Posts tagged: TV-free family

“Unplug Your Kids” in Breathe Magazine!

By , October 18, 2010 7:36 am

Thank you so much to Breathe Magazine for asking me to contribute to their fall issue article entitled “Your Kids Unplugged.”

I really like how they present the middle of the road point of view…REDUCE…don’t eliminate.  This is almost always what works best for families and it is so great that someone is actually discussing that!  Screen-free time does not have to be all or nothing (as I have tried to emphasize since the start of this blog).  Do what works for your family.

If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Southeastern U.S. you can find out where to pick up a free copy of Breathe by clicking here.  If you can’t get a print version, then you can read the full article here.

“Unplug Your Kids” in Family Fun Magazine!

By , August 4, 2010 7:27 am

The August 2010 issue of Family Fun magazine has a great article entitled “The Great Unplugged Challenge” (“Better Than TV” on the cover) about a family who unplugs the TV and computer for 5 days. It would be an interesting and fun read for anyone considering unplugging their family.

Plus, I must admit proudly, that I was interviewed for the article and am mentioned (along with Unplug Your Kids) several times! VERY exciting!!

It’s on news stands now. Enjoy!

(PS.  A big thank you to Jennifer King Lindley for writing this article and for including me and Unplug Your Kids!)

The Sound of Silence

By , June 2, 2008 10:04 pm

One thing I am coming to realize is that without TV in my life (going on 7 years now), I have become extremely sensitive to noise.

Of course sometimes I am in the mood for some music to lift my spirits, or a podcast to fire up my lazy neurons, and I always try to listen to the morning and evening news on NPR in order to feel informed.

But quite honestly, more often than not, these days I choose silence.

I like to hear the furnace turning on and off, the cockatiels making their happy beak-grindings before they drift off for a nap, the wind rustling the tall pines that surround my house, the squeak of the living room floor in that one particular place as I walk across it.

I find that if I am surrounded by extraneous sounds all day, even if it is merely the pleasant melody of music, I get crabby and fatigued.

This post won’t change the world. It’s just a random thought about life without TV.


(Photo thanks to and photographer Wally Irwin.)

Practical TV-Free Ideas

By , April 19, 2008 9:19 am

Wow! Thursday was my biggest day ever thanks to all the people searching for information about TV-Turnoff Week. I actually had to upgrade my account in order to avoid exceeding my bandwidth! I only went from “Baby” to “Hatchling” … so I am really not THAT big time, but it was certainly a huge surprise for me.

Today I had planned a post with some alternative ideas to TV, so with this kind of an audience, I guess I had better come up with a few!

Since we are TV-free all the time, I can tell you what my kids like to do:

  • Read
  • Do art projects
  • Play outside
  • Play imaginary games with each other, or by themselves
  • Build with Legos, Knex, or blocks (especially my son) and then create imaginary games
  • Dress-up (also leads to imaginary games)
  • Play board games either with each other or with me
  • Do puzzles
  • Write stories (my 2nd grade daughter)
  • Play with the cats and dogs

Here are some suggestions and elaborations that might inspire you and your children. If anyone has any other ideas, then please comment!

  • We are fortunate to have a great backyard and a swingset…plus a big forested area next door. If you are less well-endowed in the yard department or live in an apartment, then there is always a visit to the park, or playing at a friend’s house, or having a friend over.
  • Be tourists for a day. How about a trip to local attractions such as zoos, aquariums, parks, or playgrounds that you might not have been to yet. Think about tourist attractions that you and your children might enjoy. I don’t know about you, but when I live someplace, I tend not to visit all the attractions for which that location is famous.
  • Bring out some board games and have a family game night. My advice for preserving your sanity: try to pick a game that your children like, but that is not deadly boring for the adult participants. (ie. stay away from Candyland – that one sends me into an immediate coma)
  • Turn on some music and dance (again: pick something you like too or you’ll go crazy!)
  • Try a Kids Cook Night. Pick a recipe that your kids might not ordinarily like. I find that if my kids do the the cooking themselves (with supervision of course), they are more likely to enjoy the meal.
  • Volunteer with your kids (especially if they are older). Habitat for Humanity, your local animal shelter, nursing home, or soup kitchen would probably love to have you help out for a day…plus you’d give your children a bit of perspective and teach them the good feeling that comes from helping others.
  • Wash the dog, or teach him tricks.
  • Teach your kids to knit, crochet, embroider, or french knit…or learn one of these skills together.

Imaginative Play and Cognitive Function

By , February 21, 2008 3:31 pm


On NPR’s Morning Edition this morning was a VERY interesting story (“Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills“) about how children’s play has changed in the last century. Instead of engaging in self-directed, imaginative, improvised play, play has become centered around toys and the latest movie or TV show: “Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch” they play “Star Wars with a toy light saber.”

Commercialization is only partly to blame, as child safety has become more of a concern in recent years. Parents are now more reluctant to let their children run loose around the neighborhood. They enroll kids in structured, adult-lead activities.

This change in play-habits has actually changed children’s brains according to researchers. Imaginative play helps kids develop what is known as “executive function,” which is a cognitive skill necessary for self-regulation (controlling emotions and behavior, resisting impulses, and exercising self-control and discipline).

Read this interesting excerpt from the NPR piece:

We know that children’s capacity for self-regulation has diminished. A recent study replicated a study of self-regulation first done in the late 1940s, in which psychological researchers asked kids ages 3, 5 and 7 to do a number of exercises. One of those exercises included standing perfectly still without moving. The 3-year-olds couldn’t stand still at all, the 5-year-olds could do it for about three minutes, and the 7-year-olds could stand pretty much as long as the researchers asked. In 2001, researchers repeated this experiment. But, psychologist Elena Bodrova at the National Institute for Early Education Research says, the results were very different.

“Today’s 5-year-olds were acting at the level of 3-year-olds 60 years ago, and today’s 7-year-olds were barely approaching the level of a 5-year-old 60 years ago,” Bodrova explains. “So the results were very sad.”

According to executive function researcher, Laura Berk: “Self-regulation predicts effective development in virtually every domain.” In fact, good executive function is a more reliable predictor of success in school than IQ. Poor executive function leads to high dropout rates, drug use, and crime. Of course there must be a middle ground here, but the better a child’s ability to self-regulate, the better they will perform in school, and in life.

So here is yet another reason to turn off the TV, ignore the terrible whines, agonizing howls of boredom and claims of inhumane parental treatment and see what happens. They just might surprise you with the games they come up with on their own. And…they will be improving their executive function skills!

I urge you to listen to this fascinating NPR piece (7 min 50 sec), or at least read the online transcript.

+ Some suggestions for activities that promote self-regulation:

(from researchers Deborah Leong, professor of psychology at Metropolitan State College of Denver, Elena Bodrova, senior researcher with Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning, and Laura Berk, professor of psychology at Illinois State University, found on the transcript page of the NPR website):

– Play “Simon Says”

– Encourage “complex imaginative play” (child plans and acts out scenarios, invents own props, etc. Best if play lasts for several hours)

– Activities that require planning (the examples given are: games with directions, patterns for construction, recipes for cooking)

– Read storybooks with your children

– Encourage children to talk to themselves (“fosters concentration, effort, problem-solving, and task success”)

+ A related Unplug Your Kids post: Let Your Kids be Bored

(Photo (taken in Madagascar) courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and photographer Harald Kreutzer.)

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