For Goodness Sakes…GO OUTSIDE!

Computer screens, Netflix, iPads and iPhones. It’s all too much! It’s too much for an adult, much less a small child.

One day, I suggested the kids go outside to play and I was met with whining. “I’m working on my Minecraft World!” “I’m watching Little Mermaid!” “I don’t waaaaant to!”

It’s happened. I tried my best for this day not to come. We haven’t had cable/satellite in our home for 6 years. I thought I was doing the right thing. I didn’t want my children to be screen zombies. We don’t have endless channels on our TV, I boasted. But I allowed them each to have their own computer. (In the family room, with strict filters; of course.) I allowed them access to the “educational” apps on my iPad and phone. I wanted them to know the never-ending joy of pretend play, but I handed my 3-year-old my phone when she became whiny at the grocery store.

“GO OUTSIDE!” I demanded.

“It’s too hot!” (This was in late February)

“I can’t find my shoes!”

“I don’t wanna!!!!”

I homeschool. I am a bona-fide helicopter mom.  I try to make sure our children have open-ended, imagination stirring, educational toys. Despite my best efforts to keep my children away from the TV, I realized I had plopped them in front of a screen more than I would like to admit. This was all my fault. I had to fix it. Now. Or this will only get worse.

I doused the kiddos with bug repellant and sent them outside. It was a lovely 78 degrees. Within 5 minutes, the oldest boomeranged back inside. Then, the other two shortly followed him.

“GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!” I demanded once again.

I was not sending them to a small fenced-in prison. Our backyard is roughly five acres, with trees for climbing, a large trampoline, a Step 2 double slide, sidewalk chalk for the driveway, bicycles and various other riding toys.

They kept coming back inside.

“I need water!”

“I have to go potty!”

“ I need my dolly!”

“THAT’S IT!” I set water bottles on the steps and locked the door. Yes, I locked the freaking door! I could see them through several windows of our home. They came to the door banging and whining. After a few minutes, you know what they did…they played!!!

They made up games.

They used their imagination.

They had fun!

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We now have a “no screen” rule during the week. After the initial “detox,” the kids started to entertain themselves. Now I have to go out and call them back inside. They have re-discovered pretend play. They work on puzzles together. They draw. They build Lego cities. They read books.

Don’t get me wrong; this is not always easy for mom. Sometimes, I would like to plop them in front of the TV and get some housework done. That is how many of my chores were completed in the past. But, I get done what I can in between marveling over their new creations. And sometimes, I have to stop what I’m doing to walk outside and see the new trick my youngest mastered on the trampoline. Is that moment more important than finishing mopping the floors? You bet it is!

What is the result of this revolution?

My kids are more creative, and dare I say…happy.

Is my home clean? Not to my standards. But that day will come later. They will grow older. They won’t think to call me to see their newest invention. And, while I am mopping my perfectly clean floor, I will be reminiscing about the days I heard tiny footsteps in the hallway.

I am doing the most important work in the world right now. I am molding and shaping part of a new generation. Do I want their upbringing to come from media or from me? I hope they remember a childhood of imagination and wonder.

What are your rules for screen time in your home, if any?

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