When we first got to Utah my kids went into vacation mode. They were at Grandma's! In addition to all their favorite Grandma's house toys, they wanted to watch all their favorite Grandma's house movies. For a couple of weeks, while the Badger and I were busy trying to get settled, they watched a lot of videos (Grandma still has a lot of old VHS cassettes!) and DVDs. The most popular by far is and always has been the set of Zorro episodes: the black and white TV show that Disney made in the 50's. They can (and did, a few times) watch it for untold hours on end.
My children will stay glued to the TV for hours, totally out of our hair. But the minute the TV goes off they turn into little beasts. So after awhile all four adults in the house were pretty fed up. Sometime in early October the Badger packed up the VRC/DVD players and hid them. We get no TV coverage, so this put a stop to the viewing of electronic media by the children.
It surprised me how quickly it happened. There was a little bit of withdrawal (mostly the Rabbit) and then they rapidly settled into a happy life of being creative and imaginative. Oh, and reading lots of books (I'll take begging for library trips over begging for one more viewing of Mulan any day!) So much of our art stuff has been packed away that they don't even have very many coloring implements: they mostly just have plain pencils and blank paper. But that hasn't slowed them down.
Bean loves to read and write stories. He also loves audio books. We think he reads/listens to a little too much fantasy but he also loves many classics. He especially loves Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain. When he has access to videos or video games he forgets this, but take them away and he becomes a young man of culture. On a related note, my sister took him to a production of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro recently and he came home on cloud nine because he loved it so much. I was on cloud nine because I had a thirteen year old boy who loved a Mozart opera. I must be doing something right.
Fish has been spending hours drawing comic strips. He puts a lot of careful detail into them, closely copying the style of Bill Watterson but inventing his own characters and storylines. He is exceedingly talented. I have been very aware of his art talent for a long time but now I am excited to see his emerging writing talent as well. He has started writing stories and I am tickled to find he has a real way with words. He also writes intricate letters to his friend he left behind: he writes, draws, folds, tapes on little flaps, burns edges, and generally makes them fascinating.
Roo mostly draws, with some writing. She can lose herself in creative land for hours. I love this. Right now she is making a Christmas book with lots of intricate drawings, many copied or traced from books she loves like Mary Englebreit's Fairy Tales. She even wrote a lovely poem for it. She is going to send it to her dear friend next door to our old house when she's done.
The Rabbit loves to write stories and embellish them with drawings and decorations. She also loves to read and reads far ahead of what she's assigned in her school reader. Grandma also has some old school readers around her house that are a good level for the Rabbit and she reads those a lot too.
Come to think of it, Roo and Fish spend a ton of time reading as well.
The two littlest are the only ones whose creativity isn't always channeled in a way that thrills me. Peanut sometimes draws on paper, but she is definitely the worst wall scribbler I have ever had and I hope I can magic eraser Grandma's walls back to normal. She also loves to play elaborate and sonewhat messy games with cups of water and leaves off of Grandma's indoor plants. Prince Charming alternates between being Peanut's sidekick and her arch enemy. Those two are a lot easier when a movie's on, but I have learned that it's really not worth it in the long run to keep them entertained by electronics. They are better off following the examples of creativity and imagination shown them by their older siblings, even if it's hard right now sometimes.
I am not totally anti-media. This last couple of weeks we have brought the VCRs back out but we are trying to make movies something infrequent and special. There are times when it is incredibly helpful to have a movie on for the kiddos, and of course it is enjoyable for them as well. But I must say that I enjoy my children much much more when they are unplugged.