When our TV died it was an unexpected bonus for our family.

Sofia The First and Dora The Explorer were favourites of our two preschoolers. Almost as popular were the shows that preceded and followed them – Mickey Mouse Club and Spongebob Squarepants and Handy Manny. Beth (4) and Josh (2) would sit mesmerised in front of the TV for many hours each week. And to be honest, I appreciated Dora for her excellent babysitting skills. The shows were educational too, we told ourselves whenever twinges of guilt arose.

We realised something had gone terribly wrong, however, one day last November when the old television set died.

Suddenly the kids had no TV. They became quite cranky, almost like addicts in the throes of withdrawal.

My wife and I soon realised that the telly had become an obsession in their lives, and possibly ours. Like so many other twenty-first century families our family had fallen victim to digital games and kids’ TV programming.

The Negative Effects On TV

The bad effects on our kids had actually been evident for several months, but we hadn’t wanted to admit it. Probably the electronic babysitter was just too convenient. Now we had the opportunity to take stock of the situation, and as parents we realised we were not featuring so highly in our children’s lives. They were talking to us less, and finding it hard to pay attention to us. Not only that, but they were turning into mini couch potatoes, and grumbling when we suggested some good healthy exercise like going for a walk.

The kids were certainly learning something from these educational programs (at least we assumed they were) but it was passive learning. We decided the negative effects of TV were outweighing the positive…

What to do? After some discussion, we made the (for us) rather radical decision to leave the TV broken for a while.

We’d see if the family could survive the deprivation for a few months, and whether it would leave us better or worse off… We realised there would be some challenges ahead. Our budget wouldn’t stretch to a preschool, and so we’d actually have to start planning and designing some educational activities to fill the gap. And – you guessed it – Mum would need to be the chief teacher.

From a friend who was a trained teacher I’d heard about “play-based learning”. I googled the term and discovered that masses of research has been done on the subject. In fact “many believe that it is impossible to disentangle children’s play, learning and development”.

I became aware that play-based learning was on the rise, as other parents too had despaired of the culture of violent video and passive TV watching.

Within weeks I had become hooked on it. It seems so obvious to me now, but finally I was having quality time with my own children!

Learning became fun for all of us. We began to structure our day, doing the indoor stuff in the mornings when the kids and I were fresh.  We might make play dough together, and talk about why we had to put so much salt in it. They might build towers with Legos and we’d analyse why some towers were more stable than others. We might make bubble liquid out of dish detergent, and talk about what held the bubbles together while happily blowing them round the porch. We might play a simple card game like “Stop the Bus”, in which they had to count the values of the pips. We might make puppets out of paper lunch bags and decorate them to look like animals.

The internet was a mine of information when it came to suggestions for inexpensive, creative learning experiences using ordinary materials found in the home (the things you can do with egg cartons!).

After lunch the kids had to stay in their rooms to “rest” for an hour or so. They could “read” their books or do whatever quiet thing they wanted, as long as they stayed in their rooms until the little hand was on two and the big hand was on twelve (this was my sanity time).

Nature Time

Then we’d have a snack and go for a walk outdoors, talking about the natural world we encountered, naming the flowers, trees and birds we spotted, talking about the colours of things and even the weather, As the children and I discovered, loitering could be fun!. When we spotted a hedgehog we talked about it, and when we got home we googled it to learn more.

Well, we eventually bought another TV set. But today the rule in our house is no more than 30 minutes of TV per day.

The rest of the time we play and learn together – and we’re having a ball!

Written by Jim Kim, based on his family’s real experience.
Jim Kim is chief player of Spielgaben, re-engineered version of the first-ever educational toy developed by founder of kindergarten. Spielgaben’s sole mission is putting education and play back into the hands of parents.

  • Apart from Motorsport I don’t watch as much TV as I used to.
    Our Dad wouldn’t let us have a TV until we had finished school. (We had to do our school homework to study and make sure we passed our exams at the end of the school year). The only time we watched TV was when we visited relatives on some Saturdays, usually at night. My Dad and my Uncle liked watching one particular show so my cousin, my brother used to watch the earlier shows before the guys watched what they always watched.

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  • When our tv broke we streamed content via the iPad – the addiction was too hard to break! ????

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  • I think I have an addiction to tv myself and my phone! My phone was broken for a week and i was not coping at all. Which is sad but I like my technology. But I will try to encourage my kids with other activities than just tv and iPad.

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  • The more I read this story the more I become confused …am I right that this story was written by Jim Kim …Written by Jim Kim, based on his family’s real experience.
    Jim Kim is chief player of Spielgaben, re-engineered version of the first-ever educational toy developed by founder of kindergarten. Spielgaben’s sole mission is putting education and play back into the hands of parent.
    Spielgaben’s have some pretty developed educational equipment with a nice price tag ..wondering when he left the bubble blowing behind him and developed this company.

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  • We love tv! But all in balance with outside and other play too.

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  • It’s amazing what you are doing with your kids. :-)
    Yes, we would survive too. We watch a couple of series together as a family , but not much more.
    It would be different though if we were to be without Internet for a while. ;-)

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  • It is a pity TV has became so common in people’s houses. My grand daughter comes over and finds it hard not having a TV here. Even though she comes with her tablet I still do not believe she needs to watch or play with it, she is only 3. My children have never watched TV and do not miss it. The adult ones do now watch it a lot more. The ones at home have other things to do instead. I have had letters home from teachers wanting to know why I will not allow my children to watch TV, that is something we do. Yes not watching it can mean you do not know somethings. Still remember being at school and being asked to write something about “Tom and Jerry” I had no idea it was a cat and mouse show.

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  • We don’t watch much tv so we’d cope fine.

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  • When our tv would brake down, it would be more missed by my husband then my kids !

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  • When I was a kid, we had no tv for a few years. The worst bit was going to school and listening to everyone else talk about what they watched last night. We often have power outages so my kids have to go without tv regularly too

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  • I think mine could live without tv but if I took their ipads and technology away they really wouldn’t cope which is sad really.

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  • You get so use to watching telly but you can live without it!

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  • We have a lot of power outages, so entertainment without electricity is always on our agenda I don’t find it too difficult, I think the kids actually really enjoy it when we lose power

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  • Kids rather be doing something else but too many time parent plonk their kids in front of the tv .. for time out .. Great ideas
    Thanks for sharing

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  • That is great that you learnt to limit your TV from a broken TV. I have always set limits too for my kids when they were little. Now that they are older they watch what they like but find that they are not that interested in TV shows. Bonus.

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