We Went Screen-Free and It Didn’t Suck (Most of the Time)

I am sad to say it, but we fell into a major rut recently. The holidays were swirling around and I dislocated my knee cap, so I needed some “help” with the kids. That help came in the form of TV. A lot of TV.

Our kids don’t have their own devices, but they were pretty obsessed with their shows. Every single day, they were asking for more and more TV time.

Toddlin' Across America: The Observation Deck at CEB

We started noticing that their new vocabulary words and new-found sea creature knowledge were coming from their favorite on-screen characters. I think I wrote it off because they were learning something. It was educational, right?

But, the real impact was on their behavior. They had zero attention span and relied on the TV for a way to relax. Meltdowns, tantrums and nasty attitudes were always calmed with another show.

So, how did it go?

Day 1: Remember the title of the article where I said “most of the time”. Yeah, Day 1 sucked so much.

It started off well.

Before our screen-free adventure began, we would let the kids wake up on their own and come into our bedroom for an hour of TV (again, I’m really not proud). Honestly, we aren’t morning people.

Anyway, now, my oldest daughter wakes up around 7 AM, so I go in and get her before she wakes up her twin brother. That way, everyone can wake up on their own and get the sleep they need.

We decided to get out of the house to make the transition a little easier. By 10 AM, everything started falling apart. All three of my sweet little ones were raging lunatics. Tears were flowing from all of us. By noon, I was so close to turning on a show in the van on the way home from lunch, but I resisted.

Side note: my kids’ entire schedule changed when we shut off the TV. I realize now that a lot of the meltdowns were probably related to meal and snack times as much as the lack of screen time.

Day 2: We decided to divide and conquer. My mom was kind enough to watch the kids for a few hours mid-morning and I took on the rest of the day.

The adults in the house felt a ton of pressure to entertain the kids all day long. We went out and picked up crafts and toys to fill the time.

As the day wore on, we quickly realized that the kids were just fine when faced with boredom. They started telling us new stories, singing new songs and pretending all sorts of fun scenarios.

The best part of the day was when I looked over at my oldest two and they were creating stamp masterpieces while singing original songs together.

Day 3: I woke up with new kids. Let me just say, I realize how “over the top” this sounds, but it really happened.

Throughout the day, they listened better. I lost my cool a lot less than usual. They were more loving toward each other.

I actually joked with my mom that it was one of our top 5 days together.

However, they wouldn’t stop talking. A side effect of no TV is that there is nothing to fill the silence. I quickly learned that three preschool-aged kiddos are happy to take up all that space with thousands and thousands of words.

At dinner, I had to ask them to take a short break from talking.

Day 4: This one was a pretty special day all around. But, the high point was at around 11:30 AM when I built a make-shift fort and told my kiddos it was book time. They cuddled up on a pile of pillows for over an hour…an hour! I ate a hot lunch, cleaned up around the house and listened to part of my favorite podcast.

I am not naive enough to think this is the answer to all the behavior issues we’ve been facing. I have three tiny humans. There will always be things to learn and things to teach them. But, I can’t write this experience off.

Also, I’m not a modern hippie that just doesn’t get it. I have no intention of staying screen-free forever. We’ll watch Friday night movies and a few shows on super long car rides. I don’t want it to become forbidden.

For now, we’re not turning the TVs back on day-to-day. I never want to go back to where we were. Is your house screen-free? Have you tried a screen-free experiment? I’d love to hear about it.

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