The No TV Challenge: A Day With No Screen Time

Let me be honest for a sec, here.

Between winter and Noah’s birth, Liam watched way more television than I’m comfortable with in the past few months. But, to be perfectly honest, it’s really all about survival the first three months. All moms know that.

And that’s what we did… Survived.

Now that spring is in full bloom (finally!), we’ve been doing our best to get as much outdoor play in as possible: baby pool and slide, water table, practicing soccer drills, working on our vegetable garden… But, when it’s a little chilly or rainy out and we are forced to go back inside for the day, I make sure to have activities lined up so we aren’t tempted to rely on the TV. Because, at the end of the day, it’s too easy to become dependent on it.

What I ended up realizing is that, most of the time, I put Liam in front of the TV out of convenience for me, not for him. And unless it’s 100% necessary, that shouldn’t be the case. I’m not saying I will never do it, but unless there’s something else that deserves my undivided attention, there are tons of other activities we could be doing instead.

Weekly, I’ll be sharing with you our “No TV Challenge”, or, in other words, how we got through a whole day without any screen time. And yes, that includes no games on our iPad, either. This will usually consist of three or four DIY activities, things that should keep your child entertained for at least 20-30 minutes.

On our first day going TV-less, this is what we did:

CRAFTS – After breakfast, I brought out the craft bin: scissors, construction paper, crayons, stamps, markers, stickers, play dough… I let Liam pick what he wanted to focus on that day, and we went with it: we stamped coloring book pages, made play dough snakes and snails, and gave these little dudes haircuts 🙂

All you need is a TP roll, a sharpie, and a pair of scissors

OUTSIDE PLAY – Liam helped me rake up pine needles and water the tomatoes and flowers in the yard. He ran around and played fetch with the dogs for a bit afterwards.

TOOL FUN – Liam has an obsession with his daddy’s tools. When he sees him working on a project, he always wants to help. So I decided to let him play around a bit and set up the two activities below:

A cardboard box, screws (flat tip, to avoid pricks), and a toy hammer
A piece of cardboard, a nail, and a screwdriver

Liam had a blast with both activities, and insisted on doing them himself. He didn’t even ask for TV once. Mom win!

The day went so well that it gave me the confidence to go TV-less the day after, and the day after, and the day after. Yes, it’s a lot of work to constantly entertain a toddler, but if you pick the right activities, he entertains himself.

Like I said before, I’ll be sharing fun DIY projects and activities every week to give other mamas trying to reduce screen time some much needed ideas to go to TV-less. We all need the inspo!

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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