Browsing articles in "Uncategorized"

5 Great Adventures in a Cardboard Box

Aug 30, 2012   //   by Traci McGrath   //   Uncategorized  //  6 Comments

…I’m cooking dinner and eavesdropping on two jungle explorers who are fending off tigers on my back porch, based out of a big cardboard box which is their “explorer camp”. One is in a big blue hard hat, shooting arrows…and one is in a fireman hat, wearing gold medals he won this morning for flying to outer space…in the same cardboard box.  Both of them are dead serious.


At one point, the elder explorer comes in, out of breath, saying there were SO many tigers, they would need more help.  He says, (gesturing towards my husband, in the other room), “Please fetch that gentleman over there to help us wrestle this flock of tigers.” …Oh my.


The Cardboard box…is there a more open-ended toy to be a found?  The most ingenious ideas for box use will invariably come from simply leaving a child alone with the box (I’ve had to learn some humility in our house, as the best creations always come with no nudging from mama) but if you need some inspiration to keep that next cumbersome, corrugated friend that comes your way – these are just a few of the possibilities:

1.  A Toy House.  If you have boys, never fear, they love this, too.  My sons started one of these a few weeks ago, adding all sorts of things like food storage areas, garages, and pipes to carry water to the little bathroom they built upstairs.  For an artistic twist on this idea, check out Artful Parent’s cardboard dollhouse project.


2.  Pirate Ship (I saw one of these earlier this summer, but was disappointed that I was continually being taken hostage.  Go ahead and avoid this one if you can 🙂


3.  Go the the Moon!  (Sketching the planets and control system is big fun)



4.  Fort or Castle (a little scissor work helps here)




5.  Have a PARTY.  Amanda Grace Weldon of Free Range Learning suggests a “Bring Your Own Box” party.  Invite neighbors to bring a box and supply all the paints and tape necessary outside for everyone to create their own box masterpiece.  What a brilliant way to build community and inspire creativity.  More on the box party can be found here.


A little boredom plus a little cardboard can create childhood memories like those in this beautiful little film (from the Nokia Short Contest, 2011) — Enjoy!

The Adventures of a Cardboard Box from Studiocanoe on Vimeo.


Traci lives in the Austin, TX area with her husband and two little boys.  You can visit her blog, Educated for Love, or see the visual daily rhythm charts she makes at A Kid’s Day.

Turn, Turn, Turn

Aug 22, 2012   //   by Traci McGrath   //   Uncategorized  //  1 Comment

The current under-current of cool air has me thinking of Fall. And though I still have batches of salsa to make and green beans to freeze, I am feeling little waves of excitement when I think about the changes that September will bring. My oldest will be heading back to nursery school for a few mornings a week, and her little sister and I will be enjoying more one-on-one time (a rarity around here).

Now is the time to prepare for the transition back to school. As parents, there is so much that we can do to make that transition easier for the whole family. There are many wonderful resources to help you find the best backpack and prepare for that first day, and today I want to share a few tips for staying close when schedules start to take family members in different directions.

Draft a rhythm. First, think about what you need to pull off to get everyone out of the door on time. What can happen the night before to take the pressure off in the mornings? And, where can you build in some family time in the midst of getting ready for the day?

  • Family Pig Pile – everyone can pile into your bed to say good morning and talk about what’s coming up.
  • Breakfast Together – simple weekday breakfasts make it easier to sit down together to share your morning meal and talk about the day ahead.
  • Clean Up Game – make getting ready fun (and fast) with little touches you can all enjoy. Sing some silly songs or play their favorite music; say “yes” to more of their choices so they can feel excited about getting ready; celebrate with a quick game or the next chapter of a beloved book before you head out the door.

Be realistic. Decide now how you would like your afternoons to flow. How many after-school activities will be manageable? Don’t forget the incredible value of downtime for children. This is when they can rest, or just play and be free to use their imaginations. If its helpful, ask older children to create a list of both structured and unstructured after-school fun, and then choose 1-2 structured activities and several more unstructured that they will enjoy at home or in the neighborhood. This way, everyone decides together what will suit the entire family.

Make time to connect. Our children are finding their own way in this great big world, and as you may remember, that’s not always easy. The more time you all spend “hanging out” at home after school or on the weekends, the more opportunities your children will have to come to you when something is bothering them. A mom in one of my workshops remembered that her own mother always gave the kids a snack after school and then sat down to knit or read a book. She didn’t pester them for details of their day, but she was open and available to her children if they needed her. What daily rituals can you use to show your kids that “your door is always open?” If you need some help, check out these clever conversation starters.

While you’re enjoying these last weeks of summer, take some time to talk about these topics with your spouse or a friend. Imagine the best school year, with the perfect balance of independence and family time, then work strategically to make it a reality!


Allison Abramson is a wife, mother of two little girls and a Simplicity Parenting Group Leader, honored to support Rhode Island families seeking deeper connections to their loved ones and more fun everyday. Come along on the journey toward a simpler, more peaceful life!  You can enjoy more posts from Allison at her blog.

The #1 Parenting Strategy I Learned Teaching Public High School

Aug 8, 2012   //   by rayna   //   Uncategorized  //  8 Comments

As a relatively new mom of two boys ages three and five, I feel only minimally qualified to offer advice to other parents. After all, I’m a newbie at this, and as in all things parenting, I’m finding it’s a learn as you go type of thing. The road is winding, full of potholes and hairpin turns that too often distract us from the breathtaking scenery passing by all too quickly.

Today, I want to share with you what I think is the number one parenting strategy that makes the most difference when it comes to having better behaved children. Because my own are far from perfect – and, as I said, I myself am still learning – this advice doesn’t come from my role as a mother. Rather, it is based on the observations and conversations I’ve had during ten-plus years as an educator in New York public high schools.

Since 2000, I’ve had the opportunity to really watch and get to know over a thousand students and several hundred pairs of parents. I’ve talked with children in class, after school, and at lunch. I’ve listened as parents talked, cried, and sometimes yelled in conference rooms, over the phone and through email.  …And what I’ve discovered is that no matter the economic setting – urban, suburban, or rural – children often act out and rely on unhealthy behaviors when they feel in need of mindful parental attention.

This is true whether your child is seven or seventeen. It held true when I was teaching fifth graders in rural upstate New York; in an urban district where gang-mentality prevailed; and again in a suburban district where million dollar homes dotted the landscape.

In fact, it was in the latter that one of my students (considered “troubled”) said something that has stuck with me ever since: “My parents don’t love me; they love their business.” I’d talked with his parents – I knew this wasn’t true. But the point is, it didn’t have to be; it was all about his perception. His reality.

In my own life, I’ve found the correlation between mindful parental attention and positive child behavior to be so causative as to be almost statistical. I swear you could plot it on a chart! When I am too preoccupied to sit down, look my child in the eye, and really listen to what he’s saying and respond in kind, he acts out later. His frustration at not getting the attention he needs expresses itself in tears, anger, and sometimes larger attempts at, “Hey, listen to me! You’re the most important person in my life, and I want you to share in my excitement!”.

At the risk of oversimplifying (in cases of emotional disturbance and chemical dependence, always seek professional help), when children feel secure in their parents’ love and attention, they are less likely to look for it elsewhere.

Naturally, our children do need to learn to wait or occupy themselves while mom or dad finish a task. But we must also be mindful of our role as the main influence in our child’s life, the very sun around which her planet moves. Notice how even at the playground with you always in sight, she’ll still return to “check in”, even if that’s only shouting, “Hey, Mom!” as she blurs past to the swings.

The general rule for mindful attention is: it’s quality over quantity, but quantity matters too.

Here are some tips to help facilitate “the connection”.

1. Enter into your child’s world when he speaks. Most of the time, our children are listening to us – our directives, our words of wisdom, our recommendations. Dedicate some time each day listening to your child talk about what interests him – even if it is completely uninteresting to you.

2. Ask questions that show you are engaged. “How does your superpower work?” “How were you able to mold the clay into that shape?” and other child-centered questions help convey the idea that what they have to say has value.

3. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Make eye contact. Put aside the book or magazine. Turn away from the computer screen. Imagine, for a moment, that you’re talking to your adult friend, and try to accord your little one the same courtesy of true attention.

4. End the day on a listening note. If the only quiet time you have is bedtime, take advantage of the opportunity. If the day has been especially busy, I like to perch myself on the edge of my son’s bed and just listen. Everything seems to come out at night. They don’t want to sleep on anything either! But do set a limit (otherwise, you become the perfect way to procrastinate!).

5. Make down time listening time. I love to listen to the radio as I drive. So it’s hard for me to turn it off when my kids are in the car. But I’ve made it a rule to do so when I pick our older guy up from school. He’s full of news, and in the two minutes it takes to get home, he fills me in on a lot. When you’re giving your child a bath, waiting in line, or at a restaurant, train yourself to take the time to engage in real conversation. It is always worth it.


Rayna St. Pierre is a wife, mother, language enthusiast (speaks fluent Spanish!), and writer. She is passionate about her pursuit of a simple life with and for her children.  You can follow more of her writing at Bright Copper Kettles, her blog dedicated to celebrating days of simplicity, economy, elegance, and ease.

A campfire and nest, of course.

Aug 1, 2012   //   by Carrie   //   Uncategorized  //  2 Comments

One benefit of daylight savings is the amount of available sunlight after dinner. We have ivy growing on all the fences that border our house. So, the ivy always needs pruning. I wanted to spend time outside with the boys after dinner and not think about all the dishes, toys and other distractions pulling me back inside. So, I started pruning our ivy.

Very soon after I started pruning, L and C starting digging. When they start digging together they generate a huge hole in minutes. I think this hole pictured above took them about 5-7 minutes to complete. I had only pruned half of one fence length and I looked over to see them almost knee-deep in this hole.


I asked if they would mind helping me put the ivy in the yard waste bin. Usually, when there is a chance to gather, load and throw yard waste into the bin the boys are squealing and immediately get to work. This time though, they had another plan for the ivy. First they started collecting it into one big pile and then L grabbed a few long pieces of ivy and brought them over to the hole.

I wasn’t thrilled at first with their idea and I started to get frustrated. My intention for asking them to help pick the ivy up was to get the boys in the bath tub. I could feel myself start to roll with emotion. I was able to catch myself (this isn’t easy and doesn’t happen every time but I am really working on it) and instead of giving into my emotion I asked L a question “what is your plan?”  He said ” this is our campfire and now I am making a nest for us”. They weren’t done playing and creating yet.


Well, when I heard this explanation I took a deep breath and couldn’t help but smile. It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, I turned around to compose myself, realize that they will still take a bath and to think of a creative way to get the ivy picked up and all of us inside. When I turned back I found this…

Two sweet boys sleeping in their nest. After they made the nest they went back to work on their campfire.

They worked together placing the bricks, using the ivy as wood and fire and I cleaned up the ivy while they worked. We still found time to give the boys a bath and they were so proud of their campfire.

I am always surprised by what happens if I trust them when they are protesting. My boys really had a beautiful idea they wanted to finish and if I would have continued pushing my plan and emotion instead of giving them some space, the outcome of the evening would have been dramatically different.

I can’t wait to see what they dream up next. It is always an adventure, even in our backyard.


Carrie Browne is a nature-inspired, at-home mom to two curious, mud loving, on-the-move boys in Fullerton, CA. She loves trees, camping/backpacking, quilts and taking photographs. She is passionate about playing outside everyday and sharing her love of our natural world with her boys. You can read more about her families’ adventures, mama moments and messy days on her blog Curly Bug.

More Special than Bedtime.

Jul 24, 2012   //   by Carrie   //   Uncategorized  //  5 Comments

So, when it looks like bedtime is going to take longer than usual, I start to get anxious and everything starts to unravel quickly. Of course, I try to contain my anxiety but little ones can sense a change in emotion almost immediately.

The other night my husband was working late and wouldn’t be home until after the boys were asleep.

For us, the easiest way to put the boys to sleep is to give them each their own time with books and a few songs before the light goes off and they go to sleep. I finished with C and went to find L to start books and songs with him.

I actually found him outside cleaning up. I am serious and this has actually been a major issue for us the past couple nights. It was a great surprise.

Once we finished his clean up project outside it was time for books and stories. He was on his way to his room and was quickly distracted by some markers left on the floor in the playroom.

Immediately he found some paper, glue and markers and wanted to start an art project. I told him to put everything on the craft table and we would work on it when he woke up.  He put some of the items on the craft table and then carried some markers and paper into his room and said he really wanted to draw while I was reading him a book.

Well, for some reason I said yes. Probably because it was the end of the day and I reason and negotiate with him all day, I was out of creative persuading words to get him to drop the paper and markers and so, they came to bed with us.  I found a book for him to use as a table top on his lap. He was so proud and ready to draw in his bed.  C needed some extra help so I left L in his bed and went to find out what C needed.

I came back minutes later and L was already well on his way with his drawing. He asked me how to draw a heart. I showed him with my finger and then he followed my finger trace on his paper.

When he lifted up his hand I could see his drawing…a family portrait. This was the first family portrait he has ever drawn.

I stayed very quiet and just watched him draw. He asked me to go and get a couple other colors (brown, red, green) so he could finish his drawing.

As I was watching him draw and concentrate on each tree, blueberry bush and place everything right where he wanted it, I just couldn’t help but feel the flood of emotions that were there. I was in the middle of a very special moment and it was MUCH more special than bedtime.

I can’t wait to frame this.

Anyone else have a special circumstance that moved bedtime later than expected? I would love to hear your story.


Carrie Browne is a nature inspired at home mom to two curious, mud loving, on the move boys in Fullerton, CA. She loves trees, camping/backpacking, quilts and taking photographs. She is passionate about playing outside everyday and sharing her love of our natural world with her boys. You can read more about her families’ adventures, mama moments and messy days on her blog Curly Bug.

The Magnetic Powers of Mud.

Jul 9, 2012   //   by Carrie   //   Simple Environment, Simplicity Stories, Uncategorized  //  9 Comments

The requests by L started early in the morning. He was asking me if he could build a lake in our backyard. It was just one of those days where my energy level was not high enough to handle the idea and mess of mud play. I convinced him (which is no small feat in itself) to wait until the afternoon when we would have more time to clean up and I was hoping I would get a second wind.

He asked again when his brother took a nap…again I persuaded him into another activity. This is not our usual dance, more often than not I am willing and actually very happy to see my boys knee-deep in mud and enjoying themselves. For some reason I was resisting today.

The house was a disaster, it almost always is at the end of the day. My husband came home extra early so the quick clean up I sometimes attempt to do before he comes home didn’t happen yet…

It was so nice to see my husband so early in the evening. We were talking, cleaning up the house, making dinner together and the boys were playing outside. All was pleasant and just when I was thinking “wow, the boys are really playing well together I don’t hear much”…

I hear them announce “hello, your pigs are coming to say hello!” at our back slider door.

Oh My Gosh! …It was all that came out. My boys were absolutely covered in mud. They were very happy and oinking like pigs. They were proud of their muddy bodies and wanted to show us how much fun they were having.

I went from shocked to angry to adoring in less than 5 seconds. As they crawled back to their mud pit I followed…

and found out why they were so muddy. They were slamming shovels into the lake mud pit, spraying mud all over our house, themselves and really just everywhere.

We were well beyond the point of no return. It was futile for me to get angry at all the things wrong with this moment…they were so happy.

L was giving me suggestions all day about this moment. The mud was calling him and I finally needed to just listen and enjoy.

I can tell you that the main reason I could have perspective during this moment is because my husband was home.

Spraying off mud-caked wiggling boys with a garden hose and then loading dripping with mud boys in the bath, washing hair with screaming revved up boys, spraying mud off the house, cleaning the mud-caked hose, sweeping and mopping muddy footprints away and making sure dinner isn’t burning is all a lot easier to do with another working adult present.

Ahhh the mud…I know this scenario will play out again, our mud really does have magnetic powers.


Carrie Browne is a nature inspired at home mom to two curious, mud loving, on the move boys in Fullerton, CA. She loves trees, camping/backpacking, quilts and taking photographs. She is passionate about playing outside everyday and sharing her love of our natural world with her boys. You can read more about her families’ adventures, mama moments and messy days on her blog Curly Bug.

Healthy Snack Options for Your Kids

Jun 19, 2012   //   by Kiera Campbell   //   Nourishing Food, Uncategorized  //  1 Comment

A Ring Ding and a box of cookies are convenient snack staples for many kids.  After all, all they have to do is to tear the package and put the sugary treats in their mouths.  But if you are conscientious about the health of your kids and you want to instill healthy eating habits at a young age, then avoid giving a lot of junk foods as snacks.


Try these incredible healthy and easy-to-make snack ideas for children:

1. Spread hummus over toasted whole wheat pitas. It is tasty and filling. Your kids will love it.
2. Slice baby carrots, bell peppers, celery sticks, cucumber, and broccoli. You may steam them. Your kids will have fun as they dip the finger foods into low-fat dips.
3. Give your kids ripe cherry tomatoes to munch on. Have a low-fat dip to go with it. The vivid colors will entice them to try the small tomatoes.
4. Crackers or bread can be fashioned into fun mini-sandwiches that many kids will love. You can put cheese, lunch meat, cucumber slices, and tomato wedges as fillings.
5. Black bean and corn salsa can be partnered with baked tortilla chips. Make sure that you do not serve any hot salsa variations to your kids.
6. Dried fruit, although not a substitute for the much more nutritious fresh or frozen fruit, can be easily stored in a food container inside your child’s school bag.
7. Canned fruits make quick snacks when your kid is on the go. But as much as possible, serve fresh whole foods.
8. Fruit smoothies with yogurt make delicious and healthy snacks.
9. Create fruit kabobs. Stick onto toothpicks berries, melon balls, pineapple chunks, pears, apple slices, and cubed peaches. This is the best way to introduce your kids to different fruits. Ask them about their favorite fruits once they’ve tried your fruit kabob party fare.
10. Give frozen bananas instead of ice creams. Peel a banana then freeze it. Skewer the fruit onto a barbecue stick. Once the banana is frozen, roll it over chocolate syrup. Finally, roll the syrup-covered frozen banana over a bed of chopped nuts. Avoid giving nuts to kids under the age of three.

Kiera S. Campbell is the author of “Yummy Healthy Tummy: The Secrets of Raising Healthy Kids Every Parent Needs to Know!” She is passionate about teaching parents how to help your children grow up to love and choose healthy eating for life. You can read more at


Screen Free Week: Confessions of a Waldorf-Inspired Mom

May 17, 2012   //   by Lindsey   //   Filtering Out the Adult World, Simple Environment, Uncategorized  //  1 Comment

It’s 11:30am, you’ve just finished up three hours of work and you have an hour in which to feed your 2 ½ yr old son and ‘attempt’ to get him to take a nap (which he stopped doing about 6 months ago) before your next three hour block of work.  Here’s how it goes down: you plop something down in front of him while you go about cleaning up from the morning’s events; checking and replying to email; preparing and eating your own lunch and constantly reminding him that he better eat his lunch (which he is currently ignoring) so he can go take a nap.  With about 30 minutes to spare, you declare that it’s time for a nap and take your little one upstairs completely wired from the morning activities and then get frustrated when he can’t wind down and fall asleep in the 20 minutes you have left to accomplish the task.  Eventually, you give up and finish preparations for the afternoon which is bound to be extremely difficult with an over-tired, under-fed toddler on your hands.


Fast forward a week; same scenario; same 2 ½ yr old; same 1 hr before the hustle and bustle begins again.  On this day, however, you give your child two choices for lunch: he can have a sandwich or some hummus.  He chooses the latter and you oblige.  You tell him that after lunch he can either choose to take a nap in his bed, or have quiet time upstairs in his room.  He chooses quiet time and asks if you’ll join him upstairs for a few minutes.  You agree.  He finishes eating, helps put his food away and starts upstairs on his own.  After a story, a few minutes of dress-up and some marbles down the homemade paper towel tube marble track, you tell him that you have some work to do, but he can choose to have more quiet time in his room or take a nap in his bed.  He asks you to stay, but after a gentle reminder that after lunch we have quiet time, he settles into the rocking chair with a book.  When the hour is up, he happily rejoins you in your daily work and remains agreeable for the remainder of the day.


What happened here, you ask???  Screen-Free Week, that’s what!


Yes, I’ll admit it; that was me up there in that opening paragraph, completely unaware (or perhaps blissfully ignorant) that my personal computer usage was causing my child’s unappealing behaviors.  Let me backtrack a bit.


For Christmas 2009, my older brother sent me a copy of Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne.  I devoured it and realized that I was on a path with my newborn son that I didn’t want to be on anymore.  We simplified, getting rid of ‘stuff’ in every aspect of our lives from clothes, toys and knick-knacks all the way down to credit cards and debt.  In addition, I very quickly eliminated television from my life and when we moved into a new home, we chose to leave our ‘living room TV’ behind, keeping only one that would reside quietly in my husband’s office for use after our son was in bed.  After a few months without a TV as the focal point in our home, we realized how little we used it and cancelled our cable.  My son hasn’t seen a moment of television since he was about three months old; and I would never, ever compromise on that fact; because, really, a television is a completely useless, time-consuming and energy-sucking device.


Until now, I refused to say similar things about my computer; always making excuses about needing to get ‘work’ done or waiting to hear back from someone about something or some other nonsense which really didn’t matter.  When my old desktop took a nosedive and my husband’s appeared to be doing the same, he opted for a new laptop to serve as a ‘family computer’.  Unfortunately, the best place to house this new screen was in our kitchen.  For a long while, it was easy to ignore.  We were embracing a more Waldorf-inspired, simple lifestyle and I didn’t want that screen distracting my child from his real work: play.  I managed to get all of my work, communicating, etc. finished after he was in bed and the laptop remained closed the rest of the time.  I even remember getting upset with my husband after we first got the new computer for spending hours on end organizing music files and other odds and ends to get things the way he wanted them.  I even took it upon myself to ask if we could move the laptop from the island in the center of our kitchen to the farthest corner of the kitchen table where you literally sit in a tiny nook to use it.  It went on this way for months.  I’m not sure how the change happened, it was probably a slow process, kind of like the ‘frog in a pot of water’ scenario that Kim John Payne describes in Simplicity Parenting….you have no idea what’s going on around you until you finally look up and realize you’re in boiling water and you’d better get yourself out now!


That was me – the frog.  Wondering why my sweet little boy who always played on his own and was rarely disagreeable was turning into the very definition of a child in the ‘terrible twos’.  Then one day, it hit me; it was me; I was the cause of his inner frustrations.  I was also the target and decided a change was in order.


The Plan: No computer for an entire week and then after Screen-Free Week, no usage until after bedtime, just like the TV.  Reestablish a connection; this means meals together and a predictable daily rhythm.  Reread Simplicity Parenting.


Obviously, from the opening paragraphs, you can see it was a successful endeavor.  There are still a few arguments here and there; like when he wants chocolate for breakfast and I have to remind him that it’s oatmeal day or when he declares that he ‘doesn’t like’ the dinner that he helped prepare even before tasting it and I have to remind him that ‘this is what we cooked, so this is what we have to eat tonight.’  Overall, I’d say, we’re sticking with it!


Of course, there were a few other lessons for the week; such as, when you decide to go screen-free for a week, be sure not to find a baby bird in your sandbox and attempt to know what to do with it.  My husband made fun of me on that one, and I did, in fact, have to utilize the internet to learn that I could feed the bird a paste made from egg yolks.  Does that seem horribly wrong to anyone else??


I’ll never say a computer is a completely useless device, but I will say that when it comes to a choice between my child and anything else; my child will always come first.  He’s going to have a little brother soon and it’s a relief to know that all we have to do is stick with this new rhythm and adjustment should be that much easier.  We’ve simplified our lives so much over the past couple of years and I’m proud to say I feel I have finally taken that last big step toward being able to call myself a wannabe Waldorf Mom.

The Surprise Plot Twist in our Screen Free Week – Why eliminating screens made life easier

May 9, 2012   //   by Traci McGrath   //   Simple Environment, Simplicity Stories, Uncategorized  //  11 Comments

Screen Free Week at our house….didn’t go the way I expected.

I was excited to participate in it.  I love the idea of a digital detox….But, since our kids usually see just one show each day, I didn’t expect it to make a huge difference in our home.  I expected to have calmer, more peaceful kids (which I got), but I also expected to get way behind on all those not-kid-friendly tasks I usually try (quite hurriedly!) to knock out during my 30 minutes of “kid-free” time each day.  I have to admit, I was dreading the week after Screen Free Week, when I’d have to catch up on all those chores, un-made phone calls and un-answered emails!

But something miraculous happened in the middle of all that screenless fun.  The week ended, and you know what?  I’m not behind on my weekly chores or jobs.  Laundry isn’t piled up in some room waiting to be put away.  Mold didn’t take over the kitchen sink and I didn’t get fired for my terrible work ethic.   Somehow, I had more time and got more accomplished than I normally do, and felt much less stress about getting it done.  I still played with the kids, and we had great fun….

But they also began to play without me…peacefully…for hours on end.

Several times during the week, I was astonished to look at a clock and realize I had not heard from either of my children in a couple of hours.  I could see them playing right outside the window, but they were so engrossed in what they were doing, and really getting along – getting along so well they didn’t need a mama hovering nearby to help diffuse arguments.

They also didn’t need anyone to give them ideas about how to play.

I try to make it a habit not to ‘entertain’ the kids all the time.  I believe in giving them lots of opportunities to solve their own boredom with creativity – but during Screen Free Week, I hardly had the opportunity to push this little soap box of mine at all.  They were so tapped into their own creativity, they were no longer coming to me to ask me what they could do, and they completely forgot to ask if they could “watch a show” (a question I’m used to fielding 2 or 3 times a day.)

We still made a point to play together, but it was almost always the case that I was simply invited in to join a game they had invented or go on a scavenger hunt they had created.

There were strings tied to sticks with magnets, a fishing game for metal objects under the bed.  There were index cards set strategically around the house with arrows pointing me to a hidden treasure.  There were mud pies….Oh, there were mud pies!  It’s not that these things aren’t normal at our house, they are.  But this week, that they happened with such ease.  There were none of those moments when I had to explain that we would not be watching a show and it was time to think of something else to do.

I was right about one thing with regards to the week – I knew my kids’ well-being (and therefore their behavior) would improve…

But I was completely surprised that the week also might make life easier for me.

Did anyone else experience this? Did you find the week to be more or less stressful?  I’d love to hear your stories.

Thanks very much to our friends at Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood for sponsoring this great event.

Traci lives in the Austin, TX area with her husband and two little boys.  Traci enjoys teaching a small part-time homeschool group, and working with Simplicity Parenting as coordinator for outreach.  Her family loves time in nature, tent camping and hiking, and making music.





Why Screen Free is Scream Free!

Apr 29, 2012   //   by Kathy White   //   Simple Environment, Uncategorized  //  2 Comments

We have a very simple rule in our house about television or computers.       NONE.

Of course, like all rules, this gets broken from time to time. It gets broken on the occasions when I’ve been working all day and my husband has had a busy day full of child care and he is cooking dinner (yes he is a home husband).  I come home and the children are watching the television. What I know when I find them there is my husband needs some time out.  I don’t bemoan him or berate him for breaking our rule, I simply find a good moment with the children to switch the programme off and ask them what they have been watching and then find another activity to do with them.

I’ve tried the heavy handed “Switch that thing off NOW !” and it can guarantee some screams, clearly doesn’t work – so a more gentle “When will this programme end? okay let’s give it five more minutes..” and then it’s over. And although I don’t want them to watch TV ever, we are lucky in the UK that we have a very simple (by children’s TV standards) channel called CBEEBIES that even an anti TV mom isn’t too offended by…

The computer is another thing altogether…namely because I try to work from home a lot and a lot of my work (like writing blog posts!) is done at a computer…I’m clearly modeling laptop behaviour that my children (they are 5 and 9) are commenting on. “Mummy’s ALWAYS at the computer…” Naturally they want to see what I’m up to. So I’ve let them sit on my lap or next to me on the couch and we’ve looked at pictures or short videos and I’ve let them play a few games. I have broken my own rule many times.

So I’ve modified the rule – no television or computers during term time. Then, in the holidays, they can sit with me (I use Luminosity to play games which apparently improves your brain agility ! Who knows, I can feel as dumb as ever when it comes to raising children !)

Screen free is scream free because we have set rules we all honour and so they generally don’t scream when I switch screens off. They don’t scream and ask for screen time. They really don’t expect it, they are incredibly self-reliant and can make up all sorts of games with a few bits and pieces and tons of imagination. I notice how alive they are to their natural creative playfulness. I sometimes observe other children and how they seem to lack active imaginations, I wonder if there are any studies looking at playfulness and creativity levels in children who have a lot of screen time compared with those who don’t?

We are happy in our generally screen free home and I am glad we make the choices we do to keep the TV and computer off. I would encourage any families out there to give it a try…


Kathy White lives in Findhorn, Scotland and is a Simplicity Parenting Group leader. She works with parents and children all over the world both online and in her travels offering parenting events. She is a qualified Art Therapist offering creative parenting solutions and a Certified Facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie, a tool for transforming stressful thinking. More details on



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