autowitch on flickr
A few facts about screen time compiled by Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
- Forty percent of 3-month-old infants are regular viewers of screen media, and 19% of babies 1 year and under have a TV in their bedroom.
- Screen time can be habit-forming: the more time children engage with screens, the harder time they have turning them off as older children.
- On average, preschool children spend 32 hours a week with screen media.
- The more time preschool children spend with screens, the less time they spend engaged in creative play – the foundation of learning, constructive problem solving, and creativity.
- Including multitasking, children ages 8 -18 spend average of 4 1⁄2 hours per day watching television, 1 1⁄2 hours using computers, and more than an hour playing video games.
- Children with 2 or more hours of daily screen time are more likely to have increased psychological difficulties, including hyperactivity, emotional and conduct problems, as well as difficulties with peers.
Conversely, research shows the benefit of reduced screen time, especially at early ages.
If you are a family that is used to allowing some television, video games, computer time in your daily routine whether it is a little or a lot, the week will go a whole lot smoother if you have a plan of activities to choose from. I am all for letting children get a little bored, that is when creativity can spark, but for this week you might want to be able to offer some suggestions. Hopefully screen-free will then become more of the habit!
Top ten activities for Screen-Free Week 2011:
- Get outside and play. Whether it is at the park or in your own backyard, use this week to get outside as a family and just play. Imaginary games, soccer, baseball, tag, hide and seek, whatever sounds fun!
- Nature walk. From around the neighborhood to a local wilderness park, there are lots of opportunities to experience nature. Little ones can identify colors, older ones can identify plants and animals, you can teach something new (so read up if necessary!).
- Nature journal. Before, or after, spending time outside take the time to create a nature journal. Take a few sheets of white paper and cut into quarters. Make a cover out of construction or scrapbook paper. Staple it all together. The important part is what goes inside. Little ones can color and you can label. Older ones can draw and work on scientific observations. Choose trees, flowers, birds, animals, or anything else you see in nature that interests you child as general or specific as you like in theme.
- Dig in the garden. I think it is incredibly important for children to understand how living things grow in the earth, how food can be grown in a backyard garden or on a local farm, and what it feels like to dig in the cool earth. If you don’t have a green thumb, start small. Maybe you could do just one container of tomatoes or peppers, one little plot of beans or lettuce. You could also check in with your local organic farm or community garden and see if you could volunteer a few hours this week.
- Puddle jumping. If you are going to have the chance this week to get out and jump in some puddles, your little ones will think it is fabulous. The few times we have purposely gone out to jump in as many puddles as we can have been some of the most fun walks we have ever taken.
- Self portrait. This is always a really fun project to do with children. I love seeing how they see themselves. All you need is paper and any art supplies you would like to use (crayons, colored pencils, string, yarn, ribbon, glue). Find a special place to hang them when you’re done.
- Poetry. Read and write poetry together. The littlest children can draw the illustrations for poems you either read or create. Young children can dictate a poem to you and draw a picture to go with it, while older children will probably surprise you with their creativity.
- Play a board game. You can learn a lot about your kids by sitting down and playing a classic board game with them. Maybe try something new by swapping with another family or checking out games from a local toy store or toy library. We discovered the Game of Life this weekend at the cabin we stayed in. It was a little old for the little ones, but my 7 year old really enjoyed it. I thought it was interesting to talk about the choice between college and not, how much things cost (relatively), and how things come up that you don’t want to have to pay for, but you do it anyway. Plus, the math involved with earning and paying money is great!
- Increase brain power. One of the greatest indicators of future academic success is vocabulary development. Expand your baby and toddler’s by simply talking to her about everything you do and see. The more you do and see together, the more words she will be exposed to. Or find a fun game to play together. My aunt just brought each of my kids a Brain Quest appropriate for their age. Baby girl and I have had a great time doing My First Brain Quest Ages 2 to 3 together.
- Read. The other way to give your child an advantage for future school success (and encourage imagination and bonding)? Read to them. No matter what the age, reading to your children is a wonderful family activity that can be enjoyed beyond the bedtime hours. Hit the library and find something new and wonderful to explore this week!
So, what will you be doing this week without any screen time to distract you?