Browsing Tag

children and television

Parenting, TV and Media, Waldorf Education

Screen-Free Week: Pulling the Plugs

Below is a re-post of a piece I wrote for TV-Turnoff Week about my family’s experience pulling the plug many years ago. In recent years, TV-Turnoff Week has evolved into “Screen-Free Week.”

From the Screen-Free Week‘s website:

Screen-Free Week is an annual celebration where children, families, schools, and communities turn off screens and turn on life. Instead of relying on screens for entertainment, participants read, daydream, explore, enjoy nature, and enjoy spending time with family and friends.

Since we rarely watch TV, the challenge for us this year will be turning off our computers! Impossible for me now that I own an internet business. But eager to participate,  I am committing to no Facebook, Twitter or recreational use of the computer for the week.

I hope my story will inspire you to join me!

TV-TURNOFF WEEK: PULLING THE PLUG

Twenty years ago, I was a young mother living in Hollywood, the media capital of the world. My husband Max worked in the entertainment industry, and I had been an actress prior to my son Harper’s birth. We were a family immersed in the culture of media.

During Harper’s early years, I was clueless about the effect of media on young children. I never questioned the effect of TV viewing on his developing brain. After all, he only watched “educational” shows on PBS and family-friendly videos, like Disney movies. He loved them! What could be wrong with that?

TV-Turnoff-Week

When he was four years old, I visited the Pasadena Waldorf School and became enchanted by what I saw. Intuitively, I knew that this was a healthy environment for children. I began to research and to learn as much about Waldorf education as I could.

I learned that Waldorf educators strongly discouraged TV and electronic media viewing by young children. This was a novel idea to me, but as I read more about the effect of media on children’s brain development, I started questioning the wisdom of continuing to allow Harper to sit in front of a screen for hours a day. But how, I wondered, would I get through my days without the electronic babysitter? How would I get dinner made? How would I take a shower? It didn’t help that Max was not convinced that TV, in moderation, was a harmful thing.

In April of that year, I learned about TV-Turnoff Week—a week in April during which families are encouraged to turn off their TVs for a week. I decided to give it a try to see if we could survive a week with no TV. At the beginning of the week, I shut the doors to the TV cabinet and hid the remote.

I would be lying if I said it was easy. Harper and I both experienced withdrawal symptoms. On the first couple of days, Harper would ask for Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Why, he pleaded, couldn’t he watch Peter Pan? I told him the TV was “resting” for a few days, and endured his whining with resolve. Silently, I wondered if I would last the week, feeling like he suddenly needed my constant attention. It was so much easier make dinner and straighten the house when I could just pop in Mary Poppins.

During the week, I decided to invest in some new art supplies. I bought stacks of drawing paper, and new sets of beeswax crayons and colored pencils. Then by day four, I witnessed a miracle. The whining stopped. I watched in awe as Harper became engrossed in drawing. Almost overnight, I saw his drawings transform from immature scribbles into representational images. Suddenly he was drawing pictures of pirate ships, castles, knights and dragons. He would sit at the little table in his room and draw picture after picture. Prior to this, I didn’t think he had the capacity to sit and focus for so long.

The drawing continued through long periods during days five and six. I could prepare dinner again while he was happily occupied, with the TV still hidden in the dark cabinet. I wouldn’t have believed it possible! When he wasn’t drawing, he became more interested in building with blocks and playing with puzzles.

I never anticipated such a dramatic change in only a week. By day seven, both my husband and I were convinced that there was no good reason to turn the TV back on. As Max said by the end of the week, “I guess it certainly couldn’t hurt to live without TV.”

We never threw our TV away, though many times I wished we could! Max continued to write about media and could not give up being able to watch World Series baseball. But it stayed turned off most of the time while my two boys were growing up. Though they often complained and questioned why we didn’t watch TV like other families did, Harper has, on more than one occasion, thanked me for not allowing them to watch when they were younger. As teenagers, they watch TV occasionally and enjoy it, but I am convinced that not having spent their childhoods parked in front of screens allowed them to become the creative and resourceful young adults they are now.

Incidentally, Harper has decided to return to his Hollywood roots and is now a college freshman studying filmmaking.

tv

Screen-Free Week 2017 is May 1-7.

For more information, help and encouragement:

Screen-Free Week

101 TV-Free Alternatives

Unplugged Family Activities

Will your family commit to participating in Screen-Free Week this year? Share your challenges and successes here!

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Childhood, Parenting, TV and Media, Waldorf Education

Weekend Reading

Well, September 1 has come and gone. It was the date I had hoped to get the new and improved Bella Luna Toys website live. I didn’t make my original goal, but I am determined to open its doors to you before the month is over.

Plugging away around-the-clock, as I am—editing product descriptions, uploading photos, and adding scores of new natural Waldorf toys—has left me with very little time to do much writing. (Even though I have dozens of ideas percolating!)

In the meantime, I thought I’d leave you with some interesting reading for the long weekend. Here are a few of my favorite blog posts from the past week on the themes of childhood and parenting.

Did you know that spanking is illegal in Sweden?

spanking Sweden

Photo by Linda Aslund

Today on her blog Not Just Cute, Amanda Morgan writes about Sweden’s anti-spanking laws, and offers gentle suggestions for positive discipline (that won’t require calling in law enforcement officials!).

No Spanking in Sweden

Watch What You Say! Young Children Affected by “Racy Talk.”

One of my favorite sites focused on children and media (and my favorite guide for learning what movies may not be appropriate for children and teens) is Common Sense Media. This week, Caroline Knorr addresses a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that determined that “racy talk” and suggestive innuendo doesn’t go over young children’s heads. (Another pet peeve of mine when it comes to Disney movies.)

Racy Talk: Kids Are Listening (and Learning)

Are Our Fears Making Us Crazy?

Another of my favorite bloggers, Lenore Skenazy at Free Range Kids writes about the insane ways in which we behave, propelled by our fears of the all the possible dangers that are waiting to befall our children. On a lighter note, she addresses the absurd comment of a produce distributor that watermelon seeds could pose a choking hazard.

Kids! Watch Out! It’s — God Help Us — a Watermelon Seed!

And more seriously, she recounts a young man’s experience of being harshly and unfairly disciplined in high school for carrying a pocket knife. In his native Switzerland, it was customary for children to carry pocket knives to school. What, I wonder, would public school officials think about the many Waldorf early childhood teachers I know who give a pocket knife to each of their students on his or her sixth birthday? Call the spanking police, no doubt!

The Most Insane Zero Tolerance Story Yet

There you have it. Now I need to batten down the hatches in preparation for Tropical Storm Earl, which is scheduled to hit the coast of Maine this evening. I hope the weather is better where you are, and that your Labor Day weekend is full of play!

What blog posts have intrigued or inspired you this week? Please share your links!

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Giveaway, Homemaking, Parenting, Play, TV and Media, Waldorf Books, Waldorf Education

Making a Family Home by Shannon Honeybloom. Interview and Free Giveaway!

I became a fan of Shannon Honeybloom as soon as I first laid eyes on her beautiful book, Making a Family Home. Not only was I thrilled with its beautiful photographs and ideas on how families of young children can create a more beautiful, nurturing and rhythmic home life, but I was also amazed to learn how much Shannon and I have in common!

Not only do Shannon and I share backgrounds as actors, but we also have both authored books, gone to NYU, lived in Brooklyn, and received an M.S. in Waldorf Early Childhood Education from Sunbridge College in Spring Valley, NY. What are the chances? Though we have never met in person, Shannon feels like a soul sister to me (albeit a younger sister!).

Over the course of the past year, we’ve enjoyed a series of lovely e-mail exchanges. I told Shannon how much I wish her book had been available while I was teaching Waldorf Parent/Child classes. I would have liked to put a copy in the hands of every parent in my class. So naturally I was thrilled when Shannon offered a copy Making a Family Home as a giveaway to readers of Moon Child. I also thought it would be a great opportunity to introduce you to Shannon and get to know her a little better.

Making a Family Home

Shannon Honeybloom, Author of Making a Family Home

SARAH: You know that I am a big fan of your book Making a Family Home. Can you tell us what led you to write it?

SHANNON: When my first child was born, it was a really crazy time for me.  As any new parent knows, one’s world is instantly transformed when baby arrives! I was thrilled to be a mother, but I really had no idea about what it meant to be a mother and to raise children. I started to think about motherhood, caring for a family, and making a family home.  I realized that a happy, healthy home is so important for children, and gives them a strong foundation for their future success and happiness.

Those thoughts and concerns, that early confusion, and also exploring early childhood education and homemaking in a graduate program setting, all provided the spark for Making a Family Home.

SARAH: Can you tell us a little bit about your family and the rhythm of your days?

SHANNON: I have three children–two sons, ages 7 and 9, and a 4-year-old daughter.    They are all in school now, so that provides the big daily rhythm for us, and we tuck in other routines around it.

We wake in the mornings, and to make things easy and smooth, we have already picked out their clothes the night before.  After breakfast (something like pancakes, or on busier days, cereal with toast and fruit) we head off for school.

After school we try to keep extra activities to a minimum and really allow the children to play. Childhood is fleeting and the most important thing children can do is play freely.  Of course, we do have some scheduled activities. My older son loves to play golf, so we have a golf lesson, or a game now and then; and we have swimming lessons in the warmer months.

After dinner, the children get ready for bed.  Our bedtime routine is well established–we light a candle, read a book, say a verse, sing a lullaby, and lights out.  When days are busy and crazy, I treasure that quiet moment in the evening with my children.

SARAH: What effect do you think a child’s environment has on her behavior and sense of well-being?

SHANNON: Everything affects all of us, but children’s senses are especially sensitive to their environment.  Noise, temperature, color, texture, light, and smell all affect us in some way.  Creating a nurturing space for children is about paying attention to how the senses are affected in each moment.  If the television is blaring, if the colors and shapes are hard and garish, if the temperature is frigid, then all those things make us feel and act in certain ways.

If, on the other hand, a room is comfortable, relaxed, and quiet; if the light is gentle, the colors harmonious, and the furniture soft; then that affects us in a certain way, too.  We can bring consciousness to our homemaking in order to create a healthy environment for our children.

If we feel comfortable in our bodies, if our senses are nourished, if we are filled with a sense of well-being, then we are free to pursue our life’s work, whatever that may be!

SARAH: I’ve met many parents who express a desire to transform their home from a place of disorganized chaos to a more nurturing, rhythmic and peaceful environment. The task can seem daunting and overwhelming, and parents often don’t know where to begin. Are there three simple actions you can recommend to take as first steps?

  • Declutter/Simplify. Release stuff from your life and from your schedule, too.  Making a nurturing home is ultimately about nurturing the relationships in the home, it’s not about all the stuff you can buy.  Focus on the people in the home and not on the stuff.
  • Simplifying life goes hand-in-hand with de-cluttering. Try to simplify things just a little bit.  It’s hard these days–there is so much to do!  Try and cut back a little, and instead of always being on the run; stop, slow down and spend time with the people you love.
  • Unplug. Resisting the constant temptation of email, the computer, and cell phone is definitely a challenge for me, but the constant chatter of all these machines is not helpful if one is trying to live in the moment.  I try to find time to really unplug from these gadgets and simply be in the moment with the people I love.  Being with someone–a child or an adult–and showing interest in him or her, is a way to demonstrate your love. But if your interest and attention are always being pulled away by electronic gadgetry, then that is a loss.
  • Love. Which brings me to my last tip, love.  Making a nurturing home for your family is one way to express your love for them.

SARAH: What are you doing with your life right now? (Besides the important job of parenting!) Are you finding time to pursue acting?

SHANNON: I try to find time to write and act.  I have some really exciting acting projects right now; one is an independent film that is shooting in July.  What I do artistically nourishes me, and in turn, helps me to nourish my family.

SARAH: How do you juggle your various activities and keep balance in your life?

SHANNON: It’s not always easy, but I try.  I think just being aware of the importance of balance is a great start.  When things get crazy and hectic, I try to step back and slow down.  Right now I am enjoying yoga and that helps me to breathe and find a moment of peace amid life’s chaos.

SARAH: Is there anything new you’re working on? What is the best way for readers to keep abreast of your work?

SHANNON: I have some writing projects that I am working on in addition to the film project that I mentioned earlier.

SARAH: Thank you so much, Shannon, for sharing your time with us and for the wonderful gift of creating Making a Family Home!

Shannon Honeybloom

Win a Free Copy of Making a Family Home!

For a chance to win a free copy of Making a Family Home, simply leave a comment before Monday, July 12 at 8 a.m. EST, at which time I will close the comments and select a winner at random from all the entries received.

For a multiple chances to win, please spread the word about this giveaway! Blog about it, Tweet about it, or share it on Facebook. Leave additional comments noting each action taken.

The Giveaway is open to all, but a winner outside of the continental U.S will be responsible for shipping charges.

Lots of luck!

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