1 Easy Alternative to Technology: Inventor’s Box

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I unplugged the TV unexpectedly one day. The kids were young, banking their childhoods as I watched. I made the decision after a long and lovely TV-less vacation when I realized my own best childhood memories were outside and not in front of the tube. When I thought about it, even my current best memories were outdoors and involved some kind of spontaneity, a detour from the expected. Autumn was around the corner. I toyed with the idea of cutting off the plug to make the decision permanent and inevitable, but decided that was a little extreme. I needed to do it while the weather was inviting. I reminded myself I was the boss, not them, even though it was four against one while daddy worked in Alaska.

The kids were horrified. They milled and protested and stomped around until I shooed them out onto the deck with their tricycles and wagons, drew the sliding door closed, and locked it. Four little faces pressed against the glass yelling with the indignity, with the unfairness of it all. They pounded their fists on the door. I made dinner while they watched from the other side and hummed a pretend happy song.

The first few days were not easy. Old habits die-hard and the kids were up to 4 hours a day in front of the tube. It had snuck into our lives, but the time had come for a change. In the end I pulled out a bag of tricks: I put together an inventor’s and art box, I made play dough, and I gave them open-ended projects that did not need my help.

Twenty-five years later the kids are grown and gone and they have all said they are happy we limited the technology in their lives. They are too busy living. They grew into adventurers who hike and kayak, who write and fish and build. They watch little TV, and limit television in their own children’s lives because what we experience in childhood becomes the norm we guide our lives by.

Consider what you want for your kids and their future. When our son was 13 years old he railed against the no TV policy. I informed him that the world is divided into 2 types of people: those who watch adventures, and those who have them. Which do you want to be? “I want to WATCH them,” he said. It made me laugh and it didn’t change a thing, but that is another story. . .

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What you will need:

Junk that is in drawers and cupboards
Stuff at Garage sales in the ‘Free’ pile
Anything with inventing potential: cans, wire, rubber bands, corks, duct tape, old alarm clocks, nails and screws, hammer, scraps of wood, Styrofoam trays, stapler, game pieces, batteries, jar lids, scissors, sea shells, plastic cups, plastic animals, scraps of PVC pipe, old keys, broken small appliances like egg beaters, salad spinners, etc

Place all the materials together in a box and call it the Inventor’s Box. Declare it only for those who need to invent something and stand back to watch imagination at its best.

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