Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When The TV is Off

Yesterday, there was such a great response to the post below. Thanks, ladies! YOU make this blog so fun. It would not be the same here without you sharing your life and your creativity with us!

I started to add some ideas in the comment section but realized there were too many, and I wanted to include pictures. So What Would You Do Wednesday's post has turned into What Would You Do Thursday.

First let me say, we don't think TV is bad.

We do let our kids watch it sometimes.

We've just limited it, drastically over the years.

We love getting a movie, all piling on the couches in the living room together and watching a great story.

But, we want to be purposeful in what we're doing, so the guidelines I give myself when it comes to saying "yes" to TV time go something kind of like this...

Is there a purpose in the kids watching TV right now, or is there something more purposeful they could be doing?

Do they need some down time?

Do they need to veg for thirty minutes?

I often let the kids watch educational shows because there's a purpose! They are learning. When the kids ask if they can watch TV, I usually say, "Yes...a learning show."

For kids OVER TWO, here are some of our favorite learning shows: (for kids under two, girl...turn that tv off! Read here.)

The Magic School Bus. I DVR'ed a ton of these one year.

Between the Lions

Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. My older boys love this show, and I've never seen anything better for older kids on TV.


The Letter Factory DVD's. Ashton was four years old and reading chapter books because of the Letter Factory DVDs. I can brag about his reading skills, because I can't take any credit for them. He really did learn to read from the Letter Factory.

How cute is my four year old reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid? I tried to make him read something easier, but he refuses! Thanks Letter Factory!

So not all TV is bad!

I'm going to separate the things we have done with our kids instead of TV into two sections...younger kids and older kids.

Of course, no matter their age, we've played outside, gone to parks, etc. But here are some things we have done in the house, particularly to keep them busy while I'm cooking dinner, or when they need something to do after school is over.

When I say younger kids, I really mean kids who are around 18 months-3. Younger than that, I never hardly tried to cook dinner when they were awake. I cooked dinner during nap time and learned how to make a bunch of crock pot recipes that I'd throw together during their morning nap. I also learned to take my bath/shower at night before bed, because trying to fit that in during the day was too chaotic. Those nap times were priceless to me. When my kids were napping, it was the only time to get the house picked up, laundry folded and dinner made. I hated using one nap to shower, so I started doing that in the evenings.

When your kids are younger than two, especially if they don't have siblings to play're it, mommy! They need YOU and they need constant supervision.


Several people in the comment section suggested that you have toys put away to only use at certain when you're trying to cook dinner. We have found this to work so great in our home. Watch for sales on organizational containers, and then get prepared! I think that's the key...having fun toys put away, ready to grab when you need something for your child to do.

I think having a bunch of toys all over your house means no toys get played with. Kids get bored with the mess and the toys. I think it's a great idea to have lots of toys put away, and pulled down just for certain times.

My kids only played with playdough in the kitchen, at the table while I was cooking dinner. That was the only way I didn't mind the mess. Before dinner, I always wiped down the table anyway and after dinner I always swept around the table, so cleaning up the playdough wasn't that big of a deal at dinner time. I highly suggest buying playdough tools. They kept our kids so busy!
Here's the playdough recipe I used when my kids were little...I could make it in bulk, in all different colors, and store it in big yogurt containers.

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 cup water

1 Tbsp. oil

about 21 drops of food coloring

Mix in heavy saucepan, water, oil and coloring. Cook over medium heat while stirring. Add flour, salt and cream of tartar. Stir while it cooks. When it makes a ball around the spoon, remove from heat.

For younger kids, I have found that the highchair is the best place to play with playdough and color (with crayons or markers).

I kept Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head in a box for special occasions. Wow. My kids loved this toy! It was a great kitchen toy to play with while I cooked dinner.

I also kept a ziplock bag of all different kinds of magnets up on top of the refrigerator. They could only play with the ones in the ziplock bag while I cooked dinner. You can make such fun magnets for your kids by purchasing sticker books (from Barnes and Nobles) and magnetic sheeting (from Hobby Lobby).

They make animal sticker books, superhero ones, and even alphabet and learning sticker books. I liked buying the ones where the kids could sort of make scenes on the refrigerator. Another thing I have thought about doing is taking one of our sets of bathtub toys that are supposed to stick on the side of the tub, and making them into refrigerator magnets by sticking a piece of magnet on the back of them. I'm talking about these...

The key is, not leaving them out. The fun part for the kids is that they only get to play with them at certain times. Part of the fun for kids around 2 is taking each magnet out of the ziplock bag. Their little chubby hands are so cute taking them out one by one.

My kids also played with stamps when I was cooking dinner.

I have a huge jar of them. You can buy washable stamp pads.

And, never underestimate the power of dominoes.

I have a container of these, and little kids love to sit in the kitchen floor and line them up, then knock them over. They also love how they feel in a bowl when they put their hands inside the bowl and move the dominoes around.

Puzzles are great. Load up on those!

I buy these foam stickers every time they go on sale at Target:

They take the kids a lot of time to use because they have to peel paper off the back. They stick them on paper and make different scenes with them.

Books on tape are also great. You can buy these, check them out at the something like Aaron's mom did for the boys. She recorded herself reading books to the kids. They love these! I love them too, because they can be read to, without me!! We would keep the books on tape in a cabinet in the kitchen, and only use them while I was cooking.

Several people mentioned lacing beads. You can buy these in all sorts of varieties.

Or, you can just do this the old fashioned way and buy the large rigatoni noodles, give your child some string, and there ya go.

For younger kids, great things to do together are play games!

High Ho Cherry-O and Candy Land are super easy. In Candy Land, they don't even have to know their colors, they just have to find the square that matches what is in their hand. But, it's a great game to use to learn colors! In High Ho Cherry-O, all they have to do is know how to count to four maybe?

Shoots and Ladders is another game that's great for little ones.

Never underestimate the fun you can have with Hungry, Hungry Hippos either. Elefun is a great game as well. I've seen $5 off coupons for this game in several places recently.

A big rubbermaid filled with sand or beans is also very fun for kids who won't stick them in their mouths. Add measuring cups and funnels, and you're in business.

Another fun thing to do is to let kids play with water in the kitchen sink while you cook. Just put a little bit in one side, and give them some syringes, measuring cups and those tiny medicine cups to play with. Or, fill the sink up with soapy water and kids will play for a long time with the bubbly water.

This sounds so dumb, but my kids loved to do this...

I would put dots of glue all over a piece of paper. Then, I would give them a bowl of tiny rocks, beans and popcorn kernels. They would sit and stick those objects on the paper.


I would say our favorite books in this house come from the line of books called The Dangerous Book for Boys. There is also a Daring book for girls book as well. Other favorites from these same people are...

Things to Do

Things to Know

You can visit the Dangerous Book for Boys website by clicking here.

We have ordered all these products from Amazon.

My kids will play with these for an hour! After they fill a shape up with beads, you iron them and they stay together.

Block Buddies is a great educational toy. They use the blocks to make the designs they see on the cards.

Books made by the Klutz company are some of our favs. My boys love this paper airplane book and the magic one the best. Klutz makes GREAT things for girls too. Swagbuck them to see all their great products.

Drawing books are also very fun! Ed Emberley's books are our favorites. They are so easy to follow along. Ashton was using these when he was three and drawing incredible pictures! You can check these out at the library too. I bought a couple just to have here all the time, but we check one out every time we go to the library. If you homeschool, don't forget to sign up for Barnes and Noble's 20% off educator's discount. We get a lot of books for very cheap with that discount!

This one would be great for younger kids too. I love Ed Emberley's fingerprint art books. You can stamp young kid's fingers and then the parent can help add eyes, etc. Little kids get such a kick out of these! Older kids have fun doing all of the art by themselves. These really are amazing and so fun.

Remember tracing? Kids love to trace pictures!!

And don't forget about Mad Libs for older kids. This is also fun to do while you're cooking dinner or in the car with older children.

When you cut out TV with older kids, I think one of the best things to replace it with are GAMES. We LOVE playing games with our kids! Our favorite game right now is one Lynsey bought us for Christmas...Quiddler. It's like scrabble with cards. This is not a kid game, but the kids can easily play and it builds such great spelling and vocabulary skills (and dictionary skills). Aaron and I have been known to stay up late, after kids are in bed playing this as well. Look...we've always been dorks, and we probably always will be.

Scrabble is a super game for kids as young as four. As a kindergartner, Hayden's words would only be three letters long, using only short vowel sounds, but so what! And, for Ashton, as long as his words are phonetically correct...he gets to use them!

We also love Birds, Bugs and Beans. This is a GREAT game if you have a broad age range in your home.

Don't forget to teach your kids to play slap jack. Our living room gets VERY crazy over this game!!

These marble run toys are so fun too! We got this for Christmas a few years ago, and it's one of those toys that takes hours to play with.

And look what the Dangerous Book for Boys people are making kits!

Thanks for sharing all your ideas in the post below.


matt, larra, and brody said...

Great ideas! I'm bookmarking this post so in a few months when Brody is ready for some of this, I can come back to it. I LOVE the idea of putting up toys and only bringing them down for special times. I think this is something he will love now. Since he still needs my undivided attention, this might be something that really stimulates him and will hold his attention while I cook. Thank you for this entire topic! I had no idea how hard it would hit me!

Kathryn, Michael and Alex said...

Where did you find the marble run...Alex LOVES marbles.

Hendrick Family said...

We got the marble thing as a gift, but you can search for "Marble Run" and lots of places come up that sell it.

This really is such a fun toy, and they can design the towers in so many ways!


Kirby said...

Thank you SO MUCH, Heather! I LOVE ALL of these ideas! I am so excited, I want to go out and start putting these together this moment!

My sister also gave me a link to some activity bags, that I am considering putting together. I am to organize an Activity Bag Swap that I'm going to post about on my blog soon, so let me know if anyone is interested in participating.

Here are the links:

Kirby said...

Oh, and I LOVE the video of Ashton.

You'll forever cherish that precious little voice and his hilarious facial.

The Kramer Family said...

These are terrific ideas! I'm in the process of revamping our toy/activity situation so this is perfect timing! Nesting is a doozy!

We LOVE the Letter Factor DVDs! My kids watch these in the car when we are driving around running errands. Heather G told me about them a few years ago, and they've been a staple in our house!

Thanks for the tips everyone! I unplugged the tv last week as to not tempt little hands from turning it on. We only have one channel, but movies were becoming a problem and being watched a little too much by our oldest.

Its amazing what kids find to do instead of watching tv. KK has the most beautiful floral arrangments that she picked and then put in vases all over our house. She truly loves and enjoys this.

I asked her questions like:

would you rather make pretty flower arrangements or watch tv?

would you rather make someone a necklace or watch tv?

would you rather draw someone a picture or watch tv?

Every single time she answered the task that didn't involve tv. I was letting her take the easy road so we didn't have to worry about messes or clutter.

But, bring on the messes (as long as they are picked up afterwards:).


Judy said...

These ideas are fantastic! Some of them even call for me to be crafty (these days "crafty" is cutting out sticker magenets...HAH!). I'm also going to make Sadie a felt board with shapes, colors, animals. You can buy felt board stories too. At her age, she'll love to just putting them on the board and taking them off. Thanks everyone!

Hendrick Family said...

I love what Megan B. suggested in the post below. She said to put pages of work into page protectors and then let the kids do the pages with dry erase markers so the pages could be reused.

My kids LOVE dot-to-dots, but we blow through them so quickly. Now, I can just buy them and stick them into the page protectors and let the kids connect away!

I love the felt board idea!

If you live here locally, there is a huge book sale going on in the mall and will be for two months. All hardbacks are $4 (unless marked lower) and all paperbacks are $2 (unless marked lower).

Sticker books that you can use to make magnets are $1.99 each!

Also, they have books on tape. Rainbow Fish (the book and the tape) was just 1.99!


The Uptons said...

Wow, I am convicted and encouraged by all of the great ideas. The Lord is so good to have you post on this my husband and I have been struggling with how to fix for a few weeks. When our youngest was born (a year ago) we got in some bad habits with TV and our 4 year old. I was lost at how to have two kids, one who needed me so much. Now I have to undo all the mess I have made with allowing so much TV. Your post has given me so many GREAT ideas.

One question though. How does anyone handle parents and in-laws who give your kids too many junk toys? We have tried suggesting gifts they could buy, but they do what they want. Each gift has just added to our junk and creates a struggle with our children who want to keep the gifts. We beg them to buy things that require a little imagination, but they don't like those toys. Anyone who has any helpful ideas, we would love to hear them.


Kim said...

i hope you racked up some major swagbucks looking for those pictures you used :)