National Screen Free Week is next week: Monday, May 2 - Sunday, May 8, 2016!
If you've never participated, imagining an entire week without the tv, tablets, and handhelds can seem incredibly overwhelming. Believe me, I've been there when we participated for the first time in 2013. It's not like we didn't do things other than screens, but like most mums, screens were my go-to when I needed a few minutes of peace and quiet - when I needed to not be interrupted every thirty seconds. Three years ago, I was legitimately nervous about committing to screen free week.
I've compiled a list of five tips for getting through your first screen free week based off our previous experiences. I hope you'll find it helpful and expand on the ideas (share them with me too!) to create a week long batch of fun, screen free memories!
1. Reflect on the fun things you did when you were a kid
Pretty much guaranteed, the things you remember being the most fun when you were a kid didn't have anything do with a screen. In the book The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv, this passage from the introduction has both shocked me and stayed with me since reading it;
"One evening when my boys were younger, Matthew, then ten looked at me from across the restaurant table and said quite seriously, 'Dad how come it was more fun when you were a kid?"My sisters and I were recently chatting about all the things we loved to do when we were young. We roller bladed in the basement, played barbies for literally the.entire.day, we used an overturned tree stump and it's roots as our 'kitchen' and pretended to serve food with mud, sticks, and rocks, we blasted the radio and made up trampoline routines and gave each other scores. What did you do when you were a kid that makes us your most fun ordinary memories?
2. Make a list of 'back up' plans
Sit with your kids and talk about things that you all like to do that have nothing to do with screens. Include indoor and outdoor activities, things you've been meaning to try, and even consider visiting some local spots that you can check out together - like the library, playgrounds, or be a local 'tourist' for a day!
3. Make 'Outside' the Screen replacement.
This our family's personal mantra and it has proven successful 100% of the time. The benefits of kids being outside (of grown ups being outside!) are numerous - but some of our most favorite benefits include:
a) kids who play independently for longer time periods
b) fresh air does a body, brain, and soul good
c) noise levels are more easily tolerated
d) no messes in the house!
e) imagination and experiements help minds grow
f) kids who get tired faster
4. Stand your ground
Probably the most difficult part of Screen Free Week is sticking to your guns about the rules, because kids are so talented at asking and whining for as long as it takes to get us to crack, right? Remember, it's only a week and you can do it! Make it a little easier on yourself by unplugging televisions, letting the batteries run out on the tablets and hiding the chargers. In my three years of experience in participating, they stop asking for the screens by day three - so hang in there, friend, you can do it!
5. Know that the no-screen rule will most likely be most difficult for YOU!
We, as adults, are so accustomed now to mindless scrolling, you will probably be shocked (as I am every.single.year) how strong the urge to click and scroll is when you don't have the option.
My best advice is to view the week as a vacation. A break from the notification pings and the useless information overload, and the stress of having to constantly be 'in the know.' If you aren't worried about missing texts/calls, you can even set your phone to Airplane mode to keep yourself in check. Or use the Unicef Tap Project app and use your 'untouched phone' minutes to double for a good cause!
Think of it as a week to be free to Look Up! To notice the small beautiful things that happen around you in actual real life. Maybe someday when our kids are grown up, they'll tell their children and grandchildren about the annual week when everyone in their family unplugged and lived 'like the good old days.'
Best of luck; I know you can do it!
Our family is looking forward to our fourth year participation because it is always the reboot we need each year to recheck and adjust our screen time. I hope you and your family will enjoy a whole week of electronic freedom! xxox