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This morning I shuffled downstairs at 6am, still half asleep, to make my son breakfast. He was curled up on the couch under a blanket with my Kindle. Not an uncommon sight. Often it’s even an actual paper book.
A few evenings ago, he turned off the TV and went upstairs before bedtime to play with his Legos.
The other night I found him with a multi-game set, building towers with the dominoes then knocking them down with the backgammon pieces.
Jake and Fiona’s latest obsession is playing football together. I don’t really know what this consists of, since Fiona doesn’t know how to play football, but they run around the parlor and wrestle and get sweaty, and a football is tangentially involved.
When friends come over to play they’re just as likely to have a Nerf war as play video games.
We never really put limits on how much screen time our kids have. That always seemed rather arbitrary to me. Once homework and chores are done, absent some kind of no-screen punishment, their free time is theirs to do as they please. And of course they choose TV or video games a lot of the time. I did the same thing when I was a kid, and all I had was cheesy 80s shows and an Atari. They have more game and viewing choices than I ever dreamed of.
But they don’t always choose electronics. Jake devours books, adores Legos, loves riding his Shred Sled. He’s in the gifted program at his school and takes honors classes. He has an A average. He gets up insanely early every day to go to band practice before school, because he loves music and loves playing flute. He takes Tae Kwon and drum lessons. He’s probably seen every episode of Mythbusters twice and yes, he plays a lot of video games. I’d say he’s a pretty well-rounded kid. And it has mostly been his choice, to pursue the things he likes.
Fiona can draw for hours. She writes plays and has her dolls perform them. She takes two different dance classes and loves to practice. She was home sick from school the other day and spent a couple of hours giving her Barbies driving tests, then making them licenses. She sings all the time. She even loves homework.
When a parent proclaims that they are a no TV/no video game household, it makes me sad for the kid. And it makes me wonder why, exactly, the parents chose to draw that particular line in the sand. If it’s because the parents just aren’t into that stuff and wouldn’t have it in the house anyway, I get that. But more often, the parents seem to be jumping on the laptop to get their TV fix after the kids go to bed. This is not a choice for the family, just something being foisted on the kids.
To be sure, there are days when our kids get lazy and we have to pry them off the couch and make them do something else. And when they get a punishment, they usually lose TV and video games. And sometimes I wonder what other parents do without that leverage. If your kids is misbehaving, do you take away books? Crayons? Blocks? I need the video games for leverage!
I understand the fears that these parents have: that their kids will be zapped of their creativity and their imaginations will get dusty while they drool in front of an XBox. But if the parents aren’t drooling in front of their own screens 24/7, then I don’t think it’s likely. I like my kids to see that I love TV, and love being on my computer, but also love baking, and music, and reading. And it can all coexist peacefully within the same person.
My latest post is up on the Let’s Play blog, about ways to help your kids with imaginative play. But honestly, they’re kids, and it comes naturally. As I say in the post, sometimes all it takes is a couple of paper clips.
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