TV seems to be a wonderful babysitter. You can buy hours of peace and quiet by simply turning on the TV. Few thinking parents, however, are comfortable with kids watching TV nonstop. Excessive TV watching does not promote thinking, growing, or learning. Studies have shown that children watch an average of 30 hours of television per week, and 71% of 8 to 18-year-olds have a television in their bedroom.
Every time that the TV is on, my kids are being influenced by whoever is writing the TV shows rather than by me. Our kids are now 16, 14, 12, and 10. We are still parenting every minute of every day. Last week marked the end of the summer with our four kids home from school. The summer brought the opportunity for dozens of discussions with our kids concerning options other than watching TV. We aren’t interested in banning TV but do seek to limit it and put it in its place.
Trying to figure out what to do with your kids when the TV is not on? Here are ten things we teach our kids to do rather than watching TV.
1. Be Productive
We were designed to work. Kids need to learn that work can and should be enjoyable. We teach our kids that work is good and part of life. Every person in our family participates in the work of the family. Turning off the TV and being productive may include cleaning, cooking, straightening, organizing, unloading the dishwasher, or washing the car. Watching TV all day is not real life and is not what productive, healthy kids or adults do.
2. Be Creative
We are created to be creative. By God’s design, we all have the ability to be creative in differing ways. TV does not foster creativity because TV is consumeristic rather than creative. Turning off the TV allows space to think and create. Creativity may include making or creating anything – crafts, music, drawing, etc. Even Lego building can be creative!
3. Learn Something
TV gives the impression that your brain is working and engaged, but we parents know the truth. Turning on the tv is turning off the brain. Successful people are life-long learners. Instead of watching TV, learn something. Learn anything. The sky is the limit.
4. Hang out with People
Watching TV seems to produce zombies out of our kids. Turning off the TV brings the opportunity to relate to other people, to interact, spend time with each other, and have conversations. We are designed to live in community. Community includes spending time with people and having real conversations.
Turn off the TV and do something fun.
6. Be Active
Do something active and get some exercise. Throw a frisbee. Shoot a basketball. Ride your bike. Go swimming.
Having the TV on does not allow your mind to rest and often keep you awake when you need rest. Rest is critical. Get some quiet downtime with the TV off.
8. Go Outside
Get out in the fresh air, Get some sun, take a walk or a hike, have a picnic, run in the sprinklers.
9. Be Bored
Boredom is not all bad. Creativity often rises out of boredom. You don’t have to entertain your kids nonstop. Kids who are bored find creative ways to fill their time. When your kids tell you that they are bored, hand them this list!
Reading allows you to explore vast and creative worlds. (Think Lord of the Rings!) Reading is also a valuable opportunity for personal, educational, spiritual, and career growth. When the TV is on, my kids resist reading. When there is no possibility of TV, they get excited about books. We build in reading time for the whole family every day. Go to the library. Buy a Kindle book. But turn off the TV and your kids will be more likely to read!
If you believe that you or your children do watch too much television, consider setting a goal. Decide on a time amount to limit your television watching (per day or week), and then fill the additional time you have with some of the ideas above.