I have a rather painful confession to make...so this will likely be a longish post.
I've gotten into the habit of letting Huck watch waaaay too much TV. There. I said it.
<huge sigh of relief>
It's one of those really gross, uncomfortable situations where what I believe and what I'm actually doing on a day to day basis just do not jive anymore. And I'm finally at the place where I've got to do something to end that internal discordance.
If you aren't interested in the self-deprecating justifications below feel free to skip below to the number tips. Sometimes I just have to blabber.
First, let me clarify that when I say TV, I really mean kid's shows on DVDs. We don't have any kind of TV hook up. No network channels and no cable. Why, you ask? Are you some kind of Commie weirdos? Were not, though we do lean toward Liberal Socialism.
We've been without TV for almost 6 years because we don't handle the responsibility of it very well. Our viewing gets out of control pretty quickly and before you know it we're up at 2am watching Every Which Way But Loose. It screws up our priorities so we cut ourselves off. Cold turkey. We do have a VCR and a DVD player, a Netflix membership and a decent collection of kids TV shows on DVD.
Second, my opinion is no one needs TV. Like, at all. However, I don't think some TV harms children and it definitely makes life more manageable for their parents from time to time. I do think lots of TV can harm children in the sense that it may shorten their attention spans and, more importantly, steals time from much better options that actively challenge them physically, mentally and creatively and build positive life-long habits.
Just wanted to clear that up.
Now here's the story. We did no TV before the age of 1. No Baby Einstein. Nada. Right around 1 we started teaching him sign language by watching one 30 minute Baby Signing Time video once a day. We watched together in an active way and I believe it was a great and useful learning tool.
At around 18 months I started letting him watch a few TV shows as well. This was when the TV viewing crept up to about an hour a day and where Huck's love affair with Pablo from the Backyardigans began. I was still watching with him for that hour--talking to him and pointing things out as we watched.
At the age of 2, Huck's TV time began to creep up a little more. Looking back, I know this was driven by the fact that around that time I started to use TV time to get things done. Ahhh, there's the rub. It stopped being an active learning time together and started being a way to keep him entertained while I got ready for work. Then I started getting other stuff done, too--showering, laundry, cooking, writing, sewing. That's how it happened. Slow and sneaky like.
Huck's just over two now and I don't want to put in writing how much TV he watches a day for fear of that a reader might call CPS to come and wheel the TV away as I stand in the yard in a house dress screaming, "Don't take my baby!" while Huck, in a 3 pound diaper, wails "Paablooooooo!"
Suffice it to say, we are above the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of no more 1-2 hours a day.
But, I'm ready to move past the shame spiral I've been in and make some changes to get my actions back in line with my beliefs.
Sounds good, right? But hoooow?
Here's what Ima gonna do. There will be screaming.
TV Trap Action Plan
1. Hide the TV
I'm going on the idea that out of sight is out of mind when it comes to toddlers. I would love nothing more than to have a nice big piece of furniture in our playroom with lots of shelves and baskets for toys, games and puzzles and a cabinet door to hide the TV when it's not in use. But that's not an option right now so I've gone with the next best thing--a big Mexican Blanket.
2. Hide the DVDs
I'm going to put away (like in the top of a closet while he's asleep) all but 3 current favs--Backyardigans Mission to Mars, Sesame Street Sing-a-Long, and Blues Clues Knights of the Snack Table. I'll rotate the selection when I feel like he's getting bored with it, but gone are the days of enticing eye candy and endless choices.
3. Establish a Time Limit
Eventually, I'd love to keep limited TV time to sick days and weekends only--but I'm no masochist. It is still the dead of winter here. No, I'm going to start by just trying to get out of CPS territory and down to a ceiling of 2 hours a day. See, I need time to learn to manage my schedule better, too. We'll try to swing the pendulum toward more no TV days once we've got things manageble and we can get outside more. I'll be using this kitchen timer to keep me on track and give Huck a visual and auditory cue. When the "TV Chicken" says TV time is over, she means it and she will peck your eyes out if you don't comply.
4. More Music
Pretty self-explanatory. We're going to have music playing while we're down in the playroom instead of DVDs playing. Lots of times Huck is half watching and half playing with toys anyway. There's so much great children's music out there now. We're just not limited to Old MacDonald and Barney anymore. I made a great iTunes we call Huckleberry Jam and he loves it.
5. Fun Non-TV Activities
Winter will probably always be the hardest time to control our TV use. We're stuck in the house a lot. We do play race cars, ball, work puzzles, chase, read, color, pretend to cook and be doggies and have play dates. And the older he gets the more fun we'll be having outdoors regardless of the weather (I'm thinking skiing and ice skating). But I'm definitely in the market for some new activity ideas. Especially the ones that he can spend doing for 15-20 minutes alone. And frankly, more things in the me down on the floor acting like a fool category couldn't hurt either. I've pulled down that perennial evergreen The Toddler's Busy Book hoping to find some new ideas. I don't remember loving the book but Huck was much younger when I first got it so, hopefully, there'll be more for us now. I'm also waiting for these 3 titles to arrive.
6. Online Resources
I've been lurking for a few weeks now, as my shame over this has been reaching critical mass, on a really inspiring blog. At Unplug Your Kids, Mom Unplugged guides her 3 young children through life without television. She posts weekly Unplugged Projects to do with your kids and offers lots of other links and advice about an unplugged lifestyle. TV Smarter is another blog I found through Unplug Your Kids and it seems to have a wealth of articles to keep me strong in my resolve.
7. Keep a Log
I'll be writing down the time spent watching TV every day. We have a chalkboard right there in the playroom across from the TV. So my progress will be front and center, not stuffed away in a notebook. I think having the numbers up there staring me in the face will serve as motivation and reminder. Look at how good we've done the first 3 days!
That's it. I see no reason why most of these suggestions wouldn't work for older kids too. I just started it Monday, but so far, so good. Thursdays through Sundays will be the real test.
Wish me luck. And join me if need to.
I posted a 2 week update of our progress. Check it out. And if you want to keep updated on more fun and informative goings-on at The Toby Show...