Saturday, December 31, 2016

Screen-Free Week

Have you ever done all the work to get together with friends or family just to have this happen?? 

More and more we are distracted by and obsessed with our smart devices.  Our family consists of three young children (8, 6, and 4), so they only have LeapPad devices on which they can play games, draw, and watch videos.  But between the LeapPads, TV, and the grow-ups' cell phones and computers, it is SUPER easy to get wrapped up in individual activities for long periods of time without interacting with another human (who, by the way, may or may not be sharing the couch with you). 

In December, as school was wrapping up for the holidays, we were feeling the crunch of running between school, basketball practices and games, swim lessons twice a week, Bible studies and started realizing that we were so exhausted all the time, when we actually WERE all at home together, we were too tired to spend good, quality time together.

So I started contemplating how we could squeeze more time out of our days and realized that we spend more time in front of our screens than we should.  I started googling the idea of having a screen-free week, and surprisingly, I didn't really find much in the way of information, ideas, or stories of personal experience.  HAS NOBODY EVER ATTEMPTED THIS??

What I determined is that the families that steer clear of an overabundance of screen time probably aren't blogging about it BECAUSE IT'S THEIR NORMAL.  It was not for us, so Hubs and I discussed the idea of doing a screen-free week.  SEVEN. DAYS.  I have to be honest here....We were scared. How can I go a week without knowing what's happening on Grey's Anatomy??? How would Hubs survive a week without late-night video games??  I just didn't think it could happen.  

But, we presented the idea to the kids and they were ON BOARD IMMEDIATELY!  We quickly came up with a list of things we could do together with all of our found time. Most would cost $0 but a few would take a few bucks to pull off.  We made a super long list - here's what it said:

  • Play a family board game
  • Take a trip to the library - our library has toys and puzzles you can play with in the children's section and my kids love spending time there.
  • Make salt dough ornaments
  • Bake cookies for someone else
  • Paint/make homemade Christmas cards
  • Make a no-sew pillow/blanket
  • Write a book report and present to family
  • Paint plates at pottery place - I have this idea I'm really excited about that would involve us painting one dinner plate each, in our own design, so that we could each have our own plate at home that we created!! I think this would be really cool!
  • Workbook activities (letters, math, etc...)
  • Organize mom & dad's room
  • Clean out garage
  • Write a story together
  • Draw coloring pages
  • Take a walk/treasure hunt at the mall
  • Snowball fight/sledding
We started our screen-free week on a Saturday, about two weeks before Christmas. We were going to do it for seven days.  No screens with the exception of needing to pay bills or text someone if it was really necessary, but no games, no social media, no web browsing, no TV or movies for seven days.

Saturday, we went to Benji's basketball game at his school and then we came home to play outside and then warm up with grilled cheese and tomato soup, our new favorite wintertime lunch meal.  We took a trip to Target and picked up Phase 10 and a new-to-us game, Pandemic that we learned with some friends a couple of weeks before.  That night, we played some games together as a family and then Hubs and I played about six games of Pandemic once the kids went to bed!


Sunday, we went to church and then came home to watch the Bears game (the ONLY TV exception because we're a football family and we watch together). That afternoon, the kids played and read some books and we had family clean-up time (basically we clean up together for one hour and try to cross off as many items as possible in that time).

Monday, everyone was back at school or at work, then after school, our cousin's three-year-old who goes to school with Calah was over for a couple hours until her mom came home from work.  Then we ran off to swim lessons and by the time we came home, it was bedtime!  Hubs and I played Pandemic after the kids were in bed again, trying to build our way up to the highest level of difficulty there is in the game. 

Tuesday, our boys had their Christmas program at school. Josiah, 1st grade, sang Winter Wiggles.  Follow that link - it's a cute song and you'll be singing it for the rest of the day. You're welcome.  Benji's class wasn't until that afternoon, with a two-and-a-half hour break in between the two, so Hubs and I took the opportunity to use our gift card from our extremely generous friend that we've had since the end of the school year for Ted's Montana Grill. (THANK YOU MANDY!!) It's SOOOO good!! They serve beef AND bison there. MMMmmmm!!  We had some good conversation and juicy bison burgers! We even saved room for dessert.  Then we hurried back to the school to watch Benji's class sing the theme song from The Polar Express.  They did a great job with all the lyrics and were so cute in their PJs and robes!  

Our trip to Ted's Montana Grill - Bolingbrook


Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we were back at school, work, homework, and activities, then bed.
That's how we spent our screen-free week! It went by in a flash and we were so busy most days, that having no screens just meant we focused more on behavior, played a few games, and the kids read a little more than usual.  I cleaned a little more than usual and Hubs and I spent more time after the kids went to bed each night.

My Takeaways

It's nice to reconnect with my husband once the kids are in bed.  We have spent so many years doing our separate things between the hours of 8pm and 12am because that felt like the only time we had to either get things done or relax (by playing video games and watching TV).  It turned into a few arguments but overall, SO worth it!

I'm not reaching for the remote anymore. Since the screen-free week, which was about two weeks ago, I have watched Hulu maybe a handful of times.  In fact, the other day, I went to turn on a show and found myself to not be interested in any of them at all!  This is a major shift for me and I feel like it will be a long-lasting one.

So, that's it! It was not as hard as I thought it would be and there was nothing super magical about it.  We just spent a little more time paying attention to each other!  I want to do this again maybe for a day at a time so we can actually get to the other things on our want-list.

What does screen time look like in your house?  

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