Just a few weeks ago, I brought up the idea of a TV-free summer to my family, and no one freaked out. In fact, once we started talking about all the things we could do instead of watching TV, they got pretty excited about it. A couple of hours of TV here and there aren’t going to hurt anyone, in my opinion, but summer’s free and easy schedule and beautiful weather make it the perfect time to unplug.
We’re keeping the TV off all summer along (unless it’s been raining for days, I’ve decided, since I’ve only got so much sanity), but you don’t have to throw your TV out the window to get your kids to reduce their screen time. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, shares eight great tips for easing your kids off the couch:
1. Check Yourself: Do you know how much screen time you and your children are getting? Keep track and set limits for the entire family. You’ll be amazed at how much extra time you “find” when you click off the television or computer.
2. Play It Down: Using screen time to reward or punish a child makes it seem more important than it is. Use praise, encouragement, and recognition for physical activity, and make screen time a “non-event” in your home.
3. Double Time: When watching television at home, do jumping jacks, push-ups, or crunches during commercial breaks. Set up a stationary bike in the television room and encourage your kids to pedal through their favorite shows.
4. After-School Action Plan: Many kids list watching television as their number one after-school activity. Sometimes they just need help coming up with other things to do. Have your kids make a “Top 10” list of after-school activities. Just a few examples include riding bikes, shooting hoops, walking the dog, going for a swim, or even helping with dinner. Post the list on the fridge so your kids can check it when they get home.
5. No TV Dinners: Turn off the television during mealtime — and take turns talking about the day.
6. Cut the Cord: Take the televisions and computers out of your kids’ bedrooms. Children who have televisions in their rooms spend almost 1.5 hours more each day watching them than their peers. Plus, if your kids are in their rooms watching television, they’re removed from family time.
7. Watch at Once: If you have a VCR or DVR, you can choose a few of your kids’ favorite shows, record them, and then let them watch them all at once. That way, you’ll have more time during the rest of the week for activities.
8. Work It Out: Use the television to watch an exercise video — whether it’s dancing, Tae kwon do, or yoga. Put on your sweatbands and have some family fitness time.
Setting limits for my kids is easy, but shutting my laptop off when I’m done with it and leaving it off is going to be a little harder. How do you put limits on screen time when your kids are home for the summer?
Photo: Rev Dan Catt, Flickr