Our Internet was out for two days. No Internet means no Netflix. Since we don’t have cable TV, that meant the TV was pretty much dead for two days. The kids were gone for the first day, which gave me time to build them a DIY growth chart while Angela was at work, but on day two of our Internet outage, the girls were home. Here’s the story of how I started asking myself whether we let our kids watch too much TV.
The TV in our house is on a lot. It’s usually on morning to night, and usually with kid shows. I don’t have a big problem with that, because the girls watch a lot of educational shows, and they’re regularly spouting off facts they’ve learned from them.
Even though the TV is on, it doesn’t necessarily mean the girls are watching. They often end up in the kitchen coloring or working on other art projects, and when the weather’s nice, they love to play outside. It’s another reason I don’t stress too much about the TV time. I also turn the TV off about an hour or so before their bedtime — it helps ease us through our bedtime routine of picking up toys, storytime, PJs and teeth brushing, etc.
What My Girls Watch
Monster has a few shows she loves. She adores Masha & The Bear, and she occasionally picks Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse. She also has two movies she asks for regularly — Moana and Finding Dory. She doesn’t deviate much from those choices. Of the two girls, Monster is more likely to treat television as background entertainment — she wants it on, but she’ll busy herself playing with toys or with me or her mother and not pay a ton of attention to the show.
Baby likes a wider variety of shows. I’ve seen her watch everything from educational shows like Pocoyo and Sid the Science Kid to fantasy shows like the live-action The Worst Witch and 90s cartoons like Sonic the Hedgehog and older Thomas the Tank Engine shows. Baby is more likely to explore Netflix and pick something on a whim.
Baby is more attracted to the TV than Monster . She’s more content to sit on the couch and actually watch TV. She’s usually wants to hold a toy and fidget with it, but she doesn’t hop off the couch and get distracted by toys the way Monster does.
Until recently, Baby wanted to hold the remote the whole time. We had to put a stop to that after the remote went missing several times and after a few hard drops. I think it was mostly a possessive habit, anyway — she wanted to hold the remote so Monster wouldn’t change the TV.
The TV Rules
We don’t have a lot of rules regarding the TV.
Baby gets to pick the TV shows after she gets home from school, since Monster has control of the TV during the day.
The TV remote stays on the window sill or in the basket by the TV.
The TV gets paused or turned off during dinner.
I don’t read stories with the TV on. If they want me to read to them, the TV gets turned off.
TV is a privilege that can be lost if you don’t behave.
Since the girls have their own Kids profile on Netflix, we don’t have to worry too much about content restrictions. Occasionally they do end up on Angela’s profile, but it’s rare enough that content issues have never been a problem.
The Internet Outage
When our first Internet went down, the girls were staying with their dad. Angela had to work, and I spent the day in the workshop. When we were home, we just spent the time without the Internet in other ways.
In the morning, Baby had school — her dad’s girlfriend dropped her off, and then dropped Monster off at home. When she asked about the TV, we explained that it wasn’t working right now. Monster shrugged and found a bunch of other trouble to get into. I ran into town to use a coffee shop wifi and get some blog work done.
When I came back, Monster and I pretended to drive — a new game she loves where we sit on the bed, she sits between my legs, and we make car sounds and lean wildly back and forth like we’re going around curves at high speeds. We visited Minnie Mouse’s house, the gas station, the grocery store, and the zoo. It was a busy day for pretend roadtrips.
We also all ended up taking a big family nap on the couch.
When Baby got home, she asked to watch TV. When we explained that the TV wasn’t working, she immediately started whining and crying. It was a pretty stark difference from the way Monster responded.
Angela pointed out that Monster had spent all day without the TV and didn’t pitch a single fit. Baby spiraled into a bigger meltdown, earning a brief corner time until she calmed down.
When her timeout was over, I took Baby on my knee and talked to her about it. She was still sniffly and upset, so I let her tell me about it.
Baby: “But I want to watch TV!” Me: “I know. I want to do things using the Internet too. But I can’t right now.”
Baby: “But Monster got to watch TV. It’s my turn!” Me: “No, she didn’t. The Internet was broken yesterday when you were at your daddy’s, and it’s been broken all day today.”
Baby: “But I NEED the TV!” Me: “No, you don’t. TVs are really nice and a lot of fun, but you don’t need it.”
Baby: “But it’s not fair!” Me: “It’s not about it being fair or not. It’s just a fact. It’s broken. It’ll be fixed, but not right now. So instead of crying about it, we have to find other things to do.”
Baby: “Like what?” Me: “I don’t know, but let’s go find out.”
Balloon Party and Rockets
Angela dragged out a bag of balloons, but they were old and apparently had been exposed to heat at some point, so they weren’t very good — they were all stuck together, and tended to pop when you tried to blow them up. I decided to zip over to the dollar store down the street and pick up a few things to entertain the girls.
I grabbed a bag of 15 colorful balloons, a couple glowsticks, and some straws and construction paper — less than $5 worth of materials — and headed back to the house.
The girls were super curious about what I had planned for the straws and construction paper, but I made them wait for a bit. Angela and I blew up all the balloons and Baby even managed to blow one up herself. We filled the kitchen with them and bounced the balloons around all over the place.
We threw a big sheet over the kitchen table and let the girls sit under it with their glowsticks in the dark, and when they weren’t expecting it, Angela and I shoved every single balloon under the sheet with them. They had a blast down there!
When they were tired of the balloons, I used the straws and construction paper and showed the girls how to make straw rockets. It’s something I saw on Pinterest a while back and wanted to try. I’ve seen several tutorials on them across several blogs. Here’s a post from the rocket experts at NASA about them.
Run Them Tired
After our homemade rocketry, we all ended up outside. The weather was nice and warm and breezy — there was a storm on the way, but it hadn’t arrived yet.
We played tag, hide and seek, jumping challenges, and held several foot races. The girls stuck out their arms and pretended to be rockets zooming around the yard.
I like to give the girls lots of physical outlets for their energy. They’re active girls and they love to run and jump and dance, so giving them a way to burn off all that excess energy seems to prevent tantrums and help them go to fall asleep easier. Angela and I sat out on the porch and let them play for a long time, until it finally started raining on us and it was time to go make dinner.
My Girls Did Just Fine Without TV
Truth is, the girls did really well without the TV, despite Baby’s one big meltdown. They both asked me once or twice to check and see if it was working again after dinner, but otherwise found ways to distract themselves until it was time to pick up the toys and gather all the balloons and then get baths before bed. It really turned out to be a beautiful, wonderful day and my girls were really happy, so it made me happy.
Only one thing really bothered me about the whole thing.
It was Baby telling me she needed the TV.
It makes me think about how reliant my children are becoming on screens, and on technology in general. Hell, it makes me think about how reliant I am on the things — I spent half the day checking my phone hoping for a Wifi signal so I could check Twitter and Facebook and my blog stats. I remember a time when I wasn’t so reliant on them, and I’m a little annoyed at myself that I’ve let technology take over my life so much.
I don’t think we’ll be cutting out the TV in major ways, but I do think I may start turning the TV off from time to time and encouraging the girls to find entertainment in other ways. I think it’ll help us have more good experiences together as a family.
What Do You Think?
What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you limit the amount of TV your kids watch? Tell us about it in the comments.