Tuning Out

Alternatives to watching television

by jessica fisher

I was a TV junkie in a family of TV junkies. As soon as I learned to read, I made perusing the TV listings a regular habit, highlighting my viewing choices for all 24 hours of all 7 days of the following week. Our home held four televisions each with its own VCR to tape the shows we missed. I can still name all the Brady kids and sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. TV was a way of life in my childhood home.

So it came as a surprise to my parents that my husband and I chose not to add a television set to our newlywed household. We had decided to try spending our time differently. It took some getting used to – especially for my parents. During visits to our home, my dad didn’t know what to do with his time – until he started mowing our lawn – every time he visited! Overall, my husband and I learned to read, to talk, to laugh more – together. Thirteen years and five kids later, we continue to live a happy existence without television programming.

Many people, wiser than I, have expounded on the detriments of television and why your family should watch less. I’ll leave the debating to them. But, I can attest to the fact that there is life without TV! Should you choose to bid adieu to television or even if you just want to add a little spice to your family life, here are some great alternatives to watching the Boob Tube.

Take a walk. It’s amazing how life’s pace seems to slow down when one uses the feet. Many areas and subdivisions have walking paths. Explore these as a family. Take a bag along to collect stones, leaves, flowers, or creepy crawlies. Literally, stop and smell the roses.

Read a book. Reading a chapter book together as a family is a great shared experience at the same time as a great way to improve listening skills. Our family has fond memories of reading through The Chronicles of Narnia as well as The Little House on the Prairie series. Peruse The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease for book suggestions as well as a primer on the benefits of reading aloud.

Bake someone happy. Dig out the cookbooks and gather the kids around the table. Let each child choose a recipe and prepare it together as a family. Whether it is chocolate chip cookies or chicken pot pies that you whip up, you’re sure to enjoy food, fellowship, and fun with your kids.

Play a game. Dust off Monopoly or invest in a new game. (Our family favorite is Blokus.) Try a different game each night that you would normally be watching a show. Set yourselves up in tournament play and have a big celebration at the end of the week.

Explore your city. Now that winter is receding into the past, it’s a great time to get out and about. Visit the zoo or catch a production at your local theatre. Catch a baseball game. Tour your local museum. Use your freer time to see all that your city has to offer you in the way of art, entertainment and culture.

Plant a garden. Children love to garden and you’ll find digging in the dirt to be very therapeutic. Check out some library books on the subject and plan a garden. You don’t need a lot of space, even some potted plants on the back deck will do. The sun, air, and dirt will be good for your souls.

Visit with the neighbors. We live in a culture that is increasingly private. New homes no longer feature front porches, the entertainment of years gone by. They seem to have disappeared from our architecture right around the same time that TV became popular. Hmmm….. Grab a lawn chair and a glass of iced tea and sit out front. Supply the kids with bubbles or sidewalk chalk and draw your neighbors outside. The kids will enjoy playing with their buddies and you can catch up with their parents. You may find that you have more in common than you thought.

Ride a bike. Equip yourself and the kids with proper safety equipment and hit the road. You’ll appreciate the wind in your face and the cardiovascular workout for your heart. Your family will enjoy the time spent together as well as the road races. Don’t forget to check out the local bike trails!

Build a fort. A dad we know salvaged multiple appliance boxes and crafted a huge castle, complete with a working drawbridge. What a fun way to spend time with the kids and let them exercise their imaginations! My husband has performed cardboard art as well, his creative juices producing a huge pirate ship. But, you don’t have to go to great lengths to make a fun hideaway – a few chairs and blankets will do. The important part is to join your children in creativity and role playing.

Visit your local park, beach, or lake. There is bound to be some unique outdoor spot just waiting for you and your kiddos to explore. Pack a picnic dinner and relax. Breathe in the fresh air. Laugh with your children. Run races. Be a kid again.

Savor the moments, they pass quickly. You’ll find that a life without TV really is worth living. You’ll reconnect as a family. You’ll discover new amusements that you hadn’t thought about. And if you’re still struggling with what to do with your time, I’ve got a lawn you can mow. SFM

Jessica Fisher is a wife and mother of six children, making her home near San Diego. For more of her tips on family fun and home management, visit her on the web at www.lifeasmom.com.