Amy Orton, mum of two, set herself the challenge of seven screen-free days with her kids.
Working from home, TV is a tool that I turn to when I’m up against it, although my two boys never watch more than a couple of hours spread throughout the day.
But when Archie, three, started worrying if he’d still be able to watch TV when we moved everything out of the living room during some renovations, it got me thinking.
What would he and his 18-month-old brother, Charlie, do without it?
As I had a few days booked off work, I decided to find out: the TV, my phone and iPad would be off limits. My husband, Scott, thought I’d lost the plot.
My husband thought I’d lost the plot
For the first day, I planned a trip to the farm to distract the boys. But first I had to field dozens of questions at breakfast about why we weren’t watching Mike the Knight.
Every morning, from way before the boys arrived, it’s been my habit to turn on the TV. It’s just that now, rather than the headlines, we watch brightly dressed people who are far too perky at 7.30am.
Our day at the farm went brilliantly, and when we got back home we headed into the garden and spent a lovely hour playing.
When I started cooking, Archie wanted the TV on, but banging saucepans with wooden spoons seemed equally entertaining – though I missed having that time to switch off.
On day two Charlie didn’t even notice that the TV wasn’t on
On day two, while Archie was at preschool, Charlie didn’t even notice that the TV wasn’t on. It was only when we came in from another run around the garden in the afternoon that Archie came home and picked up the remote.
A mini-meltdown followed, but the promise of Daddy tipping the toy box out got us past it.
Halfway through the week, I had a brainwave and built a Duplo city one evening, ready for the next morning. The boys loved it!
We had a wobble on the day I needed to do some work at home, and I realised how much I rely on TV to keep the kids occupied while I’m on my laptop. The only way around it was to play catch-up on my work once the boys were in bed. It just wasn’t possible for them to play nicely without me being mentally there with them.
With the week over, I can’t say there was any change in their behaviour, but now when the TV is off, their attention is on each other, rather than intermittently wondering what’s on the box.
The best thing is that distracting them from the TV meant we discovered books
The best thing is that distracting them from the TV meant we discovered books. We now spend much more time reading, and Archie remembers more and more from the stories.
All in all, I’m glad we tried a screen-free week, and turning on the TV is not the first thing I do in the morning now – and it’s going to stay that way.
I’m more confident saying no to Archie’s TV requests now I know that after five minutes of asking he’ll get on and play with something else.
And I can safely say that Archie and Charlie can manage just fine without the telly, but there’s no way I can survive without it!