Operation Reduce TV Time

I’ve reluctantly written previously that Leo watches more TV than I care to admit. He watches between 40-60 minutes in the morning when I get dressed and feed Emilia, and about 4 days a week he ends up watching another 1.5 hours in the late afternoon when we are all tired out. Leo doesn’t nap, so this feels like the only way for both of us to get some much needed downtime. I’ve noticed that on days when I try to skip the afternoon shows, we usually end up with a meltdown on our hands around 4 or 5 pm. I do think a little TV is better than a big fight, and clearly he is getting some rest from it if watching it in the afternoon helps him to keep it together until bedtime. But, still. I am relying on TV more than I would like.

And, as this TEDxRainier – Dimitri Christakis – Media and Children – YouTube. talk explains, there is a some good data that links TV watching with inattention. In fact, one study reported that for every hour a child watched TV before the age of 3, they had a 10% greater likelihood of developing inattention later in childhood. Wow! Fortunately, that statistic didn’t hold true for educational TV. Phew! I can still put on Sesame Street and LeapFrog without too much guilt! The researcher in this talk points out that even purported educational videos, like Baby Einstein, have so many screen changes and flash imagery that the child’s brain is being trained to expect this high level of stimulation all the time, and when the world is not as stimulating, the child gets bored and stops engaging. Hmm, I wonder where Leo’s favorite shows fall on the screen change/flash imagery continuum…

Enter: Operation Reduce TV Time.  Certainly there are more valuable activities we can use to fill our time. The warm weather is definitely making this goal more attainable. Like most kids, Leo loves to be outside, and I do too. We have been hitting up multiple parks in one day and our sandbox is getting lots of use.

Here are the other strategies I’m trying. In the morning, instead of watching TV, I’ve gotten a few chapter books on CD for him to listen to in his room. I’m hoping that will hold his attention enough to keep him in his room and out of trouble. That is one draw of TV in the morning: he loves it so much I know he won’t be wandering the house, making messes, or getting into mischief while I’m in the shower.

My goal is also to try one new activity each week. Leo is not a big fan of craft projects, but he loves mixing stuff or manipulating objects. I saw an idea recently on Pinterest to set out varying sized nuts and bolts and let the kids match them and practice screwing them together. Leo would love this because he gets to manipulate real tools, and it offers great practice with fine motor skills.

We also had good success doing seek and find books together in the late afternoon. I find it hard to make it through reading an entire book with Leo when Emilia is around because she often interrupts us and that frustrates Leo. But the seek and find format allows him to work independently for a few minutes when I need to tend to the baby. I’d also like to try workbooks with him, as one of my friends suggested this as an activity her daughter enjoys.

Water balloons on the back deck while I cooked dinner was a big hit the other night. And doing small baking projects together (like from a box) is manageable and fun.

Let’s learn from each other! How do you do it? What activities are boredom busters in your house? How do you get a little quiet time without TV?

10 thoughts on “Operation Reduce TV Time

    • A few months ago I got the tiles for the Duplos, which was great because Leo played much longer with them once he had a stable surface on which to build. I think I need to either put them them away for a while or relocate them to his room so they regain novelty because they haven’t been played with much, but I know he would enjoy them if he got back into it. Thanks for the reminder, Susan!

  1. I was just talking to a friend at school the other day about this topic. He has a 6 year old and said he is, for the most part, a no TV kid. For down time, his son enjoys listening to music and has just started to learn to play an instrument. Although Leo is a little young for learning to play, before you know it this might be another great option. It’s not particularly quiet, but it is relaxing!

    • I had forgotten about music when I made this post. Yes, Leo really enjoys that. We have switched back to kid’s music because he has been singing lyrics lately, and most of the pop music content is questionable. We found a few CDs that we all really enjoy — Ziggy Marley Family Time, Barenaked Ladies Snack Time, For the Kids, and Jack Johnson for the Curious George soundtrack. Leo will sit quietly while he listens, or dance when the mood strikes him. It is a good alternative!

  2. Lots of good ideas I’ll be using! Caleb also will listen to music for a long time, partly because he likes pushing the buttons on the inexpensive CD player. He also gets creative finding different things to pretend they are musical instruments. Recently he’s gotten into playing games on PBS Kids. I’ve justified this alternate screen time as being educational because of the content of the games but also because he’s learning how to use a computer (supervised). This also needs to be used in moderation, I imagine. I do wonder if all screen time is equal…

    • Leo also likes to play games on my iphone. I recently downloaded the Martha Speaks app and he really enjoys it. It’s nice because he can construct his own stories so it is teaching him about sequences. I do think that screen time playing games is different, especially at this age because the pace of the games is much slower and contingent on the child’s actions, than TV watching is. Plus it’s interactive.

  3. One other thing I like to do is put a toy he really likes away for a while, and then when he discovers it again he plays with it for a long time. I think it helps him be more creative with “old” toys and more thankful for what he has.

    • To be clear, I don’t take the toy until it has been neglected among the many toys laying around…:)

      • I knew what you meant! I should try that more! I think we all get desensitized to the toys we have out. Thanks for the suggestions and comments!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s