If you are struggling with tv time within your own home Amanda from 'The Mystic Waldorf Home' has shared a beautifully honest example of her and Phonenix's journey to exclude the tv from their lives.
Kia Ora E Hoa,
Here follows a little tale about our families screen journey and some advice for those wanting to say ‘toodles’ to that big black box.
(Please note that I am not judging anyone’s use of screen time with their kids. I felt I needed it at one point, and now feel that we don’t require it. Each to their own I say! But if you are sick of the goggle box read on.)
It has been one month since we stopped screen time for Phoenix at home. We just cut the TV out cold turkey. No easing out of it because I know me and instead of him having less screen time, I know I would let it creep up to more. (Although, full disclosure, you should know when the internet eventually gets hooked up I will be watching shows while Phoenix isn’t around. Grand Designs won’t watch itself!)
Before I had Phoenix, as a Waldorf teacher, I was super sure I would NEVER let my child watch any tv until they were at least 7. Then I actually had a child……
We didn’t have the TV on around him for his first year. Though not related to the no TV thing, I developed pretty intense postnatal anxiety and depression. I was not a happy chappy.
When Phoenix turned one, I began to use the television because I needed the respite. I wasn’t coping and to be honest I don’t regret my decision to allow him to watch some TV as I really needed space to heal, and cook dinner without a child melting down.
Over the following couple of years, the ‘once in a while’ TV usage became an everyday, and multiple time a day thing. Whoops :l Phoenix was definitely addicted and I felt like I needed to continue to use it, despite knowing it wasn’t a good thing. Phoenix would become quite pale and drawn while watching TV. His go to when bored was “can I watch a little bit of TV?’ Most of the time I could help him find something else to do, but my gosh it was an effort. And, I would hear that question so often that I would eventually cave.
It was a habit for him, and certainly a habit for me. So, what motivated me to change our routine?
Phoenix is enrolled to start at a Waldorf Kindy this year and I know that the teachers very politely (yet firmly) request the little ones don’t watch TV. There’s a reason for this. Waldorf education is a 24 hour thing, regardless of how long the kid is at school. What the teacher brings to the child in story, activity and mood works inwardly on the child right through the day and into their sleep. The young child lives in a state of dreamy consciousness. They absorb their surroundings and kindergarten teachers work very very hard to provide children with a moral (good) environment. So to then undo this calm, serine and REAL LIFE vibe by sticking my kid in front of Peppa Pig, or the flippin’ Teletubbies would be, in my opinion, a waste of everyone’s time and money.
There are a million articles on the internet about how screen time isn’t great for kids, and deep down we all know it to be true.
So with our move I decided it was the right time to get rid of that pesky, yet tantalising television. And honestly I haven’t looked back. Perhaps we will use the TV in the future if he’s sick, or I’m sick but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I never say never, but I do want Phoenix to have the best childhood ever, and to me that requires the absence of TV.
Now I thought I'd share with you my top tips and some “what to expects” .
Things to expect
Once you drop the screen time, it will probably be pretty intense for 3 days (more or less depending on age and temperament). I’ve worked with the wonderful Mary Willow of Plum Parenting and she told me that creating new habits with children tends to take about three days, with the second day often being the most difficult. Then again, it might be a breeze!
The kid will be at a ‘loose end’ more often, but we want this to happen. This is where childhood creativity can thrive, make sure you have some fun activities to help them transition into no TV time.
For younger children to engage with new materials, especially if they have become screen dependent they may need guidance. Don’t do it for them but do play with materials beside them. Draw with them, paint with them, make up ball games with them. They will play independently and shouldn’t expect Mum and Dad to play with them 24/7, but don’t underestimate the importance of getting stuck into play with your kids. I find that after about 10 minutes Phoenix wanders off and does his own thing anyway.
If your child can recognise numbers on the clock, tell them that they need to play independently until, for example, ‘the big hand is on the 6’. You could also get an egg timer and let them know you will be free to hang out with them when it runs out. Kids find waiting for abstract times difficult, so save your self a headache by helping them ‘see’ how long they have to occupy themselves.
Have a couple of ‘stations’ set up with independent activities to engage them at any time. We have a table with paper and crayons always set up, and his train set put together at the moment. Mix it up with different things every few days.
Get children out and about as much as possible. I find it much easier to work in the afternoon if I have spent good quality adventure time with Phoenix in the morning. Walk everywhere!
Have a wake-up routine, no matter how simple. When we wake up, Phoenix has a piece of fruit and he has to wait till I’ve made and my coffee and had a couple of minutes of quiet (I tell him what number on the clock to wait for depending on when he woke up), we read three stories, have breakfast, and then get into our day.
Have a bunch of quiet, non-taxing activities ready for when they need to just blob out. Puzzles are great (although some Waldorfy people would save these for older children, Phoenix loves them), books, story time, water play, drawing, painting, modelling wax, audiobooks.
Audiobooks. Oh man what a life saver. Younger children tend to like listening to books they already know. So you can get a bunch from your local library, or even record them your self using your smart phone!
Tanglewood Toys supply all our favourite arts and crafts supplies, as well as stocking our favourite books. Screen free activities don’t have to cost a lot (if any) money, but if you want to invest in a few good quality, beautiful products I would have a look at their range.
If all fails and you are at the end of your rope, go outside. To a park, a beach, a forest, a walk up your street. Fresh air tends to be a miracle cure for us all.
Last of all, know that some days will still be hard. Don’t be too hard on yourself if for some reason you flick the telly back on. But do know that the effort to avoid it is worth it. Phoenix already is infinitely better at occupying himself, and we spend more time together which I totally enjoy. His imaginative play has blossomed over this past month which has been lovely to see.
So there’s my experience and advice for those wanting to eliminate screen time. Please share in the comments below you experiences, questions and/or tips.
Arohanui and good luck!