Your Guide to a Screen-Free Week

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In case you haven’t seen the Tweets, the Facebook posts or the emails — It’s Screen-Free Week (April 29-May 30).

No, screens are not the devil, and this post is not meant to preach. As a mom, I know as well as anyone that screen time is the easiest way to get through a child’s haircut, or an airplane ride, or to let mom take a shower, or … you get the idea. But I also know that sometimes, there are good alternatives to sitting my kids in front of a screen, and when I push myself to use those options, my kids (and I) usually feel better.

For our family, Screen-Free Week is a good chance to do a “digital detox,” a reason to take a break from screens, even if it’s short, and to figure out ways to use screens less over the rest of the year.

The Waldorf schools of the D.C. area have pulled together a useful Screen-Free Week guide! It’s got 21 pages of activities, events and ideas you can download or print out for free. 

Three lessons I’ve learned

Screen-free week is a chance for parents to connect with kids, find alternative activities or get outside

I’ve learned a few things from previous screen-free weeks:

1) It’s not just for my kids; I work on a screen all day, and I feel better when I put the screens away for a few hours after work. 

2) Choosing a screen-free alternative doesn’t actually take longer than setting up the iPad, especially if I’ve done a little prep work. 

3) My kids behave better if the screen never even comes into view; once it’s an option, I have to struggle to take it-away.

How we approach screen-free week:

1) Identify the weak points

First, I think about when I use screens in a way that hurts us in the long run. I have two weak points for screens: a) early morning when the kids wake up an I’m still tired and want a shower b) dinner time, when I need to cook in peace. In both cases, giving them my phone or a show hurts me in the end because there is often a fight when I turn it off. So these are times when I know I need an alternative.

2) Find an alternative – or a few options to try out

Since my kids are preschool-aged, the alternatives I’ve come up with are table activities that I’ve planned out in advance, so I have materials on hand. That way I can see where the kids are while I cook. These might be making push-pin shapes, Play-dough cookies, chalk drawing or pipe cleaners with beads. I’ll often give them a timer, to do the activity and then switch after 15 minutes, so neither kid can complain that the other one got to do the better activity; this also ensures that I get up to 30 minutes without interruption — about as long as an episode of “Paw Patrol.” Some of my table activities are in this amazing Waldorf guide; others I borrowed or invented after visiting Montessori schools in the area. You could also try some of the crafts or outdoor adventures covered on our site.

A few notes

It’s important to note that the activities I use work best when I give my kids five minutes of one-on one time before I set them off on the activity. Sometimes it’s a quick story on my lap after work or snuggling in bed in the morning. But once they have that, I find they are better able to focus on an activity without bugging me. And let’s be honest: Trying to use screens less often is also about trying to spend more time interacting with each other. We can think of that as a burden but it’s also the point. I try to embrace that during screen-free week.

Do you have a plan for Screen-Free Week?  What are your weak points and what alternatives did you come up with? Tell us in the comments bellow! Check out more great ideas at Acorn Hill Waldorf School’s Spring Fair on May 11th in Silver Spring.

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Katherine lived on four different continents before settling in Washington, D.C., to raise her family. She works at a global think tank during the day and raises twin boys the rest of the time. When she isn't working on a spreadsheet for work, she loves walking in the forest with her family, which invariably involves stomping in puddles and climbing on logs. Though she is less of a world traveler these days, she continues to seek out adventures, from exploring D.C.'s museums and playgrounds to taking road trips to national parks. When it's time to unwind, she can be found snuggling with her husband on the couch. Likes: adventures, sleeping past 7 a.m., being surrounded by forests, the sound of her boys laughing, and locally made ice cream. Dislikes: whining, the patriarchy, and people who judge parents.