The Great No TV Experiment

Classic Play contributor Kirsten Nilsen shares what happened when her family pledged to turn off the tv for a month

by , posted on March 1st, 2010 in Guest Posts, Ideas and Inspiration

I’m hoping no one tells my kids the date today.

Most people herald the first of March – FINALLY! The Beginning of Spring! Six foot drifts of snow on the ground be damned! For the kids in my house, it marks the end of the most groundbreaking, radical experiment ever.

Exactly four weeks ago, on a Sunday evening we broke the news to the kids that we wouldn’t be watching TV in the month of February. (You can read about how we sold it to them here.) We were fully prepared for wailing and gnashing of teeth, but our first surprise was that the kids treated the news with more suspicion than anything else. They couldn’t quite believe their parents would undertake something this outrageous.

Even our friends and family thought we’d well and truly lost it. “You do realize this means YOU’LL be on the hook to entertain them, right?!?!” was the gist of most commentary. One lone voice offered her guess that after a week or so they wouldn’t even miss it. I wasn’t sure, but I was convinced that come dinner prep time, *I* would miss it. Even my husband, when we hatched the plan, wondered if I didn’t want to build in some magical trump card that would allow me to turn on the tube without shame.

The first week was comical. My four year old would wander up casually, throw in a hug for good measure, and ask sweetly if he could watch some Pink Panther. My answer was a cheerful “Nope!”, every time. When my toddler woke up in the mornings and demanded SHEEEE-VEEEEE! I would giggle like she’d said something charming, and offer my same cheerful “Nope!”

The crazy thing is, they didn’t ask twice. By the end of that week, they’d stopped asking at all. They’d stopped thinking up loopholes and alternate schemes like The Great Watch TV ALL DAY EVERY DAY Experiment. Slowly, they wandered off to respective corners of the house to re-discover Playmobil guys abandoned after Christmas, Lego sets half-built, American Girl dolls needing to be tucked into their canopy bed.

Gradually, I began to see the jump ropes tied together in elaborate knots – “this’s my Bad Guy Catcher, Mom!” I noticed many more stories scribbled on scraps of paper around the house, and I began to get lots of requests for more sharp pencils and new journals. My baby became seriously involved in the business of Babies – I must have swaddled the dollies about 42 times a day this month. “Ooooh soooo cooooooozyyy” she’d croon, each and every time.

Yes, there were moments of weakness. Literally. One week into the experiment the two adults in the house were laid out with a vicious stomach bug, and I have to confess to an hour of Caillou just to occupy the toddler whilst I visited with Death on the sofa. But even that day, the older kids were fully occupied outside with 20″ of snow and never noticed the lapse. Even the second blizzard that week didn’t test our resolve, particularly. We filled our snow days with baking, coloring, exercise videos (what a hoot!), and lots of books.

The hardest days were the days when the adults were short on sleep, short on patience, and the kids were long on energy. After a solid week of snow days, we were all a bit stir crazy, but still no one asked for screen time.

We’ve reached the end of The Great No TV Experiment, and I’ll tell you – it’s Officially Groundbreaking Research. Turns out, three kids 7 and under *CAN* find things to do, even in the horrible hour between 5 and 6pm. Turns out, those three kids might even find ways to play together. And that’s enough to make me throw away the key to the TV cabinet.

I’m still unsure what the policies will be, as of today. So for now, I’m holding out hope that the preschool teacher forgets to change the calendar.


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5 Responses to “The Great No TV Experiment”

  1. Cheryl Says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Congrats! You did it! I’m not surprised, tho. My kids stop asking when it’s not part of the daily routine. But you get extra points for sick kids, sick you and tons of snow! Great hockey game you missed yesterday, btw..

  2. Erin Says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    What I love best about this, is that you did it with really young kids. It gives me hope that maybe I could do this too for and with my family! Thanks!!

  3. Lori-Anne Says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Well done Kirsten! Woot Woot! I’m interested to see what happens now. Seems a shame to turn it on again – at least daily.

  4. Marit Says:

    March 1st, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Way to go, Kirsten, and (as always) beautifully written!

  5. agnes Says:

    March 2nd, 2010 at 3:43 am

    I loved watching the “oh soooo cozy” relationships your children developed with each other. I heard alot of additional interplay with all three kids helping each other. My favorite was the day they came to supper decked out as knights and ladies after reading about castles and medieval life.–cousin and 2 yo included.
    Those brains never stop!

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