Preschoolers spend 32 hours a week looking at a screen despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two. According to Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, “Time with screens is linked to poor school performance, childhood obesity, and attention problems. And it is primarily through screens that children are exposed to harmful marketing.”
Formerly TV-Turnoff Week, Screen-Free Week (April 30 through May 6th) is a springboard for important lifestyle changes that can improve quality of life. Thousands of parents, teachers, PTA members, religious and civic leaders are organizing local activities and events around the world.
I know the appeal of TV and my children watched Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street when they were preschoolers. Later, we had a rule that they could watch two hours of TV a week; they chose to watch Dukes of Hazard and the show influenced all of their play. When we finally put the TV in the closet, their play totally changed and they began to play from their imagination, not from a script. It was a whole new world.
Instead of screen time:
Stories. Even older children and adults like being read to. Choose a book that the whole family will enjoy and read a chapter aloud every night after dinner.
Our children love to hear stories from when we were growing up. Tell stories involving your children as characters. Ongoing stories are fun, but they don’t have to have a message. Take turns doing the telling. For inspiration, ask your children for a list of places, magical beings, magical objects, people and creatures. Make up stories from their lists.
Read and Write Poetry with the family. It’s fun to read poems aloud or to recite them from memory. I loved The Best Loved Poems of the American People when I was growing up and enjoyed privately reciting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” Haikus are a fun way to to start writing poetry.
Music. Don’t be intimidated by music; it belongs in every children’s life. Start with lullabies. Play music often. Go to a concert during Screen-Free Week. Dance together. Make up a DIY dance contest. Sing songs together. The Golden Song Book is great for preschoolers; Rise Up Singing is a spiral bound group singing songbook. Get some simple musical instruments to have around the house and drum or rattle along with songs.
Nurture Your Artist. Wouldn’t it be fun to spend a lot of time painting, drawing, do collages, making clay sculptures? These would be great activities for Screen-Free Week. Make a trip to a local museum or art gallery during this week.
Play Board Games. I love the intimacy that board games create and the lessons they teach. Heck, they’re just fun. Here are some suggested games.
Have a Messy Party. Make mud pies. Have a mud bath. Play in a sand box. Make some homemade playdough or silly putty. Make your own bubbles.
Get Outside. Kick some balls around. Go for a walk. Go for a hike. Create a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt. Have a picnic. Watch the night sky. Go on a bug safari. Make a fort in the back yard.
Play Restaurant. Plan a menu. Cook it together. Change into “fancy” clothes before dinner, as they do in Downton Abbey. Eat by candlelight on a tablecloth and use cloth napkins.
What an adventure Screen-Week could be. Let me know what you and your family are planning.
Tags: American Academy of Pediatrics, Board Games, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Downton Abbey, Dukes of Hazard, Haiku, Mr. Rogers, poetry, reading, Rise Up Singing, Screen-Free Week, Sesame Street, stories, The Best Loved Songs of the American People, The Golden Song Book, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, TV-Turnoff Week