Hallmark BlogOut Challenge: Family Time Offline

Hallmark's Abigail Story Buddy

One of the biggest challenges many families face is spending good, quality time together. Especially as children get older and become involved in sports and their own social lives, finding opportunities to just be with each other becomes more difficult. Sometimes, even though everyone is at home, each is engaged with one kind of screen or another so they might as well be miles apart. Computers, TVs, phones, game consoles, tablets, they all keep us entertained, but often in a solitary way. So, when Hallmark contacted me about participating in their BlogOut Challenge, I jumped at the chance.

The idea is a part of their Life is a Special Occasion campaign and encourages all of us to walk away from our screens for a day, or an afternoon, or even just a few hours and spend that time with our families. My family does spend a good deal of time together “doing things” so it’s not like we can’t disengage from our screens, but I will admit it can be a bit difficult. A lot of my work is online so the temptation to check things on my phone is overwhelming and when I find something that needs my attention it’s so very easy to pop open my laptop and take care of it while the kids play in the living room. I was definitely up for this challenge.

To get me started, they sent me a Hallmark Interactive Story Buddy and a Recordable Storybook for my two girls. The minute I took out the Story Buddy the kids were fascinated with her. We happened to receive Abigail, who is an adorable little plush bunny with a storybook all about how she wants to be a grown-up. You read the story out loud, and plush Abigail makes a comment after the last line on every page. I read this book to my kids, they read it to each other, and then they took turns reading it to every stuffed animal in their rooms. Even better, my oldest daughter figured out that it was the last sentence on the page that made Abigail speak, so she wrote her own little story to read and just inserted those lines to make Abigail talk.

We also spent an afternoon playing with the Recordable Storybook We’re Not Scared of Anything. The idea is for you, or your kids, to read the story and make a recording that will play as you turn the pages. You can do this as many times as you like, which has led to multiple recordings with all sorts of crazy voices. My job in this adventure was to make sound effects at all the right moments. I’m not sure we’ll ever have a finished version because every time they pull it out they have a new idea they want to test.

My initial plan was to spend an entire day free of screens, any of them, including my shiny new iPhone 4S, but this proved more difficult than I’d expected. So instead, we spent not one day, but several afternoons away from our screens. I found myself looking forward to a little scheduled one-on-one time with my family. In addition to playing with Abigail and the recordable book, we spent most of one afternoon cuddled in bed reading together. Another we made a fabulous disaster of the kitchen while decorating Halloween cookies. This weekend, we kept the kids up past their bedtimes playing their new favorite role-playing game, Mouse Guard, until we finally decided to be responsible parents and put them to bed.

We managed to take the idea of BlogOut and turn it into not just a single day, but something that we do nearly every afternoon. And really, that’s the idea, remembering to take time out from “life” to enjoy the everyday moments that make being a family special.

Get the GeekDad Books!