Video Watching at Our House
I just love cuddling up on the couch with my family, a big bowl of popcorn and a good video. At our house, we recognize the need to limit screen time (especially for very young children), but we still love to watch videos; we just try to keep it in moderation. Of course, we try hard to only watch "good" videos, but I'm also pretty strict about requiring the chores to be done and especially the living room (where the TV is) to be tidy. Here is a list of some different times/reasons we tend to watch videos at our house:
1- Family fun night - Jim and I are often so incredibly tired at the end of the day that popcorn, cuddles with the kids (already in pajamas) and a video (preferably a short one) is often our favorite choice for family fun night. This is the time we like to watch something new. If Jim and I are concerned a movie might not be OK for the whole family, we will watch it during a date night or "Adult Movie Night" first. Picking a decent movie can be so difficult that it really helps to plan ahead and read reviews. I'm still working on the planning ahead!
2- Adult Movie Night. In our house a young person becomes a young adult at age 13 (this is very exciting for the 13 year old!) We as parents try to transition to treating our teens more like adults and one of the ways we do this is by having some activities that are "adults only". As we look for videos for Family Fun Night, we often run across something that we think will be good, but just not appropriate or interesting for a younger audience. So once or twice a month we try to have an Adult Movie Night. To do something "adult only" in our house requires a bit of planning. Usually we arrange for the 10-12 year old children to play with the younger ones upstairs while we start our movie. Then we take a break at the kids' bedtime and put everyone to bed. Then we come back down, finish our movie, and hopefully have a little time to discuss. Our discussions are never formal and while they are sometime theologically deep, sometimes they are incredibly shallow and silly, and sometimes we're so tired we all just go to bed! The teens love being treated special and the younger ones 'babysitting' get lots of praise for being helpful and fully look forward to turning 13 some day themselves. :)
3- School. We enjoy watching lectures and lessons for school and for fun. I feel like this is a little like having vegetables for snack - they're good for you so, why not? School-type videos happen in the afternoons around here (but not every afternoon - we are not super scheduled about it). We sometimes like to watch Christian or creation lectures on Sunday afternoons as a family, too. (Especially during the rainy months!)
4- 4 PM. The hour or two before dinner has got to be the most difficult time of the day for parents and kids alike. Even though we have a healthy snack in the afternoon, kids are just plain tired and Mom's trying to finish up the day and make dinner (usually at the same time). We have found the combination of cranky kids and busy mom to be potentially disastrous. I know I'm not alone. (Years ago a neighbor of mine had a not-so-nice name for the 4 PM hour at her house!) Especially if the weather doesn't permit outside play time, I often put in a video for the littles while I (or the person in charge of dinner) am cooking. This time of day, I am careful to not ask for suggestions for videos (I don't want to end up refereeing an argument!) Instead, I just cheerily pick something and put it in. Soon the ones who are not engaged in other play will sit down to watch (instead of getting into trouble) while I get dinner on the table. I try to pick simple videos that the little ones have already seen many times. Little ones love repetition and my older ones will be so bored they don't mind missing out to help me in the kitchen!
5- Babysitting. When Jim and I go on a date (or other errand when the older children are watching the younger ones) we will often select a video they can watch while we are gone to make it a little easier on the older children. We only allow videos that we've seen before when we're not home.
6- Sick days. Sometimes if the family is sick, the children bring down their pillows, favorite stuffed animals and blankies to the living room and make little "nests" to sit in on the couches. They cuddle up with their tissues or hankies and we watch videos together. At the end of any video (even if it's only a 10 minute one) or if anyone needs to use the restroom, we all pause and we all get up and we all drink a glass of tea/water/juice before settling back down again. I explain to my children how important fluids and rest are for our bodies to be able to fight colds.
We have a rotation for who gets to pick a favorite video. From youngest to oldest, children get to take turns picking videos. It can be a bit hard to remember whose turn it is to pick (especially if it has been several days or more), so my daughter wrote everyone's initials on a piece of paper in order, youngest to oldest, and covered it with clear packing tape. She sticky-tacked it to the inside of our media cabinet with a dry erase marker and any time someone picks a movie, they get a check mark by their name. That way everyone knows they will have a turn to pick. (I, on the other hand, get to trump them all and pick whatever video I think we should watch any time I please. It's good to be the mom!)