Monday Musings: "Let's Turn Off the TV and Throw Stuff"

Monday, January 26, 2009
My 3 year old watches way too much t.v. I have tried to blame almost everybody for this ("obviously it's because of the mailman!") but it is quite clearly my fault. It began as a magic pill--my husband and I were psyched when D. would first sit quietly for a 30 minute stretch, enraptured by Fireman Sam, the Berenstein Bears, Cailou...whatever...we would have given him Freddie Crouger for that bit of free time. But, seemingly in the blink of an eye (okay, over the course of one year), it has turned into a full-blown disaster. Now, D "needs" t.v. to eat, demands a show before he goes to sleep, and throws dog-whistle-octave tantrums when he doesn't get his fill.

I've tried to reason with him but, shockingly, the notion that "too much t.v. is bad for you, D," doesn't resonate with him. I've tried lying but "the t.v. is broken" doesn't really work when your children can navigate plugs and remotes better than you. I've tried to call in the big guns: "D, the Berenstein Bears are on the phone! They just told me something! They said you should NOT watch any more t.v. YAY right?!?!?!" These attempts are met with the pitying glances they deserve.

But one thing does work. And I am realizing it works in many, many situations. Distraction.

So, here it is, a roster of indoor activities (because did I mention that it has started to rain all the time?) that I am hoping will wean my kid off his crack. Most are culled from late night frantic searches for "indoor activities with kids" and "oh god please help me"...! And of course there are a million other distraction techniques, but these are some that have worked for us.

Indoor Hopscotch

A twist on the traditional hopscotch, great for kids in the process of learning their ABC's and 123's. Start by making squares or rectangles with letters and numbers on them. Then lay them out all over the floor. Have your child start at one end of the room and see if they can cross the room jumping from square to square. They must identify the letter or number they are going to jump to next. You can also call out the number or letter for them and tell them to find it and jump on it next. Your kids can also call our letters and numbers for you to jump on. This helps the younger kids to learn their letters and numbers. Try it with shapes, colors, animals, favorite HBO shows, etc.

Be A Boat

I love this one because it allows you to go to bed at all times. While on a bed with your child/children, pretend you are on a sail boat. Locate marine life (jumping dolphins, sharks, whales) and search for land. Create stories with your kids about why you are on the boat and where you are going, even what you will see when you arrive. Occasionally, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, jump off for a swim around the bed to cool off. With us, this usually ends with us pretending I actually am a boat, but you don't have to go that far.

Going on a Bear Hunt

Did you guys ever sing the song 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'? (If you can't remember the words, you can find them here I can't even remember when I learned the song but it has served me well. I sing it with the kids and we go through the house, looking for bears through the "grass," in the "trees," at the end of the "river." I usually just tell D things like "Look, it's a river," while pointing at a chair but if you want, you can make some scenery with construction paper and the like.

Snowball Fight

I grew up in Michigan and I am sort of sad my kids' experience with snow will likely be confined to fancy schmancy Tahoe trips. Even those won't happen for a while so, to tide us over, we sometimes have snowball fights indoors. I tried to make real snowballs once. Not particularly safe or, um, smart. Our new variation is to roll up a bunch of white tube socks to create "snowballs." I tell the kids it's time for a snowball fight and let them throw things. And yes: Many, many of my distraction techniques involve allowing D to throw things.

Shoe Hunt

My kids love to try on and wear my husband's and my shoes. We have made up a few shoe games, some more successful than others. In one, we get several pairs of shoes and put them in a pile, then race D to the stack and try to see who can put on a matching pair first. I used to let him win but now he can actually beat me, I'm not kidding. In another, we hide shoes. And D. finds them. That's it. It works.

Playing Elevator

The inspiration here is that scene in Austin Powers where Mike Myers pretends he is on an elevator, a boat etc. We spread a towel on the ground for our 'elevator.' We step in and push the pretend button to travel to different floors. You can go all out and describe each step: 'The door is opening' (show with your hands). 'We're getting on the elevator' (step on the towel). 'We're pushing two' (push button). 'We're going up' (look up), etc. Get off at different floors and describe what you see at each one. Visit the whispering floor, the jumping/ flying floor, the eating ice cream floor, the walking backwards floor, the tiger floor, etc.

Pillow Maze

Take notes this one is complicated: Get a bunch of pillows and couch cushions and pile them in one room. Create mazes with them. Go nuts.

Kitchen Bowling

Get a bunch of plastic bottles and stand them up on the floor like bowling pins. Then have your kids stand an appropriate distance away, and take turns rolling a tennis ball towards the 'pins.' Funny shoes optional but highly recommended.

Paint the Tub

This one is not for the uber-clean, a group I often aspire to but never really am asked to join. Either purchase bath paints or make your own by mixing the same amounts soap and corn starch, and adding food coloring to it. Then let your kids go wild on your bathtub with a brush or with their fingers. D LOVES part because I let him do it so rarely and I think he is just amazed that, for a period of time, I am not telling him to clean something up.

Squirrel at the Picnic

Lay out a blanket and five things that you would take to a picnic -- for example, a basket, napkins, plates, bottle of water, food container. Sit with your kid on the blanket and look at the items. Then tell your child to close their eyes and take one item away. Once your child opens his eyes see if he can tell which item was taken by the "squirrel at the picnic." I can't even believe how lame that looks written out, but D squeals with delight every time we play.

Sock Toss

Mark a line on the floor with string or masking tape or dirty clothes you find lying around. Set up an empty bucket or laundry basket or other receptacle a couple of feet beyond the line of tape. Take turns seeing if you can toss rolled-up socks into the bucket or basket.

Go Fishing

Create a fishing pond for your toddler. Cut out several paper fish from construction paper and attach a paper clip to each fish. Then tie a string to one of end of the fishing pole (yardstick or other rod) and a magnet to the other end of the string. Your child can lay out the fish on the floor and go fishing by trying to touch the magnet to the fish's paper clip. Kids love it when they 'catch' the fish. If you're a vegetarian, teach your kid to throw the fish back in afterwards...ha...

VLR said...

It's funny I WISH my daughter would sit and watch t.v. for a while but now I am not so sure! These are great activities, must motivate to find the energy to try tsome!

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of magnetic fishing--my son for some reason is obsessed with fishing even though we have never gone!

No More Dragon Tales said...

We're in the same boat with our son who loves his PBS Sprout. Now I know why people say not to let your kids watch t.v. It's not that it's so horrible for them, but they get SO addicted! Will try some of these out but I am skeptical that anything will pry N from the grips of Dragon Tales. Sigh.

parutron said...

can i come over and play?

Siobahan said...

these are awesome i always draw a blank when trying to come up with some really simple at home games and, honestly, that's when i end up turning on the t.v...

Sarah said...

These are great! I was just telling my husband that it doesn't seem like kids PLAY anymore! I mean, play imaginative games. I'm a big believer in crazy fantasy, romping around the house games probably because that's how I grew up.

Usha said...

Have to admit: I got bath paints as a gift for my 2 year old's bday. And I returned them because the idea of that sort of mess made me crazy! Now I feel bad haha.

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna send my kids to your house, cool?

LKhanna said...

Asmuch as I want to be the cool imaginative mom who does stuff like this sometimes it is just too exhausting and, maybe I'm crazy, but i think lots of t.v. is actually pretty educational for kids? I don't know maybe i'm just trying to make me feel less bad about it but i know my kisd have learned from the shows theat thy watch, it's not like they are watching gossip girl you know??

Neesha said...

Ohhhh I want to do kitchen bowling for ME, forget the children! Nice list!

Anonymous said...

How is it that so many of us find ourselves in this situation (the too much t.v. situation) and our parents didn't have the same issue even though they likely had more to do?? I don't understand it, I feel like I am constantly struggling just to keep the status quo and having the t.v. "babysit" my kids for a bit of the day is the onnly way even THAT can happen. Are we supposed to entertain them all day???

Terry said...

i love some of these, they seem like they would be great for parties too, plus cheap!

Squirrel Mom said...

okay i can't really believe i am admitting this but they play the squirrel at the picnic game at my son's preschool and he loooovessss it and i play it all the time so it's hilarious to me to see it here, and to see that you're as embarrassed by it as i am. the things we do for our kids i tell you!

Just In Time said...

thank you thank you thank you. just this weekend i was telling a friend over the phone that the creative portion of my brain has atrophied and i couldn't think of anything imaginative or fun or playful to do with my kids. these are a godsend, can't thank you enough!

Anonymous said...

Omigosh, thank you! My NOT EVEN TWO-YEAR-OLD has become a slave to that horrible moralist fable Thomas the Tank Engine. And I had been so proud of how indifferent he was to the tube just a few short weeks ago.

We will definitely try some of these games. I think the sock toss has definite possibilities...there are certainly enough socks around my house.

Very glad to have found your blog and look forward to more!

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