Babysitters have told me in the past that my house is boring. There is no TV, and up until recently, there was no WiFi, only a hardline connection that didn't help with their smartphones. They had to babysit the old-fashioned way, sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace, reading a book. (Tough job, huh?)
The house is still very much that way -- no TV, no tablets, and only two smartphones that are password-locked, devoid of all games, and accessible only to Mom and Dad. (I do have a computer for work.) Our children are expected instead to play and grow up without the aid of technology.
This is an archaic way of thinking and many people don't understand it. But I maintain that we don't understand enough about the effects of screen addiction -- what it does to our children's developing minds and how it robs children of time better spent elsewhere, doing other things. I predict the day will come when we'll realize how damaging these addictive devices are in the quantity they're currently being consumed; indeed, the evidence is already starting to trickle in.
But back to the practicalities of raising screen-free kids, which is the point of this article... it's hard. It means kids will be louder, more energetic, more rambunctious, and more present all the time. Because they're not hunched over an iPad in a distant bedroom, quietly mesmerized by a game or show, they're racing around the kitchen where I'm trying to cook, or building blanket forts as I'm trying to vacuum, or excavating holes in the freshly-planted garden. In other words, they're acting more like kids should be acting, chaos and all.
Choosing to raise our kids in this way has forced me and my husband to come up with strategies for keeping them entertained without falling back on the easy solution of handing over a screen. It does make our job harder; after all, the allure of screens is probably strongest for the parents, for whom it means peace and quiet, and a break from the constant barrage of demands.
In the following slideshow, I'll share with you some of our key strategies in hopes that these, too, can help you to get your kids off screens and living real life more fully. Be prepared, though. It's louder, crazier, and infinitely more fun.