Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We Don't Grow Couch Potatoes

Time for a true confession: we are TV minimalists.

Part of our parenting is to set limits on "screen time" for both television and the computer. We don't have a Wii or other video game systems, either. We've made that as a conscious choice, not because we think those things are evil or anything... just because we recognize that electronics can sometimes be time-suckers. If you're not careful, it can be easy to lose yourself in a game for longer than you want.

(My husband, for instance, went over to his brother's house last night to pick something up "real quick" and came back 45 minutes later. "Sorry," he admitted, "I got drawn into a game of Lego StarWars." I laughed.)

Video games have a way of bringing out the geeky teenager in a man.

But, I digress. We do set limits on television in our home, and we only let our children watch programs that we approve. There is some great, fun programming out there for kids. There is also some awful stuff masquerading as children's programming. We find it best to make our best choices and pass them along to our kids.

Some choices are no-brainers.

The Cartoon Network is out.

PBS Kids is in.
(My daughter actually will open our DVD cupboard and ask for a video by saying, "Can I watch some PBS kids?")

On PBS, our favorites are DragonTales, Word World, Arthur, CyberChase, and Design Squad. On the weekends, the kids might choose Thomas & Friends (an old favorite) or Anamalia (a new favorite.) It makes me chuckle to think that my boys also like Wishbone, a program that was on when I was growing up. (No, I would never share that... it would be instant poison for poor Wishbone.)

I love programs that have a language-component. So, I will let the kids watch Dora the Explorer and Go! Diego, Go! or Kai-Lin on Nickelodeon. We also love the music and imagination of The Backyardigans and WonderPets. They are fun programs that allow my children to stay in tough with their silly streak (without constantly relying on potty humor for a laugh a la CN.)

What I find as I parent is that my husband and I have different standards about television programs. I like more 'gentle' programs that teach a lesson. He's more, well, edgy -- especially with what he will let the boys watch. I remember him excitedly saying one rainy Saturday that there was a Loony Tunes marathon on. Thus, my children were introduced to cartoon characters with dynamite and animals hitting each other with 2x4s.

"Dad sure likes fun stuff!" my son observed, approvingly. Yep, he sure does. Thank goodness for Daddy, I thought. I mean, a childhood without Loony Tunes, is hardly American, right?

Because we aren't crazy about advertisements, we rely a lot on DVDs. (My daughter frequently gets angry about ads, because she wants her program back. I feel her pain.) Our video collection includes Franklin videos, Blues Clues, Dora, Winnie the Pooh, Bambi, and the Nick Jr. Favorites videos with one episode each of 4 or 5 different series. We also have Disney movies galore -- great for rainy afternoons!

Our collection is decidedly on the preschooler side of the age spectrum. I don't mind, because as my guys have gotten older, they have been less interested in watching a 30 minute video and more excited about having a Friday night Movie Night.

Ours usually look like this.

We do have a ball, I must admit.

But, I like to avoid this as much as possible.

(She's zoned out in front of Backyardigans.)

I take the fetal position as a sign that TV time needs to come to an end. Life is too precious to let it slip by while you're inside watching television. Today, the weather will get up to 70 degrees where we live, so we've got some serious outside playtime ahead!

Our TV-watching principles can be summed up like this:

~ Set Time Limits for Viewing

~ Make Choices that Reflect Your Parenting

~ Offer a Variety of Programs

~ Avoid Advertising when Possible, and

~ Don't let TV get in the way of Living LIFE!

Good luck making your own choices. The role television plays in your family life is up to you.

- Midwest Mom


  1. I hear you. As soon as I realized my daughter is getting so cozy with the TV I took her to the library LOL and we opened her own card LOL
    I love for her to spend as much time outdoors as possible, to read, to draw and play just not to sit on the couch and be glued to the TV :)

    Cute pictures BTW :)

  2. Good job!!! I did the same with mine but that was before computers (hard to believe we didn't get one til the kids were in jr. high) Mine were hooked on the Swiss Family Robinson video, that and The Sound of Music - the latter so much so I about vomit from the music anymore. We wore OUT two tapes of it! You are doing a great job at a time when its getting increasing hard to parent! KUDOS - I'm so glad I'm done.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more on the TV. My girls LOVE PBS Kids and will ask for that over Nick Jr most of the time. I'm so glad warm weather is here so we can be outside more.

  4. Oh yeah--it's okay in small doses, but not as a substitute for DOING. Love your post title!

  5. It sounds like we have similar taste in childrens TV. I also side with your husband. We have a DVD of Tom and Jerry the girls absolutely love.

    We're soaking up the breaks in the weather right now. Outside as much as we can be.


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