Welcome to Make Week! Today we have a guest post from Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys. Make sure you read her inspiring story through to the end, so you don’t miss the wonderful giveaway she has for one lucky reader, as well as my list of ideas for alternatives to TV today.
Fourteen years ago, I was a young mother living in Hollywood, the media capital of the world. My husband Max worked in the entertainment industry, and I had been an actress prior to my son Harper’s birth. We were a family immersed in the culture of media.
During Harper’s early years, I was clueless about the effect of media on young children. I never questioned the effect of TV viewing on his developing brain. After all, he only watched “educational” shows on PBS and family-friendly videos, like Disney movies. He loved them! What could be wrong with that?
When he was four years old, I visited a Waldorf School and became enchanted by what I saw. I learned that Waldorf educators strongly discouraged TV and electronic media viewing by young children. This was a novel idea to me, but as I read more about the effect of media on children’s brain development, I started questioning the wisdom of continuing to allow Harper to sit in front of a screen for hours a day.
But how, I wondered, would I get through my days without the electronic babysitter?
How would I take a shower?
How would I get dinner made?
Photo by kevin rawlings
TV Turn-Off Week
Well, in April of that year, I learned about TV-Turnoff Week sponsored by the Center for Screen-Time Awareness (formerly TV-Free America)–a week in April during which families are encouraged to turn off their TVs for a week. I decided to give it a try to see if we could survive a week with no TV. At the beginning of the week, I shut the doors to the TV cabinet and hid the remote.
I would be lying if I said it was easy. Harper and I both experienced withdrawal symptoms. On the first couple of days, Harper would ask for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Why, he pleaded, couldn’t he watch Peter Pan? I told him the TV was “resting” for a few days, and endured his whining with resolve. Silently, I wondered if I would last the week, feeling like he suddenly needed my constant attention. It was so much easier to make dinner and straighten the house when he was parked in front of Mary Poppins.
Then, during the week, I decided to invest in new art supplies.
I bought stacks of drawing paper, and new sets of beeswax crayons and colored pencils.
By day four, I witnessed a miracle.
The whining stopped. I watched in awe as Harper became engrossed in drawing. Almost overnight, I saw his drawings transform from immature scribbles into representational images. Suddenly he was drawing pictures of pirate ships, castles, knights and dragons. He would sit at the little table in his room and draw picture after picture. Prior to this, I didn’t think he had the capacity to sit and focus for so long.
The drawing continued through long periods during days five and six. I could prepare dinner again while he was happily occupied, with the TV still hidden in the dark cabinet. I wouldn’t have believed it possible! When he wasn’t drawing, he became more interested in building with blocks and playing with puzzles.
Photo by Chris Metcalf
I never anticipated such a dramatic change in only a week. By day seven, both my husband and I were convinced that there was no good reason to turn the TV back on. As Max said by the end of the week, “I guess it certainly couldn’t hurt to live without TV.”
We never threw our TV away, though many times I wished we could! Max continued to write about media and could not give up being able to watch World Series baseball. But it stayed turned off most of the time while my two boys were growing up. Though they often complained and questioned why we didn’t watch TV like other families did, Harper has, on more than one occasion, thanked me for not allowing them to watch when they were younger. As teenagers, they watch TV occasionally and enjoy it, but I am convinced that not having spent their childhoods parked in front of screens allowed them to become the creative and resourceful young adults they are now.
Incidentally, Harper is passionate about cinema and will be entering college as a film making student in the fall.
- Sarah Baldwin, M.S.Ed.
Bella Luna Toys Giveaway
–This giveaway is now closed.–
Sarah is offering a $100 gift certificate to her lovely store, Bella Luna Toys, for one Simple Organic reader. Bella Luna Toys sells wonderful Waldorf-inspired toys and play things, including dolls, silks, wooden toys, play food, dress-ups, games, and instruments. You and your child will both be enchanted!
Everyone has three chances to win. Choose one or all three!
1. Visit Bella Luna Toys. Come back and tell us which toys you would most like to add to your children’s collection!
Enter to win a $100 gift certificate from @bellalunatoys at @simple_organic in celebration of Make Week! http://bit.ly/a5tM2S
This giveaway will end this Sunday, April 25, at 11:59 p.m. CST. The winner will be announced Tuesday, April 27. I hope you win!
Alternatives to TV: Make Believe
And finally, here are today’s ideas for you and your family as you look for alternatives to TV. This image is a PDF; you can click to download, print it out (on the backside of some scratch paper!), and stick it on a bulletin board somewhere you’ll see it. More to come tomorrow! And remember, TV Turn-Off is not just for kiddos – everyone can participate and benefit.