Baby Steppin’ to Screen-Free Week

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A few years ago, I found this mysterious pic on my phone. I kept it because I was captivated by the story it had to tell. I was working on a contract that day, and looking back through this lens I thought … Is that how my two-year-old sees me? Suddenly I felt very inspired to unplug and play with my little boy.

Word on the street is … it’s Screen-Free Week. Haven’t started yet? No worries! It’s not too late to join in. And if you missed it altogether, fear not! You can go screen-free anytime.

If you do a 7-day, 24-hour fast from screens with your kids during this annual celebration, ROCK ON! I bow to your awesomeness! But for the rest of us …

Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?

When I started explaining Screen-Free Week to my kids, frankly they looked horrified. (My husband and I struggled not to burst out laughing.) And some of my readers have sent in questions about it too.

But Screen-Free Week doesn’t have to be hard … or scary … or miserable.

Here are some ideas to help ease the transition:

1) Create a teaser.

Instead of sitting everyone down like a school marm, donning your sternest expression and announcing in a scary Darth Vader voice, “NO SCREENS! FOR A WHOLE WEEK!” … do something sneaky that will get your kids’ attention. Make it fun. (btw, Happy Star Wars Day! ‘May the fourth’ be with you!)

For example: After preschool on Monday, I pulled out the sticky notes and started ‘putting the screens to sleep’ around our house. It wasn’t long until I had a little duckling in tow asking “Mama, whatcha doing’?”

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Same deal when the bigger one got off the bus a few hours later: “Uhhh … What’s the deal with all the sleeping computers? … And why are they all GIRLS???” (Hey! Easy on the artwork, guys!)

2) Have a family pow-wow.

The coolest thing about this family meeting is BUY-IN! If everyone helps plan, then everyone gets excited about participating in the main event.

Monday evening, I gathered the troops and we had the big reveal. I told the kids (and dad) why all the screens were sleeping (and ‘broken’): “It’s Screen-Free Week!”

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Our pow-wow only took about 10 min. Here’s the agenda:

a) Pick your parameters. (5 min) Talk about your family schedule and screen habits. Make a screen-free plan that works for your crew, and don’t apologize about it! Any participation is better than none.

If you’re new at this, maybe pick one day, one electronic device, or even one location (like the dinner table) and go screen-free. Who knows? The taste of victory might whet your appetite for bigger, more ambitious goals.

At our house we’ve pledged to go screen-free between school and bedtime.

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You also might want to allocate a safe zone where people can access screens if needed for homework, etc. At our house the “Emergency Room” is the laundry room, so it doesn’t interfere with others who are enjoying screen-free time.

Yesterday, I had to go into the “ER” to make a phone call, which inspired my youngest to ask, “The ‘Emergency Room’? Isn’t that where people die?” I guess you could say Screen-Free Week is pretty dramatic around here!

b) Make a pact. (2 min) You can find cool pledge cards and specific guidelines for Screen-Free Week online. But if you want to be flexible like us, you can always make up your own.

During our pow-wow, we drew up a simple contract and all signed it. (Remember that super cool element … buy-in? This is where it really kicks in.)

Don’t force anyone to participate though. One of my readers asked, “What if my spouse isn’t on board?” My response? Relax, enjoy, and focus on the peeps who do want to be involved. If you’re having enough fun, maybe the naysayer/s will come around after all.

c) Brainstorm ideas. (3 min) If you’ve ever gone screen-free before … no, wait … if you are a parent (screen-free or not!) then inevitably you’ve heard the dreaded words a million times: “Mom! (or Dad) I’m booooored!”

Enter the family fun jar. Or box. Or can. Or whatever you want–some sort of idea holder.

For screen-free week, we nabbed an empty honey bear because “Spending time together as a family is as sweet as honey!” Yep! It’s cheesy, but we totally went there!

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During our pow-wow, we had the kids do the math and figured if we’re spending 4 hours together unplugged after school every day, M-F, that’s 20 hours bonus family time this week! Totally sweet!

After that introduction, I couldn’t write down everyone’s ideas fast enough. Some of them are pretty funny. “Take easter egg treats to neighbors” was from my 5-year-old. Not sure what that means, but it sounds pretty cool.

In place of his normal computer time after school, my 9-year-old opted for “Drink lemonade and read together.” So. flipping. awesome.

Love my kids!

In a nutshell, those are the baby steps for our tailor-made Screen-Free Week. Easy as 1-2-3, right?

And the benefits? Priceless.

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Here are some of my personal goals this week:

Keep a good attitude about being screen free. Don’t become a task master. The kids totally read my vibe and will dish it back. If I’m grumpy about this, they will be too. If I’m jazzed about it and focus on having fun with them, they will love it!

Understand the kids will complain about it sometimes. Just go with the flow, make a funny face at them, and point them to the honey jar! Have a sense of humor!

Put my phone/laptop/tablet down and LOOK MY KIDS IN THE EYES when they are talking to me. If that’s the only thing I accomplish this week, then that’s AMAZING!

One last word of advice: If you’re not having fun anymore and everyone’s fighting about it, then maybe revisit your plan and finesse it a little. Or just ditch it and try again another time.

Screen-Free Week has been around since 1995, and we’ll all have a do-over next year!

IMG_7013We’ve figured out what works for us. Now go find out what works for you and yours! Visit www.screenfree.org for idea lists and other great resources.

Already tuned in? Have additional ideas and/or screen-free experiences to share? Leave me a comment! I’m all ears.

Happy Screen-Free Week!

MamaC

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