My friends think I’m a bit mad not only for going cold turkey and turning the TV off but doing the thinkable and doing it in half-term. Over the past few weeks with the adoption of my siblings going full swing, the TV has become a bit of a constant and I’ll admit to using it when I’ve had a houseful of social workers for the adoption or I just need 10 minutes to do the laundry. Naturally the children in the house got used to the gradual increase of TV time. It went from being very strict to being a bit of a background noise. Turning the TV off wasn’t a planned and carefully researched decision, I just decided it had become a dependent that all of us had got used to for one thing or another. Sabine had become a little bit too attached to Bing and had started to shout Bing Bing at the top of her voice from her cot in the morning and yes, I wasn’t above putting it on to make a cup of tea or to distract a brewing temper tantrum.
Going cold turkey was a courageous act or as hubby put it when he found out; a moment of madness. And it didn’t help that on the first day off school all the activities I planned outdoors deserted me as the heavens opened and it was unseasonably cold. So, without any preparation we started crafting.
When I say we, I mean I. The children looked at me through grumpily folded arms and a mostly sulky expression. It was only when I started humming whilst cutting out shapes from newspapers and sticking them randomly on neon fluorescent yellow card that they became interested. It started with an opinion; you should stick that red star in the corner not in the middle, so I placed a piece of card in front of them and before long we were all happily sticking pieces of cut out paper to the card, ourselves, each other and some on Luke, the dog. Later on in the day with the rain still drumming down loudly on our patio I put Kylie Minogue on Spotify and we danced ourselves silly to 80’s pop music, each of us trying to out do each other with silly dances. Sabine was happy threading Cheerios and pasta on to thick wool whilst Luke, waited patiently for any fallout edible crafting materials. It soon became a game; one for Sabine. One for the doggie.
The weather improved as the week went by and we gradually went outside day by day finding activities in the garden or in our local woods and fields. When I told the children we were going for a walk in the woods the responses I got were ‘what for?’ or ‘It’s boring!’ However, once we were there, they loved messing around with sticks, drawing shapes in puddles, getting thoroughly muddy and looking for treasure. I gave them all a list of treasures to find which they love doing.
By the end of the week it felt as if the TV had never been on. Sabine was no longer asking for Bing and Peppa Pig seemed like a distant memory. We did make an exception every day for CBeebies story time but it felt much more like a treat than a drug and the weather is now sunny and cooperative.
They started asking me every evening what are we were doing tomorrow. Sometimes I have an activity planed and we talk about where we going or what messy play we might do in the garden and other times I tell them it’s a surprise while I see what the weather brings and I’ve assessed my energy levels.
We’ve didn’t have a bad day and the children almost seem to have stepped back in time enjoying simple pleasures such as getting dirty and dressing up. I didn’t shun technology completely; we did phonics practice on the iPad but the children began to feel this was a treat and looked forward to it instead of giving me a big sigh as I turned the tv off. We also attended a couple of local play groups and they burnt off energy running around with other children.
Thank goodness the weather has been kind as this has made a big difference. I’m not sure if my crafting repertoire would’ve held out much longer than a day so I’m grateful I’ve not had to learn new skills with papier-mâché. What feels different from the last school holiday is that I’ve not felt pressured to fill the day full of expensive activities. One afternoon session at our local farm costs £15 a session for each child making it something we do as a special treat. Instead of expensive meals out, we had picnics which the older children were delighted with.
At the weekend when it rained all day Saturday, we had a picnic inside. The children built a camp and eating under a sheet draped over my sofa and chairs made ham sandwiches and cucumber sticks exciting.
We went shopping for school shoes yesterday and that’s almost the school break done. What felt like a long looming two weeks ahead is now a lovely memory and the children went back to school today full of what they did in the break. I do feel a little bit smug but if there’s one thing about fostering, is you never have time to sit back on your laurels and this little oasis of harmony and crafting could be over in a blink.