My Family Swore Off Screen Time For 48 Hours, And I'm Fascinated By What Happened

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This summer, I often found myself parked on the couch with the kiddos watching television or movies in the comfort of our air-conditioned home. Until the moment it hit me: Was I truly connecting with my daughters while we were plopped on the couch staring at screens? Not so much. There wasn’t a lot of talking going on, and we often just sat around, slumped over, with minimal interaction.

With that in mind, I decided to embark on an experiment a couple of weekends ago. There would be no televisions and no screens allowed for 48 hours. My daughters are 5 and 3 years old, and they love watching shows and playing games on their devices -- but I wanted to try something completely new.

My promise to my girls was that we would have way more fun doing things together than we would if we just engaged in screen time. They were skeptical at first -- meaning, they threw some pretty big tantrums -- but once we got in the car and headed to our first destination, things started to turn around quickly.

Feeling Like A Kid Again At The Water Park

The two girls pose with their father during their water park adventure.

What we did:
Our first screen-free excursion was to our local water park. I sprayed them with water guns, splashed around and chased them all over the place for hours. After, there was no need to beg them to take naps, because they were completely exhausted (and so was I).

What we got out of it:
The kids had a blast, but the best part for me was that I felt like a child again. I know this will make me sound like an old guy, but when I was a kid, I played outside all of the time. And you know what? I had a lot of fun. In my mind, that’s way more fun than being hunched over a device, indoors. I’m going to do my part to ensure we spend more time feeling the wind blow through our hair ( … well, maybe not my hair, but you catch my drift).

Real Life Is Deliciously Messy

Doyin’s youngest daughter hard at work making cookies.

What we did:
I put my daughters to work by helping me bake a batch of cookies. They put on their chef hats, cracked eggs, measured the ingredients and used the mixer. Sure, they ended up making an epic mess, but the most epic messes end up leading to the most epic memories.

What we got out of it:
As parents, we know that our kids want to be around us all of the time. That’s not always a good thing, especially if you want to use the bathroom in peace — but there are times when it can work to our benefit. Not only was I able to teach my daughters some essential cooking skills, but I was able to show them that it’s normal and expected to see dads preparing meals in the kitchen, too.

A Window On The World Beats The Best Screen

Doyin’s two daughters people-watch together.

What we did:
This candid photo was taken at our local mall. The girls sat in chairs, looked out of the window and made observations about what they saw in the neighborhood. All of this went on for about 30 minutes while I relaxed and ate a snack in the background.

What we got out of it:
So often we end up spending big money on fancy birthday parties and other material items for our kids. But then we ask ourselves -- will they remember any of that stuff? I don’t remember one birthday party I had as a kid, but I remember the fun moments that I spent with my brothers that were similar to the time my daughters spent together at the mall. The best part is, these moments don’t cost a dime -- and the payoff is priceless.

What Two Days Without Screens Taught Us

The thing I enjoyed the most from this experiment was watching how my girls interacted with each other. Instead of fighting over which show to watch or which app to use, they talked, laughed and enjoyed a sense of togetherness.

The reality is our kids grow up so fast. Before we know it, they’ll be adults, and we’ll regret the missed opportunities to bond with them as little ones. Eliminating TV time for a couple of days showed me how easy, cost-effective and wonderful the simple things in life can be.

Is it realistic for me as a parent to permanently ban all television and devices from my household? Absolutely not. But it’s certainly realistic for me to limit them more than I currently do. Fortunately, since our no-screen vacation, my girls are now onboard with spending less time in front of their screens, and our whole household benefits from that. Because at the end of the day, there isn’t an app that can replace good old-fashioned family bonding.

This material is for general informational purposes only. Aetna is not the author of this content.

Aetna believes that mindfulness – the act of being present -- starts with simply experiencing what is here and now. So step back, #takeamoment, and appreciate the little things. You’ll be surprised at what you notice. Share your experience using the hashtag #takeamoment on social media.