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building birdhouses in our souls

TV face, circa spring 2011

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is running Screen-Free Week from April 30th to May 6th. I love this idea! When we got rid of cable, it became much easier not to turn on the television. While we still do look forward to watching a movie some weekend nights, we consider it a special treat and not the order of the day.

In my childhood summer camp days, we would complete a “No TV Challenge” for a week, and the participants would enjoy a popsicle on the high meadow at the end as our reward. The challenge started as just no TV, and then as I got older and Nintendos and Game Boys made their way on the scene (I realize I’m aging myself by writing that), the challenge’s ante was upped to cut out all electronic entertainment devices for a week; it was “screen-free week,” only we didn’t call it that back then.

Another version of “TV face”

I LOVED my screen-free week as a child. It was a wonderful experience that gave me a proud sense of accomplishment, not always an easy feat for a nine-year-old. And there wasn’t much I wouldn’t have done for a popsicle back then. Looking back, it was the kind of popsicle I wouldn’t eat today if you paid me; the skinny ones that always seemed to have a slimy goo on them that caused them to stick to the wrapper. What was that all about? But the treat probably didn’t matter; it was the grown-up handing me the popsicle and saying “I’m proud of you” that really counted.

I’m sad to say that the camp no longer runs the “No TV Challenge,” simply because today’s children are so attached to their electronic devices that they cannot imagine life without them and refuse to participate. I don’t mean to sound like Andy Rooney when I say I think it’s a mistake for my generation to allow our children to become reliant on electronic stimulation for fun. There is a considerable amount of research pointing to boredom as a necessary part of creativity development.

That’s not to say that cutting out TV means that your child will always be bored. I present to you one of our favorite ways to stave off cabin fever on rainy days (our biggest pull to the TV): an afternoon dance party! (See video evidence here).

Sorry for my terrible action photography 

I crank up the music and break out the silky scarves, and the girls love to get jiggy on the living room rug. And yes, I plan to use the already outdated expression “get jiggy” when I beg them to come dance with me once they become moody teenagers. I figure when you know the answer will be no, you might as well go all out, right?

Often I just play the same music I listen to when I’m working out, techno and top 40 pop music. When Vivi requests “ballet music,” I put on a collection of classical music I got at a very reasonable price on iTunes, I think it’s called “The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music.” A side effect of this classical music trend is that I am finally learning the names and composers for all the songs I recognize but can’t quite pinpoint. I miss my BBC classical radio station, the best ever.

I’ve also discovered a great source of music in rentals from our library. We check out a good four or five CDs a week, so I’m amassing quite a collection of kids’ music. Some get nixed as soon as I turn them on for being obnoxious or just plain bad, but I find that there are quite a few great choices that I can easily stomach if not actually enjoy. NPR is taking a backseat to kids music in the car these days, but I have a feeling their daddy will nix that trend now that he’s home.

My favorite band coming up with great music for kids is They Might Be Giants. If you didn’t catch that connection from my title (a riff on one of their popular tunes), perhaps you haven’t heard of their great kids music collection: Here Come the ABCs (favorite!), Here Come The 123s, and Here Comes Science. They published DVDs in addition to CDs, and the videos accompanying the songs are fantastic, albeit slightly hypnotic and addictive. Seriously, kids’ music that is addictive! I kid you not.

Here are some other music I like for the kids:

Did I miss any of your favorites? Spill ’em!

Editor’s note: This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday, Seasonal Celebration Sunday, Natural Parenting Group’s Monday Blog Hop, and the Homestead Barn Hop

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