Goodnight iPad: Cutting Down on Screen Time

January 6, 2012 at 6:57 am (General, Play Time)

I flipped through this book at the counter of our local toy store the other day. It’s a humorous take on the classic “Goodnight Moon,” which my kids and I have read together countless times. And it is funny; an apt exaggeration of how virtuality has replaced so much of what is “real.”

But it makes me a little sad, too. That our world has become so plugged in that there exists a market for this kind of parody. That there exist gadgets for reading and being read to, for listening to music and making music, and for communicating with people without having to see or talk to them.

So many gadgets, so short a childhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the convenience of technology as much as anyone. Our family certainly has our share of gadgets. But the idea of “Goodnight iPad” does hit close to home for us.

Me: Goodnight iPad.

JJ: Nooooooooooooooooo!

Not quite, but pretty close. The difference is I’m not smiling when I pry the iPad out of JJ’s hands.

Recently, we’ve been keeping closer tabs on our screen time, both grownups’ and kids’. It has become way too easy to allow some type of screen to keep us entertained on a whim. Between iPhone, iPod, iPad, laptop, and the good-old-fashioned TV, our kids are always only a finger touch away from easy entertainment. When they’re bored, it is only too easy for them to turn on a device instead of playing with toys.

And it’s too easy for me to want to. When days are filled with stress (either theirs or mine) because of school, work, household tasks, or the emotional upheaval of a 5-year-old’s growth spurt, it’s tempting to turn on a device that will allow them to relax, keep them busy, and stop the bickering. Gadgets are always an easy solution to stress.

But when we start to become dependent on them, something needs to change. When I say, “No iPad today,” and they don’t know what else to do with themselves, something needs to change. It means they’ve become to accustomed to a screen as their go-to to-do, and that needs to change.

I used to read the AAP’s recommendations for appropriate amount of screen time for young kids and think, “Oh, thank goodness that isn’t us.” We never used to have issues with keeping screen time to a minimum, but lately the accumulated hours have crept up on us.

So, goodnight iPad. Goodnight TV. Goodnight iPhone-in-restaurants. Goodnight video games of any kind.

Hello conversation. Hello toys and games and books. Hello puzzles and mazes. Hello blocks, Legos. Hello wrestling matches, swords flights, and dress up. Hello sketch books, hello colored pencils. Hello creativity and imagination.

Also hello whining and complaining…at first. In my state of exasperation with our screen situation, I eliminated every trace of them from our day. It may have been a little extreme, but cold turkey seemed necessary. Oh yes, there was withdrawal. The symptoms included angry faces, sad voices, confusion, boredom, chronic whining, and constant shouts from mom to, “Go do something!”

And then eventually…contentment. Cooperation. Ingenuity.

It’s been a few weeks now, since we said “goodnight” to the screens, and the kids haven’t been asking for them. They get up in the morning and go to the pantry for cereal instead of the iPad for games. When they’re bored, they don’t immediately think of watching a show. They go to the bookshelf or the game cabinet. Our arts and crafts supplies are dwindling, the playroom is a happy mess, and JJ always has a toy in his hands.

Will screens eventually creep back into our day? I’m sure. But I’m contented to have come to a point where they don’t seem necessary for engagement. Without the devices, we are engaging more with each other…imagine that! I know that technology affords us the convenience of connecting us to the world, but I see healthier connections made without it. Skip the digital connections please, I’ll take the interpersonal ones any day.

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Artistic Family Fun

December 22, 2011 at 7:22 am (Play Time)

We love the game “Guess My Picture.” It’s very visual, no reading required, and allows for some really creative interpretation. In re-creating photographs with simple geometric shapes, I get to see some fascinating distinctions between each of my kids.

Elia is quite literal; she notices the major shapes and proportions and assembles accordingly.

JJ is more abstract; he accentuates only the most distinguishing shapes of the object in the photo, creating a caricature.

I’m sure there are rules, but the way we play it, there are no winners nor any set end time. We just have fun guessing each other’s pictures until we get tired of it. Which, yesterday, took an hour.

And yes, that is Elia and me on the box. In case you were wondering.

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The PFS Blog Logo

December 9, 2011 at 6:23 am (General, Play Time)

In my quest to de-clutter at this time of year, I sorted through a huge stack of my children’s artwork. Got many of the works scanned, some of them framed. I found this one drawn with colored pencils and block crayons by Elia at age 3. Mom, dad, brother, sister. Ah, the simple beauty of a family from a child’s perspective! This one is going in a frame.


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On Not Staying Clean

September 9, 2011 at 5:29 am (Out in Nature, Play Time)

It doesn’t bother me if my kids get dirty.  I don’t even try to “save” clothes with spot treatments and stain removers.  I just buy cheap clothes.

Childhood is too short to permeate it with warnings of staying clean and instructions to get up off the ground so you don’t ruin your clothes.

Get dirty.  Play on the ground.  Roll on the floor.  Skate in your socks.  Jump in the puddles.

Elia, JJ and I went on a walk by the creek the other day, and while there was a path, of course my kids did not stay on it.  There was certainly more adventure to be had in the creek and across the other side.

Oh well.  If there’s a time for this kind of thing, it’s childhood, right?  You’ll notice there are no pictures of my own muddy feet & clothes.  Once we exit childhood, we grown-ups seem to want to stay out of the mud.  Not just because our clothes are more expensive.  We get old; we prefer the path.

So if my kids want to go off the provided, structured path, I’m OK with that.  And if that means getting coated in mud, so be it.  Clothes are replaceable, childhood is not.

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Summer Activities

August 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm (Just Photos, Out in Nature, Play Time)

I have pictures.

I occasionally like to do posts in which I share a bunch of photos of the things we’ve been up to and catch everyone up on our recent activities.  Well, we’ve had a busy summer, and this is one of those posts.

First, swimming, lots of swimming.

When we see a huge mound of dirt, we go play on it.

Here, Elia is grinding wheat with a stone:

John enjoys taking the kids fly fishing, and he lets them do as much of the reeling, netting, and releasing (always catch and release) as possible.  My husband is absolutely in his element on a river, and the kids are getting to be pros already.  JJ got out there to net one and haul it in on his own.

JJ had a birthday last month.  He requested “a playable Angry Birds cake.” He wanted a working sling shot, small cake-birds sized accordingly to said slingshot, cake blocks loosely constructed in a tower formation atop a cake base with green frosting grass, with cake-pigs perched strategically throughout the structure that would fall when he launched the cake-birds at them.  I told him I couldn’t do that.

He told me I should go to cake decorating school.

For lack of time to graduate cake decorating school before his birthday, we settled on an alternative plan.  Elia helped me make chocolate cake and 4 different colors of frosting, and the result after 2 days of creation and construction was a passable substitute for a playable Angry Birds cake.

And our latest venture: canoeing for crawfish.  John gets the credit for planning these happy outings:

We release them into our neighborhood pond so we can come find them again and say hi.

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