The evidence is pretty conclusive – children who watch television are less creative, more likely to be overweight, and have more trouble paying attention in school. You don’t want your children to end up as couch potatoes. But just how can you raise children without TV? What will they do all day? And how will you get a break?
First, stop worrying so much. You can raise children without television, and you can have a break from them sometimes. In fact, if you raise your children without TV they’re a lot less likely to need constant “entertainment!”
Start by making the choice to go TV free. If you only have a baby, this is pretty easy. You just start by never turning the television on. But if you have older children, even if they’re only toddlers, it may be harder to pull the plug on the TV.
With toddlers I recommend you gently, but very firmly tell them that the television is going away. Either put it in a cabinet or get rid of it completely. If you don’t have a cabinet and it must stay, cover it up with a pretty blanket or cloth while your child is awake. Make it clear that it’s not to be turned on – and be firm about it. If your child is used to turning it on whenever they want you’ll need to be persistent, but it can be learned.
If you’re taking away the television from older children, sit down and explain to them what’s going on, and why you feel the way you do. Expect some grumbling and complaining but stand firm. You may decide to have a family movie night once a week or something similar to help ease the transition.
Expect to need to fill your child’s time constructively when the television is first gone. Children in past times could entertain themselves for hours on end, but that’s not so with children today. They’re too used to being entertained by shows and games.
Reading to your children, or providing them with a lot of books is a good start. Telling stories is another great thing to do. Even older children are very interested in stories. Tell stories of adventures from your own childhood, or tell stories that were your favorites when you were a child. They will like them too. Stories will also help grow their imaginations.
Young children will love to help you around the house. Involve them in your chores any way you can think of. Let them “dust” with a rag. Teach them to put pairs of socks together or fold washcloths. Get a child sized broom and let them sweep along with you. Even young children can be taught to rinse dishes or help load a dishwasher. Regular housework can happily fill hours for small children. When they’re done helping, they’ll spend even more time “pretending” to cook, clean, and care for their dolls and stuffed animals on their own.
Don’t exclude older children from chores just because they’re not as enthusiastic as your toddlers. Chores should fill a period of time for children every day. They learn valuable skills that will be needed when they have their own home. They also learn that everyone in the family helps out, and they develop a good work ethic. If they’ve never had to do chores before be patient, but firm. Require good work and require it to be done consistently.
Arts and crafts are another good way to occupy time. Simple art projects are a great joy for younger children. As they get older, their projects can grow in complexity. Building and shop projects are good for older children, as well as needlepoint and various handiwork.
Don’t neglect time outdoors. Children can and should be taught to enjoy being outside in all seasons. Make sure they’re dressed appropriately – this is especially important for children because they’re often not as aware of their body’s signs of being too hot or too cold as an adult is. But once you have them dressed well, send them outside (or go out with them). You may need to give guidance at first, teaching childhood games or providing them with outside toys. But eventually your children will be able to play their own creative games outside.
Provide good inside toys, too. Get away from character toys and electronic toys. Give them toys like baby dolls, toy food and dishes, toy tools (real tools for an older child), Legos and other building toys, etc. These toys allow freedom of imagination and creativity.
As you read and tell stories, teach them games, do craft projects, and just enjoy life with your child, you’ll find that the television becomes less and less of a focus. Your child will also become more and more able to play on their own, with lots of imagination.
Kristen is an avid writer, constantly working on new ideas for articles and sites. Visit her site http://www.nutivacoconutoil.org/ which is all about the clear health benefits of Nutiva coconut oil.