Limiting Television Time – part two – what to do instead of tv

So exactly what are you supposed to do all evening if you’re not watching television?  For that matter, how are you supposed to keep your children occupied all day if you don’t use the television as a babysitter? 

Whether you’re trying the find activities to keep toddlers busy while you teach older children or you’re simply trying to find some alternatives to television, it really can be done!!  Here are some suggestions.

Board games:  Pull out the old board games!  Even dad is sure to enjoy the old favorites like Scrabble, Monopoly, Life, Chutes and Ladders, Yatzhee, Clue, etc.   If you get in the habit of playing these games again, you will not miss television.

Card games:  Some families prefer card games over board games.  Good ideas are Dutch Blitz, Rummy, Rook, Uno, Old Maid, War, etc.

Outdoor games:  When the weather is nice enough, we are not even remotely tempted to watch television!  We would so much rather be outside!  Just visiting is nice enough, but don’t forget about other options as well – croquet, tag, hide and seek, Frisbee, football, blind’s man bluff, etc.

Hobbies:  Develop a hobby.  If you give up television or at least limit your television time, it’s a great opportunity to learn a new hobby.  You can take up sewing, cross-stitching, scrapbooking, writing, journaling, photography, sketching, etc.  How many times do people say, “If I only had time to …., I would do it.”  Well, how many people spend  X hours a day watching television?  Those  X hours a day could be spent doing that thing they want to do.  Moms frequently ask me how I can possibly get so much writing done when I am sick and I’m also homeschooling five children.  I have the same amount of time in a day, but choose not to watch television.  Instead I write.

Adopt a pet.  There are animals in every neighborhood looking for a family.  Bring one home and spend time each day caring for your pet. 

Raise farm animals.  This involves much more than having a traditional pet.  Unlike caring for a cat, dog, hamster, etc., having chickens, goats, rabbits, etc. involves much more care.  You will need to build outdoor cages, care for offspring, gather eggs, feed daily, guard against predators, etc.

Write a book.  I hear people all the time who say to me, “I should write a book.”  Well, if you really think that, then do it.  If you want to write your memoirs or if you have the next bestselling thriller, write it.  You can’t do that if you spend all your time watching someone else’s ideas all evening.

Start a family business.  Whether it’s selling antique books, homeschool curriculum, baked goods, or military collectibles, a family business can be a terrific way to avoid watching television and encourage the family to spend a lot of time together.  There are countless business ideas.  You would have to decide what your business is based on your own talents and abilities.  Do you have a special talent for sewing hand-made clothing, making wooden toys, reupholstering furniture, painting portraits?  Pray about this before you begin any endeavor involving a family business.

Sort the plastic lid and bowl drawer.  OK, yes, this activity is specifically for the busy little preschooler whom you’re trying to keep busy rather than occupied with television.

Here are some other quick ideas for young children.  Keep in mind that some of these ideas may not be appropriate for some children if they still put small parts in their mouths.




Building blocks


Costume jewelry

Damp sponge so that they can go around wiping cabinets, stove, fridge, etc.

Small broom, mop, etc.

Dominoes – My children have never actually played the “game.”  They just like to stack them and make rows to see them fall down when they push the row over.

Magnifying glass – This is an investment worth spending in any household.  Even young children can take a magnifying glass and look in cracks, look for ants, explore corners, etc. for hours.

Invest in art materials – Even young children can use some art materials alone.  It’s good to have finger paints, paper, paintbrushes, chalk, crayons, makers, scissors, etc.

High chair time – For very young children, use edible art materials such as yogurt, rice, cooked carrots, etc. and let them take their time eating as they learn to entertain themselves while you do things you need to do.  This way children learn to occupy themselves with something other than television.  And you don’t have to use food.  Sit them in the high chair and give them a couple of soft baby toys.  Do this once a day for about 20 minutes.  Increase it each time.  We would never leave our children alone or crying so that’s not your goal.  The goal is simply to teach your child to find things that can be fun – or that doing NOTHING can be fun – other than television.

Finally, don’t forget the best alternative of all – reading.  Whether you’re reading aloud to your children or your children are reading to themselves, reading IS the best alternative to television.  With reading, you and your children can enter fantasy worlds.  Actually, the whole family can enter a fantasy world, meet an historical figure, go back in history, or just have fun with new friends like the Happy Hollisters.  When you introduce reading to your children as an alternative to television, you’ve given them the best babysitter, the best friend, the best educator, the best option.  You’ve given them a whole WORLD of choices and with that option, even the most exciting television doesn’t seem quite as exciting any more.

Sonya Haskins


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