Friday, February 24, 2012

What Can I Doooooo?

It's a different era now - this 1950 book entitled, 'What Shall I Do?' is full of mask-making, tin can shoes, things to do with old magazines and rag-rug braiding. Yet at the beginning of the February 2012 holidays, I bought Son 2 Mariokart 7, as a reward for forcing him into school all week when friends skived off due to snow and his big brother recovered on the sofa... Although I post about the jolly things our boys do with clay they've excavated themselves, long dog walks etc, a part of modern life is the way that electronic games can take over. Our boys are usually fairly phlegmatic that we limit their time on the computer and DS (and the TV, too), especially on school days. Their friends have (allegedly) unlimited time on games, and not much supervision either. It seems to me that our boys, or at least Son 2, are all the more obsessed, simply because they know they aren't allowed to play all day. The beginning of the holidays was a case in point - he was tired and grumpy, playing far too much, and angry at me every time I told him to turn off.

But, blessedly, a normal pattern of things is beginning to restore itself as the limits become accepted, and other things grab his interest - this Lego Minotaurus game, for example, which allows you to adapt the maze and make up your own rules, and has given us a few fiendish games and a lot of independent architectural work over the last week.

A sort-out of books led to the rediscovery of some comical gems - Spike Milligan's Milliganimals, and a couple of Far Side cartoon books. The recovery on the sofa was much-aided by readings of these cartoons, and Son 2 is also hooked.

The new digital piano, bought at some expense yet still a very good deal to replace the crumbling 'real' piano, is another huge draw and if you look closely you'll see a 'tick list' on the piano, which the boys mark every time they run through their piano pieces. Look at those double/treble/quadruple-ticked days! And the joy of having the headphones when the boys want to experiment with machine-gun noises, or when Ben wants to play at 11pm...

... of course the whole desirability of the thing sometimes leads to scuffles!

And finally, of course, the other antidote to too much video gaming is getting out and about. Son 2 can cycle to his friends or come on dog walks, but Son 1 is still limping (or lurching, really) and our season tickets for the nearby safari park have been a God-send for giving a semi-mobile boy something to do in the sunshine. On our last visit (Wednesday I think) he actually lurched round the walk-round zoo with me too!

So I wouldn't like you to think that our boys aren't part of the modern world with their computers and their obsessions, but I was also pleased to note that there is a natural balance which can be aimed for, with a certain amount of control and a fair amount of encouragement. I wouldn't be keen on removing them completely from modern living, but I do feel the need for some kind of limits - sometimes I wonder if we're hitting the right balance, but this week's enthusiasm for board games, piano practice and cartoon books makes me feel that we're reasonably on track!

That said, the usual suspects are visiting at the moment (three brothers), and all five boys are gathered round the computer, beeping away, but at least I know that it's part of a wider life, and not the whole thing. Other parents - what are your thoughts and experiences?


polkadotpeticoat said...

Floss thank you for this post ....I struggle with all of the above much is too much and so on and video games , our oldest being 16 1/2 has kind of out growing them.....I have to share what someone in church told me on Ash Wednesday, they don't normally come to church so she said oh its so nice to see your teenage son in church I see he has a friend that probably help at this age to get them here.....I smiled and yesterday I told Jeremy how proud I was for always wanting to come to church and for not fighting us at his age because you hear alot of mom's make excuses why there teens are not there with them......made me think something that I had taken for granted and it made me so proud and I told him.....we both have such wonderful children......sometime the little scuttles drive me crazy though,smile!

Betty said...

We have time limits but at weekends they are off - I am finding my 13 year old would rather be outside making a den in the woods as soon as the weather allows... he talks to his friends on skype even though they are within walking distance! they play games online and simultaneously stay on the phone to 'walk through' them together, but we do have 'technology free nights' when there is none of this allowed and this gets the balance back. School holidays always tip the balance though and then we have to start all over again!

Ange said...

I too limit use of both tv and computer games. I have taken to letting them do 'homeschool' projects on the computer though and they seem to be getting the digital time figuring out how to use Apple Pages etc. They are allowed to spend extra time if they can show me pieces they've read and translated from English into French or rewritten in their own words. Seems to be working for now.
I too find them grumpy and agressive when I ask them to stop after too much so we've really set limits which they now seem to accept. Of course - they catch up at friends who don't necessarily have unlimited time allowed, just parents who don't have time to check...
THE FAR SIDE - I hadn't thought of that one yet though! Thanks for the tip. And the lovely comments on my blog. I'm about to get back into it properly now I've found an orientation that suits me and am using my own time more effectively. Hope to catch up with you again soon Floss. It's lovely to know you are near.

Gill said...

I limited TV and computer time for all my children when they were younger - now I only have one son left at home, he spends his free time either playing rugby or rebuilding a 40 year old landrover which once belonged to my Dad! His older brothers both rebuilt vintage tractors!!

June said...

It's a case of working out a balance. It's never a good thing to have too much access to DS and computer / skype! Access is allowed once homework is complete during the week and a bit more freedom at the weekend subject to bedroom being relatively tidy!

Angela said...

Tell me more about Tin Can Shoes. I am fascinated.
Is this shoes for tin cans? Tin Cans in which to keep the shoes? Tin Cans recycled into shoes?
Or is it just a pair of stilts made from two tin cans and lengths of string?

And is it safe for boys recovering from operations to wear them?

On tenterhooks here!!

weekend blessings x x

Kaye Swain said...

Hehehehehe - I KNEW my grandkids and your kids would get along great - both the electronic gizmos - about which I love to use but I, too, do limit! AND the LEGO game fun - we have a robot making game and a bat island game (I can never remember names ;) ), and they are wizes at it - almost always beating grandma.

We still enjoy chess and checkers as well tho, with Battleship another popular contender. And when they are at my house - I strive for only educational tv - like the Wild Kratts. Have your boys discovered those - are they available there? There's only a couple online, but there is also a fun game area for them to play at (yes, another electronic gizmo - BUT educational :) ). It's at - I do have to remind them to ignore the dates as they go along with an older earth than us, but overall, I like them as much as the grandchildren. :)

Thanks for a fun post and looking forward to joining in on another year, with Lent 2012 (can you believe how fast time FLIES!)


Carolyn Phillips said...

Love the look of that book!

We have a running battle with limits. We don't set a lot, but have other rules such as no tv before homework is finished, no tv in bedrooms before age 16 (although they are allowed DVds that are age appropriate). We have always limited games consoles to the living room and therefore they can only be used a) in front of everyone and b) when no one minds them being on (noise/tv/radio/music/homework considerations etc). The ammount of time spent on the computer or watching tv/dvd is still far more than I would like. I'd much prefer to see them curled up with a book for instance. I do find that encouraging other activities works better sometimes than simply limiting computer/tv.

And if I limit computer use too much then they will only point out how much me and their dad use!

wayside wanderer said...

This is one of those things that I wish wasn't such a struggle, but it is. It looks like you have done a good job and have well rounded boys. My 16 year old would be on the games all the time if I let him.
I popped over from PomPoms. =)