Wanting More Than Family Screen Time

Kristin Neva avatar

by Kristin Neva |

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Family movie nights are great, but it’s a challenge to think of other things we can do together now that my husband, Todd, is paralyzed from ALS.

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with screens. I once envisioned myself as a mother who would encourage creative, independent play. My children would read books, and screens would only be used for limited, educational purposes.

And then I had kids.

When I was a young mother, especially after my second child arrived, I was dismayed to find myself falling short of my parenting ideals. My extroverted preschooler wasn’t big on solo play, and “Dora the Explorer” was a good babysitter when I needed to cook dinner or care for her baby brother.

As my kids grew, I continued to work at limiting screen time and encouraging more active pursuits. I’m delighted that my 15-year-old daughter enjoys dance, music, and theater. My 11-year-old son likes woodworking, downhill skiing, and riding his dirt bike.

Still, it’s tricky. Screens can be so addicting and consuming. Texting and social media are the primary methods of communicating among my daughter’s group of friends. My son has found a pandemic-friendly social activity in gaming on the internet with his friends. And we often default to family screen time, considering we can’t do other activities like hiking, traveling, or biking.

Todd engages with each of our kids. He helps our daughter memorize her lines for her plays, and he coaches our son in how to build things. But there are few activities we can enjoy together as a family, so I’ve come to embrace Friday movie night.

Our days are sprinkled with inside jokes and catchphrases culled from movies and TV shows we’ve watched together. We analyze plot and character development, and we even find entertainment in playing script doctor for movies that don’t hit the mark.

Family movie night has become a rich part of our shared life, but I’d like for us to have more variety of family entertainment.

One evening, I suggested to my kids that we play a board game. In the past, we’ve figured out a few games that work for all of us to play with slight modifications to include Todd. He takes the role of guesser in Cranium when acting or sculpting is required. We move his pieces in Catan and Life. We’ve even played Pictionary with Todd drawing on his computer using his HeadMouse.

The kids weren’t excited about any of the options. They just wanted to watch a show.

With all my ideas soundly rejected, I finally told them that we could spend two hours cleaning the house. They became interested in choosing a game.

We settled on Scattergories, a game in which we roll a lettered die and then write down things that start with that letter for a list of different categories, such as a boy’s name, a vegetable, an animal, etc. After the timer goes off, we compare answers and score the round.

Scattergories is not a game that would typically include Todd because he can’t write, and if he were to verbally tell somebody what to write down, the other players would hear him.

To include Todd in the game, we digitally scanned the cards so he could read the categories on his computer. We rolled the die in his office, and the kids and I ran to the other room to write down our answers. Todd wrote down his answers on his computer by using his voice dictation software.

I yelled “time” when the round was over, and we all went back to his office to go through the answers.

It was fun to see how many times Todd and one of the kids had thought of the same thing.

When we finished three rounds, I said we could watch a TV show.

The kids protested, “This is more fun!”

So, we played three more rounds.

It felt like a parenting win.


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Alexandra avatar


I celebrate your creativity and parenting win! Thank you for sharing.


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