This summer we made a goal to make the most of our extended summer days and to unplug the kids.
That’s right, we literally unplugged the living room TV and- aside from the one movie night for Vi’s birthday- we haven’t been watching television. We have also stopped letting the kids have access to tablets, video games, and our phones- basically all screen time.
I have to say, the transition has had very obvious benefits. We didn’t like how both kids would zone out when watching a show, like little zombies. When it was time to turn the TV off or take away tablets and phones, they would whine and pout.
Since unplugging, their behavior has improved, moods have stabilized, and they play so much better together! The improvements have been so dramatic that we plan on keeping this going indefinitely.
So, what do we do? How do we keep occupied? Well we have been traveling around Minnesota quite a bit, but when home we have gotten more creative.
I have started printing off free (age appropriate) worksheets for the kids. Marshall has been working on math and writing; Vi has been working on basic shapes and color matching. We mainly work on this together at the kids’ table while I sit on the couch next to them and breastfeed Franki. Sometimes I start them on their worksheets and then get some dishes or laundry going as they continue on focusing on their work.
This also has the added benefit of reducing “Summer Learning Loss“. On average, children lose two months of reading skills and a little over two and a half months of math skills! Literally the first six weeks (SIX!) in the fall are spent re-learning the previous year’s material. So we’ve been working hard to not only retain the knowledge that Marshall learned last school year, but also learn new material and skills in preparation for the upcoming school year.
To help put his new skills to real world use, Marshall has been writing fan mail! He’s been excited to write letters to his favorite sports team (the KC Royals), his favorite author (Brad Meltzer), and more.
All three kids like to eat lunch at the same time. To accommodate this (keep in mind, Franki is exclusively breastfed still) I again sit on the couch, as that is most comfortable for Franki and I, and the two older kids sit at the small table next to the couch. While all three eat, I read them books. One after another I read and the three sets of eyes stare intently as their brains soak it all in.
They’ve always adored books, I think us giving books as gifts for every holiday since birth has helped that fact, but since unplugging they simply thrive off books. I’ve found Marshall reading to Vi several times, even catching Vi bringing books to her brother for him to read to her.
When we first started this experiment, we were skeptical. It’s so nice to turn on a movie or cartoons to keep the kids occupied while we get work done. But, with a slight adjustment period, thing are honestly better than ever. It makes sense too; after all, it wasn’t that long ago that dishes and laundry were washed by hand but kids didn’t have screens to occupy them while parents got things done. It has forced the kids to be creative, problem solve, and get along as well as making Brad and I more imaginative.
I use to be a skeptic, but now I’m a full believer in the screen-free movement. There are hurdles and hard days, but the benefits outweigh the difficulties, especially when considering learning loss.