We’re finishing the first week of summer at my house. We all agreed ahead of time that we would take the first 7 days of summer off from screens (tv, computer, and video games). And in a nutshell, it went really well; it was really, really pleasant.
It was a week of a lot of changes. First week of no school, everyone being home, no screens and it rained a lot; and I started potty training the toddler. There were a few tears which I think were just a result of change and less structure than school. But the boys definitely played well together, were patient with each other and didn’t get as intensely frustrated as they often do with computer and video games – because they weren’t playing them.
My eldest had been anticipating getting down the board games I had stashed in a closet. The first morning in, after about an hour he told me he really missed screen time and said he didn’t know if he could handle it. I asked him if he wanted to get down the board games and he instantly perked up and didn’t say anything the rest of the week about it being too hard.
They earned money helping me declutter and get items ready for a community yard sale in two weeks. And they earned money to buy new toys – just a few that go with a set of toys they already have. These Rescue Bots transformers transform but don’t make any noise. I like the way they encourage them to use their imagination, and I especially like that they are the characters from the show that I’ve watched extensively with the boys. I know the show and I approve of it. It has great stories and lessons and character development. The bots and the humans learn to work together to help people.
I think being out of school also helped, so I don’t know if that was part of it, but I can definitely see that taking a break from screens allowed my boys time to be creative, and to have to work at playing together, requiring them to be patient and find compromises etc.
It’s easy to lean on technology as a babysitter. I found myself missing that element a bit. One time one of my sons came and asked for screens and my mommy instincts said he could use quality time so I offered to stop working and read books to him and he happily agreed. We also got out some messier and higher-maintenance toys – like the dart guns; toys that I often said no to I figured I should let them get out, and so the boys enjoyed getting out special toys and I was able to make the extra effort to pay attention and have them pick up after each activity before they moved on to the next one. That’s one thing I think we all like about summer. The pace of life can be slow so without anywhere to rush off to, I can let their behavior dictate the schedule and simply require that they finish one activity appropriately before moving on. It was also fun to leave some extensive creations out overnight (in the case of the duplos) and then work on them again the next day before picking them up. But I have learned to put them away before they get tired of it and go ahead and move on to the next activity.
So we got through quite a few different types of fun, wholesome activities. I definitely feel like the advantages outweighed the disadvantages. I enjoyed it so much I’m debating between going to 1-2 hrs of screen time a day, or doing a no-screens week every few weeks, or maybe both.
I think the most obvious reward from the week was how happy my children were and the log below of activities we did. And the less evident but I think fundamentally important reward when I stop and reflect is that I have the peace from knowing that I gave the direction to my children that I should, that I put healthy limits on them and that they flourished within those healthy boundaries. I see how not being able to escape into the mental and emotional ease of screen time forced them to do some character building in order to entertain themselves, whether they chose to do that separately or together. It was an exhausting week, Thur evening I felt really depleted, but I think it’s the kind of habit that would get easier with time. I also think I need to determine for the summer what I need to stay sane and that might require creative ways to get time to myself, more so than during the school year. And I’m becoming convinced that regular date nights might be something we need to prioritize, that we both need.
All that to say, I loved our no screens week! I plan to do it again, and I highly recommend trying it yourself, at whatever level you think is appropriate for the age of your kids.
Here is my log from the week:
Friday – half day of school, late afternoon thunderstorm, played in the rain, dried off and then watched Mythbusters until bed time, the boys loved the small tv marathon, anticipating 7 days of no screens
(Fri morning I started potty training, and booked a camping trip for the following weekend – Note: we will be using pull ups for the road trip)
Sat Day 1 – Carcassone board game and the big boys did a shopping trip to Bass Pro with my husband for Father’s Day and to get some things for our camping trip – tent poles, a camp table and sleeping bags
Sun Day 2 – board games and duplos (sun) and another trip with dad
Mon Day 3 – duplos and board games – we got our 2 huge bins out of storage and played with them spread out across the living room floor for two days
Tues Day 4 – Did extra jobs around the house helping me declutter, for $2 and $3 jobs and earned enough to with my husband this evening to get new transformer toys they saw at the store with him last weekend. Also went to a friend’s house for a playdate.
Wed Day 5 – did more chores because owed money from trip, played with new transforms. It’s rained for 4 days. They asked nicely for Wild Kratts so we did 1 1/2 hrs of shows, agreeing to do science or art afterward. They looked through a craft book they found doing extra jobs helping me clear a bookshelf. We created little houses out of boxes, an idea from the book, and it turned into a village for their transformers to defend. And then after dinner we went to the library.
Thur Day 6 – They played with a sitter while I went to the office for a meeting, and then after that we started getting ready for our camping trip this weekend.
Fri Day 7 – packing up and heading to the lake!
I’m not sure yet if we’ll let them use their tablets on their way there, but I’m hoping this week will prime them to really enjoy being outside, so they don’t feel like they suddenly lost technology for the weekend. I didn’t point it out to them but the camping trip will make it 9 days with hardly any screen time.