Friday, 6 May 2011

How to reduce your children's TV time

Image from here
Our kids watch TV. Some would say too much. They love it. They really do.

They come from a long list of TV watchers, so it seems that genetics may have something to do with it. Genetic predisposition and busy parents. And personal preferences. And rainy days in a small house. And keeping kids quiet while other's sleep in said small house. You know, a lot of reasons.

One TV and four children means that they have to learn to negotiate. Two are still into the Wiggles, Hi-5 and Play School. Two tend more towards Ben 10, Generation Rex and other equally boyish, violent cartoons.

I love hearing them work out how the scheduling will go while I cook dinner. Usually the 'babies' get about 10 minutes before the boys get to change the channel and watch 'their shows'.

Lately, I have been weaning them all.

Firstly, we instituted the 'activity hour' between 3.30 and 4.30pm where everyone spends the hour outside playing or gardening or hunting for bugs or kicking the ball around or going to the park (anything in the great outdoors). One hour usually stretches into two thereby eliminating the need for TV negotiations.

Next we introduced some 'bumps' on the way to the TV. When someone asks for TV time, they immediately get bombarded with other options for play - a board game, cars, Lego, bikes, craft activities (which are always set up, ready to go), watering the veggie patch, you get the idea?

Then, we started watching the news when the children's TV would have been on. Nothing bores them more than listening to someone tell the news. This usually leads them to playing Lego in their rooms, doing a puzzle or reading a book.

I haven't quite managed to deal with the 'down time' issue, when the older boys need to remain reasonably quiet while the younger two have a nap. Doo Dah has taken to watching a taped session of Masterchef during this time and I somehow feel that is 'better' than Ben 10. Is it? It feels like it could be!

We have been successful in reducing TV watching time significantly in our household using these three easy steps. But there is still aways to go. The ultimate goal would be getting rid of the television all together. We have tried it before. But I am the only householder in favour of that!

How do you keep your children's viewing to a minimum? What do you think is a reasonable amount of time in front of the TV for the 0-5 range?


Gill@AliceBecomes said...

you have just made me feel a whole lot better! we have tv free days but then occasions where M1 sits in front of it for ages!!!! M2 still too little to care for TV but i love your ideas here for distracting. we have been using similar tactics and lately, M1 is mad about scrambling eggs so that is our current distracting offer! maybe he would get into masterchef too? oh and agree totally that masterchef is better viewing than ben 10!.

thanks for a refreshingly realistic kids/tv post!

gill xo

Sam-O said...

In our house I am desperate for the Munchkin to WATCH some!! ;)

But, truly, I grew up with not regular TV, just a portable B&W that came out for Bill COllins 2 movies on Saturday nights and special occasions like a Royal Wedding or a school project. I'd love my kids to have the same but their Father is from a home full of TV's and can't even walk in the house with switching one on. I am making do with keeping my hard line on computer games, Wii etc. Don't have one and wont get one.

Love your plan.

Frog, Goose and Bear said...

Recently I've been weaning mine off the TV too. I was sick of the tantrum that followed when it needed to be turned off. I do just what you do - distraction is the key! It's a bit more effort on a parental level, but worth it in the long run I am sure. We pretty much have no TV now during the week, but for quite some time we've had movie night on a sunday night before bed, so they get their TV fix and most importantly there is a specified and acceptable end time!
One thing that I have used when needing to keep elder children quite while putting younger ones to bed is to put on a story CD. There are lots at the local library or on itunes. Seems to work well with mine.

Cate said...

Mine are so feral during and after watching TV that I try to limit the stupid thing to just-about-never-unless-I'm-about-to-have-a complete-melt-down moments. Not at all on school nights (or before school) - we have enough with homework and after school activities. So really that just leaves weekends. I'm pretty generous on sat mornings (they usually get a few good hours until I properly wake up and stop reading all the grateful posts!). And plus we have a tv in the car - so that helps me justify my you're-the-meanest-mummy-in-the-whole-world stance on the thing :-)

Tricia said...

Yep - we use the outdoor time and speed bumps to delay the TV being switched on. Getting outside in the evenings after preschool/work is getting harder with the cold and dark (I want daylight savings back!) so we've started playing board games instead. Each time Little Eco asks for the TV to be switched on we offer to play a game with her instead. Tonight it was dominoes. Usually after a game or two we can disappear and she'll continue playing, totally forgetting about the TV.

Lizeylou said...

I did a post on this the other day too .... I think you are doing an amazing job - We are still finding our feet, but are basically doing all of the same things as you. And we now have one serious craft box to keep us entertained. I really just wanted my kids to play ... good old fashioned play. And I think we are getting there. I just need to keep up being more involved with them (and finding all of that extra paitence!!)

Mama of 2 boys said...

Some great ideas you've implemented there, I can totally see how they would work. Clever.
My boys are still really young, so the TV isn't a consideration. My 3 year old has never been interested in TV or movies, so he's not an issue. The 10 month old has no idea what the TV is. So at this stage, no problems. I'm sure it won't always be this way!

Jodie Ansted said...

The amount of tv our kids watched has crept up considerably in the last year. Partly I blame ABC2, and also the fact that I'm busier and I think it's just (too) easy to pop the tv on. Sometimes, it's just a plain old peacemaker. The kids are distracted so less inclined to fight during dinner, you know?

I never used to have the tv on before school, then the 4yo would get an hour from 9am to 10am. Then they'd all get a little after school before homework - or a little later on after school activities.

Now, it's just crept up. The boys put it on in the morning to watch during breakfast. The 4yo keeps turning it on during the day, I keep turning it off..then sometimes I give in.

I actually think it's best not to watch any before school. It drains their brain IMO! I think 1-1 1/2 hours, broken up thru the day is fine for preschoolers. Esp if it's educational stuff like Playschool/Sesame St/Wiggles/Mister Maker (and with MM it gives them great ideas to make stuff - hence, they watch less tv!). With the big boys, I'd often let them watch a kids' movie in the arvo once they'd given up their day sleep, because I just couldn't be entertaining them all day and had to get stuff done.

Personally, I'm looking to reduce again. It's become a bad habit, and it's not good. But to be honest, unless your kids are sitting in front of it all day, then it's not so bad.

Good luck!

Jodie Ansted said...

Oh, and I don't think I'll catch you Mon unfortunately. Hubby can't get home in time so looks like I'll miss out. :( Have fun!!!

Anonymous said...

I actually did get rid of the TV altogether, then foolishly introduced my child to youtube, on a particularly frazzled morning! Now we are back at square one, but continually look for inspiration outside the box!

Toushka Lee said...

without copious amounts of TV my son would not be fluent in Spanish.
And by "fluent" I mean: Can count to 5 and say open and Help in Spanish.

He also learnt how to balance a spoon on his nose and call a torch a "flashlight". All very important.

In spite of the obvious benefits to my child's education, I have also started to downsize the TV time. Same as what you are doing, we watch the news and he hates that. We don't turn TV on in the morning until he has finished his weetbix (which can take 3 hours on a bad day) and we do some form of game or activity in the afternoon after kinder, so the TV stays off. Weekends are a different story.
Today the tv has been on all day. maybe because it's mothers' day and I just love Timmy Time. so much.

katepickle said...

It's taken me a long time but I finally figured out that I want to make TV work FOR my family and not against it. So the kids use TV in the same way we adults do - when they need time to totally vege out and do nothing, I think that's a perfectly reasonable use of TV for kids (and adults) provided they are watching appropriate shows.

I also use it to my own advantage and enjoy the fact that their need for downtime most often combines with my need to make dinner - so usually that means the TV is on for an hour between bath and dinner. It's the time of day when they are tired and need to chill and a time when I am frazzled and need them to chill so it's a win win all round, and makes me feel a lot less guilty about the whole TV thing.

Maxabella said...

Wow, you've made some fantastic progress, Coo. I like the idea of Doo Dah watching Masterchef. What a cutie.

I think we do okay with the tv here. It 'breaks' on sunny days (the sun hitting the aerial or something) and that sorts them out. We are struggling with iPhones and computers though... x

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