Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What Do You Do Wednesday

Kirby and I went on a shopping trip a couple weeks ago.

I love spending time with her, learning her mad shopping skills and just hanging out with my sweet friend who I've watched go from single college girl, to married mommy of two.

In the car, one of the things that came up was the topic of TV.

I've been mentoring Kirby for years, and so it's easy for me to be completely honest with her about the areas in my life that I wish I could "do over."

I've shared this on this blog before, but one of those things I wish I could go back and change is the way I allowed my oldest child to watch TV when he was little.

It was easy to do.

Anson would sit in front of the television for hours and hours without moving.

He loved TV.

I loved TV too, because it was sort of like I had a baby, but could still do everything I used to do before I was a mother.

I was able to work 20 hours a week from home. I did publications for our church and wrote weekly scripts.

My house was spotless.

Dinner was always on the table on time.

I could work on projects.

I could have my friends over.

See why Anson and I loved the TV?

I felt like TV was a win-win situation in my home.

Later, I realized how deceived I was!

My son grew up, and the poor guy...had only been trained, during those early years, to be happy when the TV was going and blowing.

He did not know how to entertain himself apart from a television, or video games.

He did not have any hobbies.

Plain and simple...

If the TV wasn't on, or he wasn't playing a video game on the TV or computer, he was miserable.

I'm not exaggerating.


Fast forward a few years. Hayden and Ashton come along.

They are NOT allowed to watch TV hardly at all.

To this day, those two kids are the most content, easily entertained, creative kids I've ever met in my life.

They play all day long, making up the most amazing games.

They do not need anything to be happy.

They are never bored.

To this day, my heart breaks for Anson. We love our son so much, and constantly apologize for training him, as parents, to love tv and video games too much. That was our fault. We tell him we're sorry for not teaching him, during those early years, about so many other fun, creative, exciting things to enjoy in life.

Slowly, we're helping Anson learn to love things like reading and drawing.'s a battle...a constant battle.

I've cried many tears over how robbed Anson has been of so many other amazing, purposeful, life giving, life bringing things he could have learned to enjoy as a small kid.

The other day, Aaron mentioned to me that the real problem behind what we allowed in Anson's life early on is that we weren't training him to be a grown up.

I know it's hard to think right now that we're raising grown ups in our home, but we are!

One day, our children will leave our home, and they will take with them all the things we trained them to do.

The way we trained Anson early on was to think that sitting down and watching TV, or playing video games all day was an okay thing to do with his time.

We've had to work over time to remind him that the reason why he can't sit and watch TV or play video games with all his spare time is that there are SO MANY other many other life giving, life bringing, important things to do every day.

We want to teach our kids that it's okay to enjoy down time every once in a while. Our bodies need that, but unless we're intentional about how we spend our time, we'll most likely waste it.

Instead of TV, how about writing an encouraging note to one of their teachers?

How about drawing a picture for a neighbor?

How about playing with a younger sibling, and building that relationship?

How about serving your family by doing some chores around the house?

How about emailing a grandparent and telling them what's going on in your life?

How about practicing (fill in the blank) because that's obviously a talent that's growing in your life.

So much good!

Kirby told me on our trip how much TV Asher watches. First, let me say it wasn't nearly as much as I let Anson watch as a young nowhere NEAR the amount.

But, as her mentor, I told her..."I wouldn't let him do that if I were you."

I honestly wouldn't.

After Anson, our younger children's TV life looks NOTHING like Anson's did.

So, Kirby asked me...

"What are some things you would have them do INSTEAD of watch television?"

I gave her some ideas, and then she said, "You should have this topic be the next What Do you Do Wednesday" post.

So here you go.

The main idea is this...

We want to train our kids as if we're raising children who will leave this house one day.

The training they get from us, should be things they leave here thankful having learned.

Our goal is to teach them how to use their time during the day in productive ways. We don't want them wasting their lives. 

Letting Anson be a TV fiend and zombie was NOT teaching him to embrace life and truly live it.

Besides...experts are saying that kids under TWO should NEVER watch TV. Really! Go read this article.

Let me warn you...

When you cut out TV or reduce it drastically, kids get pretty ticked. It's like weening off a druggie. is. TV is a real addiction, like anything else. We won't let kids drink coffee or take drugs, but little ones can be as addicted to tv as any of those other things! Believe me! When we saw how much rehab Anson needed after the TV was taken away, we knew the true extent to which we had harmed our son. He was a junkie in the truest definition of the word. Tears!

Aaron and I had to be prepared to wage war in our home against our son's attitude about the televison. It took a great deal of patience and strength.

We also had to sit him down and explain to him, in detail, how we, as parents were failing him and had failed him when we were letting him watch too much tv.

We had to ask him to forgive us.

With the younger kids, holy cow, I had to learn how to actually parent without the television.

It's a lot more work!

I had to figure out how to make dinner without the tv babysitting my kids.

I had to figure out how to entertain them.

I had to go buy some stuff.

My house immediately got a lot more messy.

That was frustrating.

But...we've seen good results from this change.


So here's what Kirby wants to know...

What things do you do with your kids IN PLACE of television?

What are easy, fun activities for preschoolers?

What do you do with your kids instead of TV if you need to cook dinner, take a shower, or accomplish a task?

What about for older kids?

I'll offer some ideas in the comment section.

Join us there, and please share your answers as well!


Got a What Do You Do topic?

Email me...

We'll see if we can get other wives/moms/parents/people to put their heads together and share what they've learned.



Carrie said...

Melissa and Doug have great manipulative games and toys. We spend a lot of time with these. Also, we use the dry erase books that have math, spelling etc. I'm a teacher by nature so I tend to go this direction a lot!!!

Oh, we have a plastic bowling ball and pins! We set this up and go to town!! It's a great rainy day event in our house.

Kari said...

Markers (washable) =)
paper/coloring books

2 of my 3 boys love to draw and play with play-doh. While I'm making supper, they are happy to sit and play at the table.

I don't like the mess that the play-doh makes, but they love it.

Not too creative, but these help me a ton!

Rachael Davis said...

I have a two and a half year old little girl, and I am constantly trying to keep it between the lines with TV...just want to have everything in moderation, you know? But my friends - as soon as I let her start watching it every day (even if it's only 30 minutes a day), I can SEE the addiction begin. an effort to make it easier for MYSELF to give her options, I had to get organized. In my laundry area, which is IN the kitchen, I keep 6 or 8 of those plastic shoeboxes filled with different "activities." One holds play dough, another holds markers, another is full of beans and small cups and spoons (a mini sensory table!), another has string and beads for lacing, another had colored pencils, another has those bingo dot stampers, etc. I also keep a big stack of plain white paper right beside the boxes. It makes it super easy for me to pull out one of these boxes before I start cooking, and put her at the table near me. I have LOVED it! They're special, so she stays occupied. We chat while she plays and I cook, she'll taste raw veggies that I'm's been so beneficial for both of us. Then, when dinner's almost ready, clean-up is a snap! It all goes back in the shoebox.

I. Alegria said...

For a long stretch in my childhood we did not have a t.v. and it was super limited after that. We enjoyed:

Books on tape or Adventures in Odyssey radio episodes were great for us and because they were audio, it allowed for us to use our imagination a whole lot more.

Planting a vegetable garden. We each had a crop and got to play in the dirt. How can you beat that? If we could do this in L.A. I bet you can do it anywhere.

We put on shows and made movies of our own for anyone who was willing to film on their family camcorder, which was more rare at the time :)

I am stumped on ideas for the under 3 crowd other than the usual arts & craft, but those are my 2 cents. Love the dialogue!

Megan Fletcher said...

Guilty! I don't let my kids just sit in front of the TV for long periods of time, but they seriously love movies. If my kids ask to watch one too many times in a day, I just say "none for today" because I can tell they've been watching them too much. It's nice when we can go a few days without turning on the TV. But, I'm completely guilty of putting on a little 30 minute video to get something done (like cooking a meal, showering or making an important phone call).

Instead of TV watching, we read LOTS and LOTS of books. We go to the library and just grab a whole bunch. My girls love to play with their babies and my son enjoys putting together his train tracks. They have blocks, Little People, and a toy kitchen.

We turn on a kids worship CD and dance. They play hide & seek, board games, and do puzzles.

My kids love to draw (pencils, crayons and washable markers). To keep chaos and clutter down, the "craft" cabinet has a kid-proof lock on it. That way I make sure they're drawing where they should be--due to their age. (They also love play-doh and painting, but we rarely do it b/c I'm a wimp and don't like the mess.)

In their rooms, where toys are stored, we have bins with tags that identify what goes inside. At one point (after a behavior problem), I took away almost every toy and bit by bit they "earned" some back. It was a great way for me to organize them and bit by bit train them to put away the toys in their proper places.

Outside, my kids have a section near their slide that has pea pebbles. They LOVE it (we just put it in). They dig, use cups, and just love the texture (it's cleaner than sand). They also have a swing (by IKEA) that's easy to get into and they love to push one another. Most recently, they have enjoyed hiding some small balls around the yard and then taking turns finding them (like an egg hunt). We use the sploosh balls that soak up water (but we use them dry).

matt, larra, and brody said...

Thank you thank you for this post! Brody is only 14 months and already LOVES TV and I'm the same as you were..I love that it keeps him entertained so I can clean, cook, work, etc. But I already hate how much he watches and really want to change that. I would love it if it was never on at all. I feel like he's young enough that if I fix it now, it won't be a major issue for him to get used to. So yes, mothers, give us some ideas! Its so hard to keep a 14 month entertained doing ANYTHING for more than 5 minutes at a time!

Hendrick Family said...

Such GREAT ideas ladies!

Larra...turn that TV off! You live close enough to me, that I will come do it myself if you don't!! I don't want Brody Boy to struggle like Anson has! Hooray that he's so young!!

Okay, I sat down during nap time to write up some ideas, and realized, I have so many that my comment would be super long. In addition, most of the ideas we use at our house would require some sort of picture or link, which I have no idea how to do in the comment section.


Please, keep on helping these mommies out with some ideas right here in the comment section.

Tomorrow, I'll add an entire post with pictures and links, etc. I'll also go through these comments, and anything that I see that would be helpful to show a picture, I'll add as well.

So, so great ladies! Thanks for helping! I appreciate you.


Kirby said...

Thanks to everyone! I'm already making a list of stuff to talk to Charlie about!

Racheal, I love the ideas of different containers that each have a specific activity.

For any of you teachers, that may or may not have children of your own, will you give me some ideas of different things that you do for "centers"? This used to be my FAVORITE part of my early elementary school days and think there could be some GREAT ideas to use at home, as well!

The Houstons said...

YES! Being that Im in the same boat as Larra, Brody and Noah share the same birthday...I am also struggling with what to do with lil Noah..I get so overwhelmed at keeping him entertained..I know there a lot of ideas for the older kiddos..but what about us moms of lil dudes???? Help a new mom out all you wise women who have older kiddos...tell me what you did????

Rachael Davis said...

Kirby, I teach 4 year old preschool a couple of mornings a week, and take my little girl with me. Centers is a HUGE, FUN part of our day, and during the summer, I incorporate them at home. The main idea is to vary the activity type. For example, tomorrow when I do centers in my preschool classroom, we'll have 5 centers:
1. a sensory station where they dig in a big tub of dirt to find bugs
2. a "creation station" that is full of junk -seriously- that they can cut and glue and string and color and make into whatever they want
3. a fine motor station where they will use chopsticks to move fake flowers from one plastic pot to another
4. a blocks center with wooden blocks
5. a book center where they can listen to a book on tape

When thinking about those younger ones, my main thought would be to make sure you have "true toys" available. Not the ones that ding and sing and dance and beep and flash. "True toys" are ones that require the children to use their imaginations. Examples of these would be wooden blocks, dolls (yes, even for boys!), cars (yes, even for girls!), those big chunky plastic animals, musical instruments, etc.

Landreneau Family said...

I actually went backwards on this. My first watched very little tv...he is still a fabulous independent player. I trained him from infancy to play alone in his room for certain short periods a day (like 10-15 minutes). The pay off on this was huge.

When I was pregnant the next two times, I was feeling so yuck all the time that I got in a bad habit of turning on the tv. But, I look at those times as seasons. I was in survival mode. If the tv was on, I knew they'd sit still and stay next to me even if I fell asleep on the couch. They have never been allowed to flip on the tv and watch whatever they found. It was always a dvd of my choosing.

For the last three years, we've given up tv for Lent. This has been a great barometer for me. The first year was really hard for me and the kids. Now, it's just what we do, and everyone adapts.

I'm anxious to hear everyone's ideas as there is always room for me to grow in this area.

Garratts said...

GO OUTSIDE! We live there.

When the weather is bad...
play games
let kids help you cook
dance to music (one of our favs)

Denise Menger said...

Not yet a mom (will be in September), but I am a teacher, and here are some ideas I've come across.

A woman at church said her boys would be entertained for hours with a large can on raw oatmeal and ice trays. This also works great with beans or rice (though it could be dangerous for little kids--oatmeal is definitely safer). If you want to go outside, you could use water and make it a fun water day. I've added various measuring cups and containers at school for similar activities.

Magnetic letters are great, and can be adapted for kids of various ages. Little ones can put the ABCs in order while singing the song. They can be used on a cookie tray along with picture cards and kids can match up which letter goes with the beginning sound of each word. Older kids can practice spelling words or making sentences. I also use these a lot when teaching phonics to the kids.

My students LOVE quizzing each other with flashcards--best for older kids practicing math facts. I also have a set of cards 1-100 that I let the kids put in order. Believe it or not, they love it.

I'm convinced that my husband is an engineer because he played with lego's and in the sandbox when he was a little kids. So much creation and imagination going on. GREAT skills for adult life.

A great way to develop good readers at any age--and encourage imagination is to read them a story them let them illustrate all or part of the story. You could read the story, then go start dinner or put a load of laundry in while your child draws, then talk about it when you come back.

You guys have great ideas. Thanks, Heather for sharing!

Lindsay said...

Legos! My older boys (4 and 6)play for hours with their Legos and they get so creative. They went through a Lincoln Logg stage and Magtastix (they have bigger ones for littles and smaller ones for the big kids). They also love when I give them a little shovel and go out in the back yard to dig in the dirt and they find all kinds of creative things to do with sticks (outside, of course). They tend to spend the evenings when I'm cooking, at the table drawing, coloring and cutting. I usually let my 4 year old watch a 30 minute show in the mornings, but that's it. My 6yr old doesn't watch much during the week b/c of school. We are a little more lax on the weekends, but they enjoy playing outside so much, we don't have to fight it.

Susan, wife of 1, mother of 4 said...

We went outside EVERY DAY starting between 4:30-5pm and we played with WATER. The girls had a little baby center with a BATHTUB and more than bathing the plastic waterproof babies, they used their cups and spoons and filled things up and dumped them out. It was messy, but it has paid dividends. They are now 9 and 7 and would watch TV if it is on, but are totally content to go days and weeks without it.

Another mom told me that she had a special basket of toys (that she changed as necessary) that the kids were ONLY allowed to play with when she was making dinner. It became the "special toys" and it would entertain them for a week or so (and then she changed the toys in it). She advised it can be ANYTHING - an activity or toy that you are ONLY allowed to do in the evenings when Mom is making dinner. It worked great for her kids.

Judy said...

I need help with this too! Since having Tessa (seven weeks old), I have allowed Sadie (19 months) to watch way too much TV. She is at an age where she wants me to play with her all the time, and I just don't have the time to do that all day now.

I love the idea of boxes of things for her to do while I'm making dinner. I've kind of done that with a bag full of toys while I'm nursing. She gets it only when I'm nursing Tessa. While she is excited about it, she wants me to go through it with her and play. I need to teach her to play by herself sometimes!

She will, however, play in her "sandbox" (big, under the bed plastic tub filled with sand) by herself. She also likes to pretend cook with my pots and spoons. And we dance alot too Ash!

Any ideas for the little ones would be SO helpful! Especially things they can do on their own.

theBirkenfelds said...

Sawyer won't be here until July but I do teach first grade! Some things my kids love doing during centers are:

Pattern Blocks. (You can even make these yourself by printing them off line onto card stock paper and laminating them). And then finding images for them to place the pattern blocks on to make a picture.

I have tons of dry erase markers and page protectors. You can put any kind of paper or worksheet type object in them. (Practice writing numbers, letters, name, coloring, connect the dots, etc. etc.) For some reason kids LOVE using dry erase and it is so easy to clean up and use again!

Any type of sorting centers. You could get a box of different colored buttons, beans, types of animals, anything and have them sort or go on a "mission" to find all of one kind.

For kids who can read I have made silly sentences with their names in them like, "Mrs. B will kiss a pig." and they have to read it and then illustrate it. They love this because it is so silly and they are motivated to read if it has their name in it.

Definitely listening center. Even for little bitties they can listen and color a picture of what it was about. Or if you have a book they can flip through with the reading. Parents this is so easy to make! You can record yourself on your computer and save it as an mp3 and burn it onto a cd or even put it on your ipod. It is so easy and free!

Last one, I promise-- SHAVING CREAM! Get the cheap shaving cream, spread it out on a table or a high chair and let your kids go to town! They love it and if they are older they can work on spelling, shapes, etc. It also will "clean" the surface they are working on and just rub right into their hands. Less messy than play dough.

Ok, I'm done I promise! :) Hope these have helped!

Ursula said...

I have a very active 19 month old at home. We have agreed not to watch TV when he is awake.

To shower, I save up special snacks I don't normally feed him, move his high chair into the bathroom, strap him in and set him up with the snacks and a sippie cup. Works like a charm.

To cook dinner, I have him "help" by again putting him in his high chair and then giving him peelings from veggies, a little bit of flour, water and mixing cups. He loves being a "helper boy" and I love making dinner with him happy.

When cleaning, I use non-toxic cleaning stuff and let him "help." He loves having the same supplies I do, especially a little broom and if I make a big deal about what a helper he is he just lights up. I'm optimistic this is training him to know how to do chores down the line.