As summer approaches, I am thinking of my yearly “TV-Free Summer Pledge”.
As a high school literacy coach, I am blessed that I get to spend a lot of time with my own children, but there are days when I look at a sea of teenage faces and think, “Someone else is getting to hold and love and teach my children.” This sense of helplessness led to my yearly “TV-Free Summer Pledge”. I have nine weeks of mostly uninterrupted time with my very own children, and I do not want a minute squandered on cartoons.
Two summer ago when I first made this pledge, it was a disaster because while I had planned for what we would not do (no TV), I hadn’t given much thought to what we would do. So the TV was turned off, and I had two little faces looking at me like, “Entertain me! Entertain me!” I was overwhelmed — nothing seemed to hold their attention for more than five minutes and there was no plan.
Now I have a plan and since that first crazy summer, my promise of television free summers is much easier to keep.
1. Make a schedule for your days.
This sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? It’s summer. Kids and adults are supposed to be free to enjoy the sunshine, chlorinated water, and daily naps without worrying about a silly schedule.
Well, if your goal is a TV-free summer, then this free-flow of time will inevitably suck you and your children back into the world of animated cartoon characters and commercials. With no structure, you won’t have a plan for what you or your children will be doing on Tuesday at 10 a.m., so when that day and time comes and you don’t know what to do, you will turn on the tube.
To combat this, I have divided my day into 30 minute to 1.5 hour segments. The shorter segments are for learning activities like summer bridge workbook pages, multiplication flashcards, and art projects. The longer segments are for outside play, free-play, and naps.
2. Have a list of free-play ideas.
I have made a list of go-to activities for when my son and daughter look at me like, “Entertain me!” This list has mostly free activities for them to do that require very little prep or supplies. The value here is having a ready resource for fun activities.
My list is very long but here are a few ideas:
• Run in a sprinkler.
• Play bean bag toss.
• Build a fort out of sheets.
• Draw with sidewalk chalk.
• Assemble a puzzle.
3. Visit your library.
Libraries have free access to books, videos, and other resources. More importantly libraries have free air-conditioning!
My children love the story time offered by our library every Wednesday morning. We arrive a little early to choose books for the week and to get a good seat. The programs are educational and fun-filled. We usually go the park for a picnic afterwards.
4. Create a busy box or bag.
I have created a busy box for each of my two children. For my younger child who is four, I have a collection of busy bags and small toys such as a travel Magna Doodle and magnetic dolls. My older child is ten. In his busy box, there are word searches, puzzles, and coloring sheets.
This is another set of go-to activities for the kids to do; they are also portable and work well for long car trips or waiting rooms.
5. Be flexible.
While I must admit that we have never actually had a totally television free summer, we have made great strides in limiting our time in front of the TV and in increasing our time spent together as a family. I try not to stress out, and I look at being television free like I look at working out.
Instead of focusing on the times I fell off the wagon, I think about all the time we spent together without TV in the background. Even if you only have TV-free summer mornings, it is still better than being plugged in all summer long.
Have you ever done a TV-Free week, month, summer or year? How did it work for you?
Rhoda has two children (10 and 4) and has been teaching high school for seven years. She loves summer break because it gives her the chance to be a stay-at-home mom. She’s a fan of reading, thrift shops, spending less, living simply, and being creative.