This is our third year participating in National Screen Free week (you can read our first two year reflections here: 2014, 2013) and I am looking forward to it this year. In years past, I have planned and organized all sorts of events and activities for the kids and I to do together in preparation for a week without screens (you can read about that here: 2014, 2013) but this year I'm taking a more lax approach for it knowing that in our hearts, we have all the tools we need to have a wild, fun, and screen free week. The kids and I chatted about all the ways we have screen free fun to give us a quick reference next week if we need some inspiration:
Thanks to our participation in Screen Free Weeks past, we have been expanding our own limited use of screens in our house over the past year, and especially within the last three months. I have been deeply inspired by 1000 hours Outside and we've upped our (already fairly generous) outdoor time with a new-found ambition and excitement! (I'm not -yet?- tracking our outdoor hours, but I am much quicker to head outside with three kids in tow and sometimes even our two big dogs too!)
And we've implemented in our home, strict screen free zones which include: Mealtimes, Bedtimes, Car rides, and (most recently) Mornings
Mealtimes, Bedtimes: This one mostly applies to Brandon and I as we have constant access to screens through our cellphones. So we make concerted efforts to put our phones somewhere away and on vibrate during mealtimes and bedtimes. The mealtime that is hardest for me is Lunch when I always feel like I'm drowning in butt wiping and lacking serious adult conversation. The pull of blog-reading and facebook scrolling in strong. But I've found that usually when I 'forget' my phone upstairs or put it on the charger, it's a little easier to leave it then having it glare at me from the counter.
Car rides: We don't have any movies or devices in the car because I'm old school and I want me kids to be able to occupy themselves on car rides without dependency on constant stimulation. Look out the window, kid! hahha. We took an entire 1000+ mile roadtrip vacation last summer with a four and two year old without devices! This one is near and dear to my heart. Brandon and I also try to be the best models of driving without phone interruptions too for the kids because we know we have future drivers watching our every move (gulp.gulp.gulp). So we keep our texting to a zero and our calls to an absolute minimum when the kids are with us.
Mornings: We have been slowly removing screens from our day for the past few weeks. It started with a task from my 100 small things list: to remove tv from our morning routine. Since the time when Grey was old enough to be interested in tv (two-ish?) it seemed like the easiest thing was to let him watch a show or two in the morning when he first woke up. It became our routine that they'd wake up, come downstairs, sit in the front of the tv and eat breakfast while I thought I was getting a couple extra minutes in the morning to get some things done uninterrupted.
But that just didn't sit right in my creative soul and heart. I didn't like that the first thing they were doing in the mornings was consuming someone else's creativity. I didn't like that it was a struggle then to turn the tv off because once they get sucked in, they're sucked in deep. I didn't like that I wasn't actually getting uninterrupted time at all because they were shouting requests in for me (More drink! I can't hear it! I need a napkin!) because they didn't want to miss anything from the screen.
So in late February, just one day out of the blue, when the kids came down in the morning and asked for a show, I said we weren't watching tv in the morning anymore. Then I braced myself for the fight that never came. Sure, they occasionally still ask when they wake up, 'can we watch something?' and I just remind them we don't watch shows in the morning and that's it. What surprised me most from this tiny change was the ripples it pushed out through the rest of the day. Once their little imagination muscles have to jumpstart in the morning to play without screens, then they are working stronger for the rest of the day. Some days we don't turn the tv on at all - for.the.whole.day! With absolutely not a single request from them!
We even took a bigger leap (totally by accident) by losing the iPad charger for a few weeks (seriously, the kids lost it) and then we didn't even have that request coming from them because the battery was dead! So we were down tv (sometimes for the whole day) and also no iPad access and with almost no whining to account for without them!! mind blowing. (and quite honestly, I'm pretty proud of them!)
Instead of planning the week out with elaborate activities, I'm going to instead reflect back on the things I loved about my own childhood (thanks for the inspiration, Shelly!) I remember loving to jump on the trampoline while we had music blasting (I'm burning the kids a CD with their favorite songs!), playing freely in the woods, reading, playing outside whatever the time of day or weather (rain! dusk! early morning!), eating outside, writing stories and making books, making messes (!)
--thank you Mum & Dad for allowing my sisters and I to have such a wild, free, and full of imagination childhood. love you and forever grateful for that --
But the best and most delighted moments were when Mum & Dad came out and joined us! Remember how fun and surprising and joyful it was when they jumped on the trampoline or when they organized a Kick The Can game (um, we're playing that this week too, I just decided!) When they joined in it was like vacation! It was like our whole perspective on who they were shifted a little bit, like they were real humans! We looked at our parents like these hard-working people that had grown up tasks to do all day (because it's true, hello adulthood sux), and then they'd come join us for fun and it was like, whaaaaaaat?! Look how funny and awesome they are!
I recently witnessed this from my own two big kids when I put Violet in the bouncy chair and got on the trampoline with them (the first time in two years since I was pregnant last summer!) and the kids could not stop giggling. They were like, "Mumma? Mum? You're coming on too!" Honest.to.goodness delight in their eyes. It's not just me, the boring mum grown up who gets burnt out from all the housework, projects, to do lists, appointments...but the kids too tend to forget that I'm a real person, someone capable of fun! This is my goal for next week - to join in on the fun! To make it like vacation, to give them full attention and be a part of the play too!
My personal plan for the Mumma's participation in Screen Free week is to limit screens to only when kids are not awake and only grant myself access to gmail (too many projects/commitments to bail on it entirely, wah!) and shutterfly (If i don't finish our 2014 yearbook, I'm going to lose my mind! HAH!)
I'll be steering clear of facebook, pinterest, instagram, and blogs (mine included) for the week. No doubt a little vacation from social media will do my heart and mind some good. No tv for Brandon and I but I have some date night ideas for us instead!
Do you have plans for Screen Free Week? Will you be participating? Do you already limit screen time at home? Or is this your first time? Are you in need of some inspiration?
and if you need more personal inspiration: look at your own instagram feed. No one is taking pictures of their kids in front of screens and feeling inspired. The pictures of your kids being wild & free are the ones with the biggest smiles. Set the goal that you'll do more of that (smiles, wild & free) next week! Bring it on Screen Free Week 2015!