Television free for a whole week – can we do it?

The following post is by editor Kara Fleck.

This week is Screen-Free week. The purpose of the week is to encourage families to turn off the tv, unplug, and spend the week “free” of the screens in their lives.

From the Screen-Free Week website:

“Screen-Free Week is a national celebration where children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning off entertainment screen media and turning on life. It’s a time to unplug and play, read, daydream, create, explore, and spend more time with family and friends.”

My family isn’t a TV-free household, and I don’t want to give that impression, especially as we do have a family ritual of having a Friday Night Nest and watching a movie together every week, after all.  However, we do limit the television we watch, especially for the kids.

Aside from football season and IndyCar, and my love of watching Once Upon a Time and Bones, the TV isn’t a main source of entertainment for the adults in our house and so therefore it isn’t for the kids.

But, computer screen time and cell phone screen time are both things I could probably stand to give myself a more restrictive diet of. Ahem. (I was going to call this a side effect of being a blogger, but I have to admit that would just be making an excuse.)

However, we do observe TV-Free week every year as a family. I cover up our television with a tablecloth and the set stays off all week long.

This week, I challenge you to consider covering up the TV, or even moving it to another part of the house (can it live in the garage until the end of the week?) and unplugging for a week.  Can you do it?

I’ll be honest, even though we talk about it ahead of time, my family isn’t  exactly thrilled at the start of the week. If your family is like mine, they might need a bit of coaxing to accept the idea.

Alternatives to Television

Here are a few tips and suggestions for turning the TV off this week. Even if you don’t go “cold turkey” from all screens, I would encourage you to at least keep the television set off in the evenings and spend that time together as a family.

When we first started cutting back on the amount of television we watched as a family, taking an after-dinner walk was a helpful step for us. Instead of flipping on the set to catch the news, which then led to the evening sitcoms, we kept the television off after dinner and took a family walk instead.

Doing household chores is not the most fun and cleaning isn’t going to top anybody’s list of exciting things to do. However, you’ve got to tidy up anyway and even mundane chores are more fun when done together. Just think how neat and organized your home could be after a week if everyone chipped in and did it together.

Our window bird feeder is one of the highlights of our Spring. The birds actually come and eat breakfast with us, right outside the window in our dining room. We purchased our bird feeder, but you could certainly make a bird feeder, too. Go to your local library and pick up a bird identification bird and learn about your feathered neighbors.

Speaking of the local library … Have a Family Read-a-Loud – why not pick a book and spend the evenings taking turns reading it out loud to each other?

Shake things up in the kitchen. Learn some new recipes, try some new to your family cuisines, make something from scratch you might not have considered before (head over to Simple Bites for some inspiration). Try out some ice cream recipes and come up with a signature family flavor.


Jigsaw puzzles come in a variety of themes and levels of difficulty, so you can really cater to your individual family members. Get out the card table and work on some puzzles together.  Maybe you could stage a Family Lego Creation contest?  Assign a theme to each day and see who can come up with the most creative invention.

Explore your neighborhood. Become a local tourist. Go into that little shop or cafe you’ve been meaning to step into every time you pass by. Learn the names of those trees that line main street. Visit your town’s museum.  Have picnic in the park, in your backyard, or on your living room floor.

Set up some playscapes for your younger children to inspire play. Create a scene with their dolls or blocks or other toys before you go to bed so that they have something to catch their interest and inspire creative play the next morning (a time when many parents, including myself, can be tempted to turn on the television).

Get outside. Take a walk, play in the backyard, go to the park, or take a bike ride. Remove yourselves from the temptation of the television by going somewhere else.

If the weather won’t cooperate with outdoor play (and I’ll admit that right now our midwestern forecast leaves a little to be desired) consider visiting the library, children’s museum, or that kid-friendly cafe you’ve been wanting to try.

Take a trip to the art supply store and pick out materials for a family art project that you can work on the rest of the week together. Or, recycle some items from around the house and create some free and eco-friendly art as a family.

Instead of turning on cartoons in the morning, why don’t you switch on a podcast or radio show? We like the Saturday Morning Cereal Bowl and Sparkle Stories.

Need more help?

Even if going TV-Free doesn’t become a habit, perhaps you could make this week the start of an annual family TV turn off tradition? Have a great time!

Will you be going TV-free this week? Or, if you are already a TV-free family on a permanent basis, I’d love to hear your tips about how you transitioned to becoming a TV-free family and I’m sure other readers would, too. Here’s to unplugging!

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Yes! You can do it!

    I think my family would LOVE that Lego Creation contest!
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s latest post: Welcome to The Book That Changed My Life Carnival!

  2. We don’t have a TV but we do watch some shows on our computer and we have to be careful to limit that appropriately. It helps that it’s in a separate room. We very rarely watch anything in the evenings before our daughter goes to bed. Occasionally we’ll watch a movie together as a family.

    I thought about giving up shows on the computer this week but I’m trying to instill a few other habits/routines this week so I think I’ll refrain from introducing anything more this week. I hope it goes really well for you.
    Steph´s latest post: He can’t love us more

  3. I love the idea of screen-free week, but I fear that it will not really help people make true mindful (and long-term) changes.
    i.e. parents may be so proud of their kids for making it a week with no tv that they will reward them the following week by letting them watch every time they ask.

    I guess I am just saying that small mindful steps toward better habits is better in the long run than a full fast. However, for those that already have fairly good habits, it definitely can be a good detox time.

    Thanks for the great ideas. I love the lego competition idea, too!

  4. Go for it! I’m sure you’ll do great.
    We have been TV- free for several years, and just watch a movie once or twice a month, although my oldest has access to lots of screen time on the computer. I think it really has helped my kids learn to entertain themselves and enjoy other, more mindful, activities. We now have instituted screen-free Sundays, and that is a great way for us to stay connected to the real world and each other.
    I thought your list of things to do was great. I think if you really learned to fill your time with all those other activities, you would soon find you didn’t have time to watch TV! As I always tell my kids, why watch someone else live, when you could be living yourself?
    Have a great week!
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  5. We are going to go without Tv, we are doing this to make financial changes and to encourage our kids with more of the way both my husband and I grew up. I don’t think TV is evil or anything, its just a choice we are making. However we are going to continue to allow education videos. My kids are little so hopefully they will survive the change. We have gone with no TV for 4 days before and they did fine. Lately since I changed jobs we get home later and they turn on music, we eat dinner and we go play outside, then its bed time and we read stories. Your article reminded me of how when I was younger we definitely were outside more, enjoying life, living! Thank you for your great post!
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  6. Maybe it’s because my kids are small, but this would be harder for the adults than the kids. My 3.5 year old watches a 1/2 hr movie about twice a week on average. (Some weeks more, some weeks none at all.). And the 15 mo old was supposed to be on the no TV til 2 plan, but he’s the world’s worst napper, and sometimes catches part of his sister’s movie.
    But my husband and I watch a movie or TV show on DVD about 4 nights a week after we get the kids to bed. Add in Internet time and it’s no wonder we never get anything done around the house. We guard our money – no cable, movies from the library or borrowed from friends, and an occasional month of Netflix, but I wish we were that careful in guarding out time.
    My husband and I plan to listen to a Harry Potter audiobook while painting our office, but we collapse like limp noodles on the couch by the time the kids are in bed and the kitchen is cleaned up.

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