Life After Television: Teaching Our
Children to Play Again
By Lisa Workman
Studies have made the
news again regarding television and our children. What are they saying?
Too much television is not good for our kids. The very presence of a
television in your child’s room can be a determining factor in how well
your kids do academically. Kids today are continuing to be “plugged in.”
What is the solution?
Limit television viewing. Move the TV out of you kids’ rooms. Be involved
in what they are watching.
Okay. We move the
television into a common and give our kids time limits. Now what? A
comment I hear often when people ask me about the Tokens for TV
program is, what do my kids do now? Our kids are so used to being plugged
in, they don’t know what to do. They’re bored.
It doesn’t matter if
your children are 6 or 16, the answer is the same. It’s time to teach our
kids how to play again. Having a time for quiet and play are important
life skills. How else will their imagination start working on its own
Start with the following
ideas to help your kids in their unplugged play:
- Play a game.
Dig our your board games. Checkers, Chess, Monopoly and Sorry! Are all
- Dig out the
playing cards. Go Fish, Old Maid, War… There are even other specific
card games such as Uno out there. You can also teach your children how
to play solitaire.
- Be a
bookworm. Go to the library in your home or your community. Scour
the thrift shops and yard sales. Be a part of a book exchange. There are
also some great audio books available at the library. You can also
purchase audio books at thrift stores, department stores and online.
fun. Bring out the clay or play dough. Your teenagers may roll their
eyes at this one too, but you would be surprised at how they will sit
down and keep themselves entertained with this one. (And you
don’t have to go out and buy your dough – have them help you make a
batch. A recipe is included below.)
something. LEGO’s, Lincoln Logs and K’nex. How many of our kids
still have these in the back of their closet? Don’t have these
construction pieces? Try creating structures using toothpicks and
connecting them together with green peas. Sounds funny, but it works! As
the structures dry they become sturdier and you can keep them around for
- Go outdoors.
Outdoor games like marbles, jacks, hopscotch not only occupy your kids,
they will also strengthen coordination skills. Too hot or cold out? The
garage, basement and/or kitchen floors will work fine too.
- Become an
outdoor artist. Buy a tub of colored chalk from the local discount
store and give your kids a theme to create their own masterpieces on
your front or back sidewalks. Take pictures of them for your family
Are these new ideas? Of
course not. But when our kids are given a choice of any of these “offline”
activities or the chance to plug in to their TV or games, what are they
going to choose? When you unplug your kids, they will learn how to play
again simply because they have nothing else to do. They will find other
activities to keep themselves entertained.
Be prepared for a little
bit of whining or frustration on your kids’ part. It’s normal. It’s so
much easier to sit in front of a screen with mindless entertainment. It
won’t take long and your kids will be able to find other things to do
instead of plugging in and tuning the world out.
Lisa Workman is
the author of Tokens for TV: A Sensible Approach to Balancing Television,
Video Game and Computer Activities. How much time does your child spend
“plugged in” to some sort of electronic device? Get your FREE
worksheet at www.tvtokens.com.
There are many
variations of homemade play dough. The Internet or any kid’s craft book
are great resources if you would like more ideas. There are edible
versions as well (less clean up!). The following recipe contains items
commonly found in most kitchens.
3 cups of flour
1/4 cup of salt
1 tablespoon of cooking
1 cup of water
food coloring (liquid is
1. Mix flour and salt
together in a large bowl.
2. Add water and oil
3. Add desired amount of
4. Store dough in air
Add water (a
little at a time) if dough is too stiff. If dough is too sticky, add more