Monday, November 29, 2010

The TV Experiment

This post is a confession.

We here at Casa Bookivore do not, in fact, sit around and read to each other all day long. And lately, the lure of the Electronic Babysitter has been strong, so there's been way too much TV watching than is good for young brains (old ones either, come to that).

So just before Thanksgiving, we began the TV Experiment. We weren't going to do the whole binge-purge thing: an all-or-nothing approach didn't seem like a good way to teach our kids about moderation. Instead, we decided to be intentional with our TV watching. No more TV on as a kind of technicolor background noise, no more sliding unmonitored from program to program until we'd realize with a guilty start that the kids had been watching TV for 4 hours.

We started with breakfast. My littlest one likes to watch the PBS morning slate of shows -- about an hour and a half's worth -- while eating her oatmeal. Tuesday morning, we got up and just did. not. turn. on. the. TV.

No one really noticed, maybe because departures from routine are always kind of cool for a while. The older two even broke out a game of Stratego before school. Board games, cooperative play...things were looking very good.

Baby noticed on Wednesday that the TV still wasn't on for breakfast. Could we have it on please? No, was my gentle reply. Let's look at the new Your Big Backyard magazine instead. Your brother will help read it to you. And he did.

We have been doing this for 5 days now, and my children have done the following things: built an elaborate 3-room fort in the dining room, cleaned when I asked them to, painted together for a solid hour, read to the baby, made origami Yodas, helped set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, played card games and board games with each other, played with the dog, practiced their piano lessons and played the piano for fun, picked up their rooms, got out toys they haven't played with in months and played with them, made their beds, read lots of books, and generally spread peace and joy throughout the world.

Okay, maybe not that last bit.

We have watched a bit of TV here and there: we watched Charlie Brown on Thanksgiving night, a couple football games, an hour of Sponge Bob. But every time we did, we made it an event and we turned the TV off when the show was over (or the timer went on Sponge Bob). It was all very intentional.

Not only have my children been more creative and cooperative, but I myself am calmer, maybe because I am not having to compete with the TV for their attention. The kids seem to be listening better, probably for the same reason. I like that we are in control of the TV instead of the other way around. We're going to keep things this way for the foreseeable future.

It's a good way to head into the holiday season, don't you think?

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