T Rex Family

T Rex Family

Thursday, February 3, 2011


I've mentioned before that we have no TV in our household. By this I mean, we have no way of viewing live TV - no cable, satellite - nothing. Now that T Rex no longer needs daily nebulizer breathing treatments, it is not necessary for him to see shows on a daily basis. In fact, we often go weeks between show viewings. At this moment, I think it's been a good two and a half weeks since T Rex watched a show - probably Cars since this is the most recent photo of him watching a show. The little girl doesn't see any. We are shooting for the "no TV" until age 2 like the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

Since I've already written on this, a reader asks that I detail how we manage without TV - specifically how the kids manage and stay entertained without watching any television. This is actually an interesting question and one I had to contemplate because "no TV" is such the norm for my kids. 

I kind of chuckle right now as I write this because I'm watching old DVDs of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. So, T Rex Dad and I do get a little bit of show watching in but it's all DVDs and usually the shows are 5+ years old. We've been watching Dr. Quinn, various Star Treks series, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And you gotta love the no commercials. Sometimes when we are somewhere that does have live television playing, it is so bizarre to me to see commercials. I hear I'm missing out on some good ones. However, think of the years of my life I am not having to endure propaganda.

But the kids - well, they really don't know what they are missing. At first, when we stopped the shows for T Rex, he would ask for one. And I'd allow a 30-60 session of something like Veggie Tales or Sesame Street. This was especially useful when I needed to cook dinner. Then it became every other night, then every third night, then a couple times a week. Now he doesn't even ask and sometimes T Rex Dad and I just need a break to be able to talk about something so we ask if he'd like a show or if it's a special occasion we'll put something holiday related on. (And no, he does not play computer games all day either. In fact, unless it's a school lecture or a blog I'm reading, he doesn't even look at the computer.) And let me tell you, his behavior is significantly improved since the switch. We have had significantly fewer tantrums. And the best part, he is learning to play on his own in the play room - and what an imagination he has!

It's not like I leave him in there unsupervised for hours. Rather, the play room is in direct view from the kitchen. So, while I'm cooking dinner, he will go in there and I can actually see or hear him at all times. He is allowed to close the door to keep his sister out if he wants to play with "choke-ables". The good news is that the room has windows on the door so I can still see in when he does that.

We frequently rotate toys - I pack up some in boxes and pull others out. It keeps them fresh and interesting. We also trade toys with friends and neighbors who also have children about the same age. This is great because we don't have to store some of the bigger toys like the rocking horse or kitchen. And the majority of our toys have come from garage sales, consignment stores, Craigslist, or our favorite thrift store. This allows us to get more toys for less amount. So, keeping the toys interesting is a huge part of this.

I also schedule activities for T Rex during the day. During breakfast time we discuss with the kids what our day is going to entail. We detail out our home activities as well as our outings. We talk about when naps will be, what we're going to do during art time, what books we will be reading during reading time, when free play time will be, as well as what toys he thinks he wants to get out for play time. We plan very full days so there really is not much time for shows. The key with my kids is that we are in a structured routine, they know what to expect from our day, and they really look forward to the events of the day. And we definitely build in flexibility. No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, right?

T Rex Dad and I might watch our DVDs in the evening time before bed, but the kids never see us watching them. Honestly, I think leading by example is also a major part. I know this could be tough if the big game is on or something like that. And I'm not saying, TV is bad and should be avoided completely. We've just made the decision as a family to not have it at this stage in our lives. Maybe down the road we might revisit the topic, but for now, we feel it's best for us. 

I believe the key is to keep the television turned off as often as possible. Definitely, switch it off during meal times and don't leave it on as background noise. Keep viewings down to 2 hours or less per day. Ensure those viewings are age appropriate and ideally have some kind of educational component to it. Then talk about what they watched. If possible, interact with them during the show so they don't turn into zombies in front of a one-eyed beast.

Please feel free to offer your own suggestions for getting kids out from in front of the TV. Or offer your own experiences with TV in your home.


Camie said...

My girls won't even focus on the TV for more than 5 minutes. After that it becomes background noise. Once I turn it off they look up, wondering where the sound went, then delve right back into what they were doing. They just have no need for it!

JKMommy said...

I love this! I am not a TV person myself, although I LOVE watching movies. Now that I have a baby it's hard to not throw on a movie mid-day while I'm pinning together sewing projects or what not, but b/c I don't want A. getting used to TV on all the time, I just wait till he goes to bed. It'll be worth it I think for him to never get "used to" TV as a habit.
I liked reading how you keep the days full and interesting. I know in the year ahead, this is going to need to be my focus as A. is going to want to do more... I am glad to hear your ideas.
Have you ever made like those Activity Bag kits? With different things to do/projects all assembled in a baggie so you can keep switching them out? I will email you a link you might enjoy! :)

Kim said...

What an interesting glimpse into your life! We are a tv family. I try to keep it down to a minimum but there are some days when I let it slide. I love the idea of switching the toys out. I think I have far too many available at any given time. I will be taking that away from your post. I too love Deaglan's imagination at this age and know how important it is to stimulate it. Some of my favourite times are listening to him play alone. It's so very neat. You are an inspirational mom! I sincerely mean it. Over these past few years, I've derived such inspiration from your ways. Thank you!

Caitlin said...

Excellent post and very thought out!
We too have no TV (although we watch a few shows on Hulu the week after they air) and I am shocked at how little commercials I can stand now! We also do Netflix for Brian and myself.

Live tv makes me so nervous for MY personal kids- I don't like being out of control of what they are going to see next!
Joseph's tv usage is down quite a bit now that he is into action figures more. I'd say that he watches one show a day (Kipper, Diego, Backyardigans, or Magic School Bus usually), every other day.
If we have sbeen stuck inside for several day or if there is sickness in the house then I would let him watch two.

Isaac will watch a baby Einstein now and again (about 5-10 min. worth) if I really need to get something done- but mostly he would rather play and follow me!

Joseph does play games on the computer- sesame street.org and a paint game (tux paint) which is really awesome. I'd say maybe 30-45 minutes every other day as well. Otherwise we have some detox on our hands!

And I too have found music as a good alternative. Sometimes they just like a little noise in the background!

Hmm.. maybe this should have been an email as opposed to the longest comment ever! Sorry!

Jenners said...

When I was growing up, we didn't have a TV AT ALL for 6 years and we thrived and lived and didn't even miss it all that much. I didn't emphasize TV too much with my Little One and he didn't really seem to care. I didn't outlaw it or anything but it isn't something he needs or asks for all that much. There are so many other things you can do ... and I do think it helps to make kids big readers. I know that was a lot of what we did in lieu of watching TV. Keep it up!

septembermom said...

You gave me so much to think about in this post. Thank you! My kids are way too TV dependent. I have to be careful not to overuse it. Jillian does love her toys and books. However, she does have her favorite shows. They have helped ignite her interest in reading. I think moderation is key. Thanks!

Rey said...

We don't watch TV either. Movies, but no TV. My kids don't ask for much for Christmas and I think it's because they don't see those darn commercials!
Our saving grace during no TV times has been art. Your little guy is still fairly young, but arts and crafts is where it's at in our home. The dining room now shares space with the living room to make way for a homework space and a huge craft area. My kids will gladly spend hours painting, drawing, coloring, glueing, building, beading, sewing... you name it, they probably do it!
They do like their computer & video game time, but it's limited to only two hours on the weekend. (I'm such a mean mom!)

Crunchy Beach Mama said...

We are a definite tv family. I come from a tv family and my hubby is a tv/sports hog so I can not imagine not having it.

Now myself, I do have a couple shows that I like to watch after the kids go to bed but that is the only time it is on for me.

The big boys. Well they do watch daily ~ shows I approve of ~ and I don't really have set rules. Just guidelines. They are pretty good about them and turn it off when I say it's time. Of course I'd much rather see them play outside and use their toys and imagination which I love to see and they are good at!

Family Game Night is always a good way for us all to turn it off and spend some time not in front of the tube :)

mitchsmom said...

Good for you!!

We have gone periods of time with our satellite turned off (basically means little/no TV since we live far from a metro center)... it was always fine.

We haven't done it in several years now though and reading your post makes me think it would be an excellent time to go without again for at least a while or ???. There isn't any particular show that I think anyone would die without, so good timing ;)

We do limit TV and games but nonetheless, most days I'd just assume throw it all out the window. They do become zombiefied half the time when they are watching. We have so many more important/better things that we could be doing.

Plus now there's Hulu, Netflix, etc... if you *really* want to watch something...

mitchsmom said...

P.S. My kids actually *gasp* play outside!
P.P.S.S. Part of it is probably a combination of good genes, breastfeeding, eating mostly whole foods, and physically rigorous endurance dirtbike racing, but none of my kids are overweight either - I'm sure the limited TV and games doesn't hurt therein. MANY kids in our (rural) area are very overweight.