I found a note book recently that I had when I was pregnant with Sofia. I’d jotted down ideas about the kind of the mum I wanted to be. One line really struck me “Don’t use the TV as a baby sitter.” I really was that naïve!
Fast forward to now. My 7 year old daughter loves TV and will happily sit in a CBBC trance. She is very proficient with the Sky remote. My 3 year old twins also love to watch TV.
I’m not anti TV at all. There are some great shows. I particularly like the ones that teach the kids by stealth. Our favourites are the Octonauts (we are all very down with marine biology), Messy Goes to Okido (nothing cuter than a 3 year old saying “I am made of atoms, everything is made of atoms”) and the Go Jetters (for a little bit of geography).
The boys stopped napping just after they turned 2 and a little burst of TV after lunch at least meant that they sat still and had a little bit of quiet time in the day. Everyone knows that an overtired toddler is a destructive force of nature and a bit of chill does take the edge of their natural urge to fight and scribble on the walls. Plus it is a way of entertaining my tribe when I’m trying to cook dinner or having a quick shower.
Everything in moderation
Like many aspects of parenting it is all about finding a happy balance. Lately I’ve had the nagging feeling that we have been turning on the TV a bit too frequently, using Mike the Knight reruns to buy an easy life. There were days when the TV stays on just a little bit longer than I would like to admit. I’m also conscious of the things we are not doing instead of watching TV – running around outside, baking, making things and just hanging out together.
Switch off Sunday
This inspired the idea of switch off Sunday. We have decided to do a family experiment to have a day each week when we don’t watch TV, watch any videos on the IPad or let the kids play on the computer. Sunday is the one day of the week when we are usually all together as a family so maybe we should be spending our time together a bit more consciously.
Attempt number 1
This is where the idea nearly fell at the first hurdle. Our first switch off Sunday coincided with the clocks going back an hour. Everyone with little kids knows that this does not mean an extra hour in bed. It just means that your kids wake up at stupid o’clock and you are extra grumpy to have such an early start on a Sunday. Every bit of me was wanted to switch on the TV but I’d already told Sofia that it was going to be no TV day and I had to follow through on what we’d committed to doing. At this point the title for this post could well have been “mum has a stupid idea!”
We were out and about most of the day so watching no TV was not an issue. We got home a bit late and everyone was tired, hungry and a bit grumpy. For the second time my commitment totally waivered but we stuck with it. Sam started playing with water in the bathroom. He did get very wet but was spontaneously entertained. I kept an eye on him while playing cars in the corridor with Leo. Sofia has always been quite good at finding things to do and did some reading and drew some pictures.
This week was our second switch off Sunday. Again we were out all morning but after lunch it was very tempting to go with the easy option of having a relaxed snuggly afternoon with some reruns of our fav shows. Instead we got out the bikes and headed out on a family bike ride to Cambridge Botanic Gardens. We don’t go on bike rides very often and definitely wouldn’t have done this if we hadn’t banned TV for the day. It turned out to be a lovely afternoon – seeing all of the beautiful autumn colours and running about in the fresh air.
The tricky moment of the day was again when we got home. Everyone was tired and I need to cook dinner. Rolando kept people entertained playing music and getting out a space hopper for the kids to bounce about on.
What we have learnt
Sofia was initially not enthusiastic about switch off Sundays. I’m not sure we have won her over yet. It is tricky to not have a fail safe way of distracting the twins when they are tired and these were the moments when our commitment waivered. However I think we collectively made more of an effort to do different things that we probably wouldn’t have done if we had watched TV. I was impressed with the moments when the kids spontaneously found other things to do.
I am wondering if it would make more sense to have a maximum amount of TV allowed per day or specific times of the day to watch TV throughout the week rather than focus on one day.
For the moment we have decided to carry on with Switch off Sunday. Once we have tried it for a bit longer we will decide if it is going to be a permanent feature of the week.
I’d love to hear your experiences – Do you have any rules about how much TV your kids can watch? Let me know in the comments section below.