Several years back, we adapted the summer mantra in our house: Screen Free Summer.
Now before I lose all of you at thinking I’m totally crazy, or that mom, hear me out. As I think that ultimately what my hope is that you can assess what’s best for your family, even when things are hard, and find the discipline to make that shift for them too if needed.
At the time, I was coming off the worst pregnancy of all time, and between post partum and constantly nursing a preemie, my kids were watching SO MUCH TV. Chris & Martin (Kratts) and Little Einsteins were basically our full time babysitters. I didn’t feel any guilt about it at the time, because three kids = survival. But once the third kid fog started to lift a bit, I started to see that my previously rambunctious and creative little boys had transformed into tiny mushy-brained monsters. They were whining constantly and they had nearly forgotten how to just PLAY.
Instead of opting to be with their friends, or play in the backyard in the sprinkler, when they had the option, they only wanted to stay in and watch another show.
What had I done in the name of survival?!
Screen Free Summer
I had created this mess, and I knew I needed to do something dramatic to make a change. The little monsters that my boys had morphed into needed to go STAT.
Enter: NO SCREEN SUMMER.
Whew, we can do hard things right?!
I cut off the TV. Their constant friends of Daniel Tiger and Octonauts were no longer invited to the (everyday) summer party.
We went cold turkey, zero to 100 overnight.
Clearly, I had lost my mind because no mom of three kids under four would do such a thing. My husband agreed, but alas I forged ahead anyway.
It was met with some SERIOUS resistance from the littles. The tiny dictators were NOT happy about this new change of pace and this new mommy. But I finally had the mental and physical strength to tackle this, and I wanted to be consistent.
We reintroduced GAMES, FREE PLAY, COLOR, building legos with each other – all of the NORMAL, completely NON-genius things that I believe kids aged 3 and 5 should just be doing.
It also was a huge mindset shift for ME. What had previously been my go-to babysitter for a mama break was no longer an option. I had to rethink how we had previously structured our days. I began using our gym’s childcare for my mama break. Some days I would actually work out, but mostly I would use it to check in the kids for two hours while I brought along my computer and did our meal planning, bill paying, and all the things that it takes to run a
three ring circus household. If I wanted to zone out and scroll Instagram, or simply take a shower in peace and quiet, I had to adjust my schedule to now accomplish those things during my time at the gym. TV at home wasn’t an option anymore.
After about 2 weeks of staying 100% strong in our NO SCREEN SUMMER campaign, something miraculous happened: they stopped asking for it.
The tiny monsters were extinct.
No more whining for a show. Quiet times now were back to books, puzzles, and things that didn’t rot their brains (*this is figurative, I don’t actually believe that happens for the record) for hours upon hours a day.
They re-learned how to play. With each other, independently, and found the joy in creative play with their friends again as well. Obviously this was the magic formula to transform my kids into perfection, ha! not even close. But it was an unconventional way that I felt we had to tackle in order to regain control of our family situation.
So I counted the lack of whining (about TV) a SUCCESS!
If you’re feeling like what in the actual hell would my kids do without TV, iPads or their phones for the summer, check out these ideas on some dollar-store items that are promised to keep them entertained. Because by cutting screen time, I most definitely was NOT transferring the responsibility of entertainment for them to myself.
No, no, no. Even though we didn’t have TV as an option, that didn’t mean that I had to be “on” full time now. They were responsible for choosing activities to entertain themselves. I wasn’t going to be their Cruise Director because I still had a job to do.
We have continued this NO SCREEN SUMMER policy for three years now. It’s just expected and the way of our family.
Mamas, it is possible to eliminate screens for a period of time (or maybe forever if you’re feeling extra brave!) but it will require serious discipline on your part and a major mindset shift. You will need to establish some activities up front that they are able to do while you need to get dinner ready, or need quiet time, or baby sister is sleeping. And in time, this will work!
As with any change to their schedule, routine or family rules, there will be resistance.
And power through anyway. If you really believe in a new way for your kids, establish it with purpose and love, conveying to them the why’s and how’s.
We still had occasional family movie nights and one summer was an Olympic year so we definitely had the TV on for several of those events. But overall, they knew our household (babysitters included!) was a No Screen Summer family.
Check back tomorrow to see how we’re handling screens for this summer. Hint: we might’ve changed our minds.