Unplugging children’s imaginations

One of the themes in SARAH & KATY AND THE IMAGINATION BLANKETS is unplugging the imagination.

This doesn’t mean disconnecting from the imagination. It simply means using the imagination without the help of batteries or power cords.

I grew up in a household that required my sisters and I to be unplugged most of the day. Mom assigned each of us one hour of TV time Monday through Friday. (Saturday mornings were flexible — we were allowed to watch a full stretch of Saturday morning cartoons. I used to think this was Mom’s way of taking pity on us for her strict Monday through Friday rules; in retrospect, I think it was a way to keep us quiet so our parents could get the rare morning to sleep in.)

The hour of TV time included television programs, movies and video games. If we wanted to watch a 90-minute Disney movie, we had to bargain with a sibling to pool time. The same with Nintendo. In the days before a save option was built into games, we needed more than an hour if we wanted to get past World 3 in Mario 3.

I’m not a mom yet, although my husband and I are planning (and hoping) to be parents within the next year or so. One of the parenting dilemmas I face is, how plugged in will my child be?

Today, there are a lot more screens to look at. Televisions, computers, tablets, phones. (When I’m an old lady, I’ll be telling kids, “When I was your age, phones didn’t have screens! When I was your age, tablets didn’t exist!”) An hour of screen time probably won’t cut it by the time my kids are walking and talking.

Luckily, this mom has a solution: How I limited screen time by offering my kids unlimited screen time.

Her Momentum Optimization Project, better know in her house as The List, outlines a set of rules her children have to follow before they can have unlimited screen time. The rules require the children to read, finish homework, accomplish something creative and tackle chores first.

Her philosophy is:

 If I start my day by sitting at the desk at, say, 5:00am, and digging in on actual work, I’ll keep going all day. If I start the day by, say, cleaning the kitchen or folding laundry or phaffing about on the interwebs, I’m in trouble. … I think of it as Newton’s Law of Personal Momentum, for I am an object that will either stay at rest or stay in motion, based on where I am at 5:30 a.m. … I know that if I get them up and out the door bright and early, they’ll be out playing all day. But let them sit down in front of a screen, and they’ll stay there all day. Like me, they are all about momentum.

Sounds like sound reasoning to me. I’ll have to keep her Momentum Optimization Project in mind when I have kids. It looks like a great way to keep imaginations unplugged.

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