With so many great options for family together time, who needs TV? There are plenty of things for moms and dads to do with their kids other than watching TV. Here are a few family activities to try.
By Jessica Fisher
I was a TV junkie in a family of TV junkies. As soon as I learned to read, I made
perusing the TV listings a regular habit, highlighting my viewing choices for all 24
hours of all seven days of the following week. Our home featured four televisions,
each with its own VCR to tape the shows we missed. I can still name all the Brady
kids and sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. TV was a way of life in my
So it came as a surprise to my parents that my husband and I chose not to
add a television set to our newlywed household. We had decided to spend our time
differently. It took some getting used to, especially for my parents. During visits to
our home, my dad didn’t know what to do with his time – until he started mowing
our lawn, which he did every single time he visited!
My husband and I enjoyed our unplugged lifestyle. We read, we talked and
we laughed together. More, we believe, than we would have in front of a
television. Thirteen years and five kids later, we continue to live a happy existence
without a TV.
Many people – most far wiser than I – have expounded on the detriments of
television and why families should watch less. I’ll leave the debating to them. But,
I can attest to the fact that there is life without TV. Should you choose to bid adieu
to television for a week, a month or even a year, or if you just want to add a little
spice to your family life, here are some great alternatives to watching the Boob
Take a walk.
It’s amazing how life’s pace slows down when you’re on foot. Many communities
and subdivisions in our area have sidewalks and walking paths, and Maryland’s
many Parks and Recreation Departments maintain hundreds of miles of walking
and hiking trails. Explore these as a family. Take a bag along to collect stones,
leaves, flowers or creepy crawlies. One to check out: Watkins Regional Park
located at 301 Watkins Park Drive in Upper Marlboro. (301-218-6700,
http://www.pgparks.com ) Featuring hiking and biking trails, tennis courts, ball fields, a
nature center and much more, this park is an excellent destination for full day of
Read a book.
Reading a chapter book together as a family is a great shared experience and a way
to improve listening skills. Our family has fond memories of reading through The
Chronicles of Narnia and every title in the Little House on the Prairie series.
Peruse The Read Aloud Handbook (Penguin, 2001) by Jim Trelease for book
suggestions and more information about the benefits of reading aloud.
Bake someone happy.
Dig out the cookbooks and gather the kids around the table. Let each child choose
a recipe and prepare it together as a family. Whether you make chocolate chip
cookies or chicken pot pies, you’re sure to enjoy food, fellowship and fun with
your kids. And you’ll practice math with fractions along the way.
Play a game.
Dust off the Monopoly board or invest in a new game. (Our family favorite is
Blokus.) Establish a weekly game night, or try a different game each night for a
week. Set yourselves up in tournament play and have a big celebration at the end
of the week. Don’t forget old favorites; checkers, chess and card games are classics
for a reason.
Explore your city.
Now that winter is receding into the past, it’s a great time to get out and about.
Chesapeake Family’s calendar of events (which starts on page XXX of this issue)
includes hundreds of kid-friendly ways to learn more about the abundant cultural
resources, sporting venues, activity centers and natural habitats in our
communities. Use your TV-free time to learn what the area offers in the way of art,
entertainment and culture.
Plant a garden.
Children love to garden, and you’ll find digging in the dirt to be very therapeutic.
Check out some library books on the subject and plan a garden. You don’t need a
lot of space, even some potted plants on the back deck will do. The sun, air and dirt
will be good for your souls. For child-friendly plant recommendations and greenthumb
advice, visit the experts at Gary’s Garden Mart in Annapolis (410-544-
8787) or at Arnold Farms in Arnold (410-544-7573) or in Chestertown (410-778-
4833). Or pick up some plants at the Spring Plant Sale at Historic London Town
and Gardens in Edgewater on Saturday April 28, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. The sale is open
to the public; admission is free. (410-222-1919)
Visit with the neighbors.
We live in a culture that is increasingly private. New homes no longer feature front
porches; they disappeared from our collective architecture right around the same
time that TV became popular. Hmmm. Grab a lawn chair and a glass of iced tea
and sit out front. Supply the kids with bubbles or sidewalk chalk and draw your
neighbors outside. The kids will enjoy playing with their buddies, and you can
catch up with their parents. You may find that you have more in common than you
Ride a bike.
Equip yourself and the kids with proper safety equipment and hit the road. You’ll
appreciate the wind in your face and the cardiovascular workout for your heart.
Neighborhood riding is fun, but don’t forget to check out the local bike trails. Start
with Cross Island Trail in Queen Anne’s County. This popular trail offers a lovely
six-mile ride that spans Kent Island. (410-758-0835, www.qac.org)
Build a fort.
A dad we know salvaged multiple appliance boxes and crafted a huge castle,
complete with a working drawbridge. What a fun way to spend time with the kids
and let them exercise their imaginations! My husband has created cardboard
magic, too, producing a huge pirate ship. But, you don’t have to go to great lengths
to make a fun hideaway – a few chairs and blankets will do. The important part is
to join your children in imaginative play.
Savor the moments, they pass quickly. You’ll find that a life without TV really is
worth living. You’ll reconnect as a family. You’ll discover new amusements that
you hadn’t thought about. And, if you’re still struggling with what to do with your
time, I’ve got a lawn you can mow.
Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Anne Arundel, Calvert, Prince George’s counties and Baltimore, Bowie and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Jessica Fisher is a wife, mother and freelance writer.
Turn Off Your TV
National TV-Turnoff Week is April 23-29. Will your family join the fun and
unplug your TVs? If you do, we want to know how it works. Send us an e-mail and
tell us how you spent your time. Did you like life without TV? Did you enjoy the
extra time with your kids? Share your experiences with us. We may publish your
comments in a future issue or on our website.