This week is an opportunity to try a family experiment and go screen free for better sleep.

It’s definitely a challenge to reduce, let alone eliminate, screen time. Yet, like all challenges, the screen free challenge reaps enormous benefits. Not just in terms of better, more consistent sleep. Going screen free can:

  • get you more productive
  • connect you with those you love
  • create lasting memories
  • start everyone in the family on the road to better habits

Isn’t all that worth a seven-day experiment?

We’re not talking about Little House on the Prairie zero screens, apps, or internet. Let’s be realistic! Our lives revolve around the internet and our kids have to check in on that homework portal at least five nights a week.

The screen free challenge is just for two to three hours a night. What Mark Ellis, the author of Digitox, describes as a “curfew”.  The family – or personal – screen curfew would begin after homework and end at “lights out”.

There are resources over at ScreenFree.org.  You’ll find events and activities in English, French, and Spanish for individuals, families, and educators. The Screen Free week is part of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, but we adults can benefit as much as the kids.  I am guilty of glomming out and watching television or scrolling through social media without intention or goals. This week is my opportunity to course-correct.

As with all challenges, it helps to have a plan. And personally, if I want to be successful a little built-in motivation in terms of fun or pleasure helps me. In fact, it helps me a LOT.

One of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats. – Iris Murdoch

Before we get into the outline of a plan for the week, decide what the limits will be. You can do that tonight. Make a decision to get phones, tablets, and TV’s out of the bedroom. Create a family “parking lot”. It doesn’t have to take much time. There are some tips from teachers at this link. Maintain screen free boundaries at the dinner table. Get used to saying “It can wait” to yourself and your kids.

Music Monday

I’ll be sitting down with some songbooks for ideas of new songs to learn. But if this isn’t your thing, you can try a few others.

Add some music to your clean-up time. Have a dance-off as you take out the garbage. See how slow or how fast or high or low or sharp or “curvy” you can make your movements.

These card decks/games look like genuine memory-makers. That is to say, Big Fun.

Vers, a free-style rap game

Songversations: Conversations about Music and Life is already in my shopping basket! This looks like so much fun for gatherings of family and friends.

Spontuneous: The Song Game looks like raucous fun for all ages. Just make sure you slow…it…down before that bedtime routine. You might undo all that sleep-supportive screen free time!

How about a family recital?

How many instrument lessons are going on in your home or have gone on in the past? Ever play or sing for each other? Why wait for the special recital? Tonight’s the night and I guarantee you won’t miss two hours of TV or gaming.

You could even learn a new instrument. The harmonica, or ukulele take practice to master, but not that much work for instant gratification. Then you get into a positive feedback loop in terms of satisfaction and and accomplishment. You can pick up a ukulele that works for less than $30 at a thrift store. But still, sometimes a super cool beginner set like this one complete with gig bag and amps is appealing and even inspiring. You’ll have everything you need to “play out”, as they say.

There was a time when I had to get to know ukulele chords for a class I was teaching super fast. This book, 21 Songs in 6 Days was helpful and so much fun. I can personally recommend it as a resource. When I invest in myself by learning something, I know it will pay dividends for years to come. Not only in terms of personal pleasure, but as a model for the next generation.

Travel Tuesday

Tonight’s the night you start to dream about places you’d like to visit. It might take some preparation, but not much. Go to the library and take out some guidebooks from the “travel section”. Then creatively daydream about where you’d like to go. What would you take with you? How would you get there? Where would you stay? What would be your favorite activities? Who would you really like to visit?

You can also use this as a time to declutter and make a vision board for travel but cutting out pictures from magazines. Create a vision board. Who knows where it can lead?

And while I haven’t tried this particular board game, it looks awesome! It’s an inter-generational board game dedicated to US National Parks. Geography, history, and animal life altogether.

You know…I have a hunch that this screen free week might not just help to get everyone better sleep, but it could help with better grades.

Wonder Wednesday

Couldn’t we all use a bit more “wonder” in our lives? The world is filled with miracles. We just have to tap into them.

Here are a few ideas to get your started:

Put a blanket in the back yard or park or roof, lie on it and gaze at the stars

Plant a seed to start a home garden or re-grow some of your food. “Wonder” how it’s done? This link will show you how. It’s really quite amazing to get several “new” heads of romaine or celery from that one purchase.

There’s nothing that generates more wonder than sprouting seeds and growing your own vegetables. I adore this seed pot maker that lets me create my own seed starter “pots” with newspaper. For the first time, I’ve started my peas, kale, and even tomatoes in newspaper “pots”. Makes transplanting so easy.

Wonder what goes into your favorite restaurant meals? Try some “copycat” recipes. I’ve made Mary’s Gluten-Free Gone Crackers, saved money and plastic. The first batch didn’t have that crispiness I was looking for, but they were still delish. This book has lots of recipes. Research tonight, cook another night, and you’ve got two screen-free nights under your belt.

Thoughtful Thursday

  • Write genuine snail-mail letters to family members, friends, and people who might be overlooked.
  • Brainstorm random acts of kindness, organizations you can support and how you might support them
  • Practice gratitude. This post has some ideas including a free download of ways to make gratitude a habit.

Fiddlin’ Around Friday

Try just fiddlin’ around. Set a timer and have people go off and do what they want. Play old-school games outside like hop scotch, jump rope, sardines. Tell jokes and funny stories, read comic books. Do some doodles. Fiddlin’ around can lead to Fix-it Friday. Make a pile of items that need fixing, put on a favorite podcast and feel really great by the time it’s lights out.

Structure Saturday AND Sunny Saturday

Have a family meeting or personal assessment about what worked and what didn’t this past week. Plan your next week together including meals and chores. Don’t forget to plan for fun! As you plan and evaluate, make a list of outdoor activities. Then…

Get outside, even if it’s raining and even if it’s for 20 minutes.

Do some dreaming and set some intentions about what you’d like to do on…

Sabbath Sunday

This is an individual decision. But personally, I think after a week of screen-free time, setting intentional screen time is in order. But rather than “watch TV” or gaming, how about looking at a schedule and deciding you’d like to catch up on the news by watching C-SPAN’s real-time events. A particular movie – even intentional binge watching is ok.

One of my favorite things to do is to see what DVDs have ended up at the local Goodwill or thrift store. You can pick one up for $4 or less. There are even great exercise DVD’s.

And here’s the thing: it’s an experiment. If you only make through one night of going screen free, you’ve accomplished something huge. Give yourself a pat on the back. 


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