We are now over five weeks into our experiment of no electronics for my kids. How are they doing? Short answer: They are thriving. Long answer: Keep reading.
If you missed my earlier posts on this topic, please go back and read about why I decided to have my kids avoid electronics this summer, and how we’ve gone about it. Then come back here and read the update. We’ll wait.
Now, as I’ve said before, my daughter never spent any unusually large amount of time plugged into electronics, so she hasn’t really missed it that much, except for the occasional urge to watch a movie. My son is really the one for whom this experiment is being done. And he is continuing to do very well, coming up with activity ideas on his own, and spending a lot of time playing with his sister. Once in a while I will have to remind him of activity options, especially things he hasn’t played with in a while. But he takes suggestions well, and really gets into his play. Sometimes he gets so involved in his activities that he forgets to eat. He doesn’t forget to ask for food, but he’ll often sit with a plate of food in front of him for hours while he’s lost in a book. This goes against his usual behavior.
I’ve discovered that I’m starting to have a problem with them not having the option to use electronics. It can be frustrating at times. Occasionally I wish I could sit down and watch a movie with the kids. But I can’t. Or I find one or two (or ten) really neat educational websites that I want them to try out. But they can’t. And when my son was sick with a tummy thing, it was frustrating to not be able to put him down in front of a movie so he could just rest and take his mind off how he felt. He read a lot of books instead. And listened to records. That worked pretty well.
A few other great or frustrating experiences during the past few weeks include:
I introduced them to Calvin and Hobbes. There was much giggling and disappearing into books. They are both hooked. The humor suits my son perfectly, and very little goes over my daughter’s head.
I really wanted us to see the movie 1776 on July 4th, but we couldn’t. Fortunately, we are studying early modern history this year for school, so we will watch it in a few months anyway.
And with only three weeks to go, we pulled out the jigsaw puzzles. Particularly fun for the kids are the map ones, both the United States and the world puzzles. They’ve been peppering me with questions such as: what is the capital of Greenland, where are the Falkland Islands located, and of which continent the Seychelles are considered a part. I happily and dutifully look up this information if I don’t know the answers.
My kids still almost never say they are bored. And if they do, they say it more as a statement to themselves than a plea to me to entertain them or figure out what they should do. The thought of letting them watch a movie, or sit and play on a handheld device for a while seems positively indulgent at this point. I’m so used to these things being off limits for my kids. I know that when August hits, we will all get used to electronics being a regular part of their lives again, but I hope that none of us forget the lessons we have learned here. Especially the one about my kids learning to be self-sufficient for their own entertainment.
Both kids are fully committed to completing this experiment without a single day of electronics use. If you recall, I told them they could each have up to ten days during June and July where they could use electronics. I even made them punch cards. But my son finagled a deal where he’d get a (chocolate) prize if he went the whole time without using electronics, and I offered the same deal to my daughter (who has not yet chosen a prize category).
I used to be slightly relieved when they’d get involved in an electronic game or watch a movie. That was when I could get some undisturbed work done. These days they are good at entertaining themselves, but they also talk to me almost incessantly. This is wonderful and precious most of the time. But occasionally I need more than five minutes of undisturbed time. I work at home, and the kids are almost always here with me. You do the math.
I will write another update at the end of this experiment, and then likely a follow-up a few weeks or so after we reintroduce electronics in August. I don’t know that we’ll repeat this every summer, but we’ve all learned a lot about each other and ourselves during this process, so we’ll likely have a week now and then when the kids will go electronics-free again.