Too Much TV! Freeing My Kids from being TV Zombies

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Too Much TVSo not only is this the title of one of my favorite Berenstain books (and yes, it is stain instead of stein, just in case you have been saying it wrong like I have all my life), but this was pretty much my life since our 4th child was born.  I was in survival mode and using whatever was at my disposal to do what absolutely needed to get done.  Once I emerged from survival mode, I had had enough!  We watched TOO MUCH TV!

TV was too much of an addiction to just cut it cold turkey, so I cut back a little at a time.  Now, most days we don’t even turn it on and no tantrums ensue.  And let me just say, that no TV as background noise is pure poetry to my ears because now there is more imagination and learning happening.  It’s awesome!

How we went from TV addicts to occasional watchers:

Step 1 – Keep the TV OFF for As Long As Possible

My first step was to realize that the best way to not let TV overtake our day was to just not turn it on in the first place.  My kids had gotten in the habit of running to the TV as soon as their feet hit the ground between 6:30am – 7:00am.  And since, I was unable to pull myself out of bed before 8:30am, I welcomed the distraction.  Currently, I’m still only waking up before them about 1/3 of the time, but instead of running to the TV, they do their morning chores, start any school work that I’ve laid out or play.

Step 2 – Books, Books & More Books

I love to read and although I read to my children, by nixing TV, we greatly increased our reading time.  It’s funny because we went from mostly pictures books to children’s novels that have very few pictures.  At first, when they would ask to see the pictures or they would whine because they wanted to watch a movie, I would tell them to listen and create the movie in their heads.  Now, as they color, eat a snack, play with playdough, etc. their attention is rapt and we have finished entire books in an afternoon because they don’t want to stop reading.  Some of our favorites include:

  • The Boxcar Children Series – This is a classic and it will make you want to try milk & blueberries together, which is delicious!
  • Kylie Jean Series – Super cute & funny.  Even my son, who doesn’t like pink or girly girl stuff, enjoys these hilarious & character filled books.
  • Anything Non-fiction – I love how curious children are and when we go to the library they tend to gravitate towards the non-fiction section, so we read everything.  It’s great.  If your children don’t have their own library card yet, I strongly urge you to let them get one.  It’s a fantastic way to let them explore the world!

Step 3 – Play Outside

If Eskimo kids can play outside then so can mine, so only sleet, cold rains and lightening keep us inside the house.  My 3rd child will only play in the cold for about 20-30 minutes before she comes in asking for hot chocolate, but fresh air and outside activity is always better than inside tornadoes, which my kids can turn into if they don’t get to release some of their energy.

Step 4 – Develop Handy Skills

My kids beg me daily to get out the sewing machine or the hammer, nails & drill so they can improve their skills.  Shoot, these are requests I hate to turn down and the only time these requests get denied is if a sewing machine is broken, they haven’t completed their other work, or the child’s temper has gotten out of hand that day.  In my mind, there is no reason to give an upset child a hammer – oy vey!! Can you say “hospital visit ahead?!”

Step 5 – Play Games

Games as learning tools are my idea of fun!  We have a closet full of games so my kids are never at a loss for something to play.  I loved what one reader said a few months ago in response to Britnie’s “How to Win at Losing” post.  We’ve incorporated this into our gaming playing ever since I read it.

 I also teach my four kids that each time they are playing a game they are really playing two games at once:  1) the game and 2) the heart game.  The “game” is whatever we are playing be it Uno or tag or whatever.  The “heart game” is their heart’s response to the happenings during the game and the game’s outcome – whether they win or lose.  We have taught them that the only game of the two that really matters is the heart game.  Winning that is what makes you a real winner and pleases God too.  So after every game we will say “Yay for ____!  He won the game!  Now raise your hand if you won the heart game!”  ~Meredith

Step 6 – TV Viewing Costs Money

So of course, we still watch TV from time to time, it’s just not encompassing our days and evenings.   When we do watch TV, my children have to pay for it.  Yes, you read correctly.  I want them to know that they could be spending their time more wisely, so they have to pay 3 Bunny Money to watch something.  There is “FREE TV Time,” which is my way of rewarding good behavior, having a family movie night or taking a breather, if I’m about to lose it.

Step 7 – TV in a Foreign Language

Honestly, my kids have most of our movies memorized, so if we turn on the TV, they often get to watch the movie in a foreign language.  At first, they were a bit annoyed but now they don’t seem to care.  Their little ears are getting attuned to the nuances of other languages and even picking up some phrases.  It’s a win-win!

Really, it’s all about filling our time with more quality things.  TV isn’t bad.  I’m not saying it is.  We learn a lot from certain shows and even become inspired by others, but TV was just overrunning our household and that needed to end.

Overall, this has been a spectacular change in our routine.  I don’t know why I honestly feared limiting or even nixing TV in our house.  We fill up their time with much more positive things and we really play & work together more as a family.  It’s been a worthwhile experiment that will have lasting effects.  Considering I offered my kids TV time tonight and they never turned it on because they decided to rearrange the entire living room into an indoor play space, I’d say TV is no longer the center of their life.

What about you…has TV been a problem in your house?  

What do you do instead of watch TV?

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I'm a wife to an amazing husband and a mother to four super active kiddos ages: 7 & under. Seven years ago, I traded in my career outside the home for a career as an adventurous homeschooling mom and gave up microwave cooking for organic homemade meals. Truly, dance parties, lots of prayer, and laughter are the only ways I stay sane, along with working out, traveling, crafting & reading in my spare time. Most of all, I love serving God, my family, my friends and my community. My family is constantly looking for ways that we can grow and have fun together while blessing others with what the Lord has given us. I hope my words will be a blessing to you!

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