Jon and I had noticed that our boys behavior had been especially out of sorts in recent months. We noticed a significant increase in the drama department early on in the beginning of the year when we returned home from our holiday travels. They weren't being creative, they didn't really play with their toys and they were fighting with us and each other non-stop.

Then we figured it out. The boys received a couple of WII games for Christmas (Little A's only request from Santa) and wanted to play them ALL the time. Of course we didn't let them play nonstop, but they still were exceptionally cranky and disobedient when they weren't playing or watching DVD's or TV. I tried to encourage them to play with their toys more, go outside and be more creative...but Little A rejected the notion wholeheartedly (not normal for him) and the whole ordeal usually ended in bouts of crying and writhing on the floor.

Something had to be done.
So we did it.

We pulled the plug.

No TV, No WII, No DVD's, No Netflix (which I think is choice overload for a small child and not my favorite platform for kids TV)...for a week, at least.

And little by little my sweet little creative, playful boys came back. They began imagining new things to do with their toys (such as line them all up a top their beds - which have been squished together during the colder months as Little O kept getting sick sleeping by the window) and they didn't come to me so much complaining of boredom.
Once things were back to normal for a decent amount of time we did let them watch a show or play a WII game here and there but we are now much more careful about monitoring their time with the tele and make sure that it stays very limited. And if things ever get out of sorts again...well...we know just what to do.

Have you ever experienced TV/Video Game sensory overload with your children? Do they act out? What are your back up plans keep things in check? Do you think this happens to adults as well? I'd love for you to share your tips!


  1. We have noticed our kids freak outs and tantrums are related to being over stimulated with the Wii and the tele too. It's in those moments everything is turned off and we read together.
    For us it's a work in progress. Recently our kids have had a lot of fun playing the Wii together. It's hard to turn it off when they are laughing together.

  2. Thanks Nikki! I know, I typically like the WII for the fact that is seems more interactive than other video game platforms and you can actually have some family fun with it. I guess our kids behavior afterwards is what lets us know if it's just the right amount or a tad too much. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Mer,
    I couldn't agree more. My boys are so creative....when they are not over stimulated. Sometimes it is nice to have the break....but honestly I have found that the aftermath just isn't worth it. I think we are moving closer to tv/movie/games only on the weekend and only when they are earned. I love, love, love your blog!

  4. I recently made a Saturday-only screen time rule for my kids, and I can't believe what a difference it has made. I recently read a book called "Simplicity Parenting" that has some seriously great advice re kids and sensory overload. LOTS of good tips in there. Probably the most helpful parenting book I've ever read.

  5. We're really relaxed homeschoolers, in that we sort of interweave schoolwork in and out of daily life. My girls know their schoolwork assignments and their chores for each day, and they know that chores are mandatory, but schoolwork comes second to their creative, unplugged kid play. However, if they want to watch their one Netflix choice for each day, or if they want to use the ipad or the computer, then they know that they must complete their chores AND their schoolwork first. Most days the kiddos simply play and mind their own business and do some schoolwork or whatever crazy project strikes their fancy, but if they're burning to watch a movie or play a game on the computer, they can burn through their responsibilities and I at least know that they've done some good, productive work first.

  6. You took the words right out of my mouth. We do no video games of any sorts on school days. And they are aloud to play on the weekends but as soon as the bickering begins, everything gets turned off!

  7. such a great idea, thanks for sharing!


  8. I totally agree Mer! too much and my kids are fighting all day! I also really like Julies idea. I am super low key Homeschooler as well but I have recently noticed that if they don't get enough schoolwork into their day the fighting and lack in creativity comes back.

  9. I used to work for EA and my husband still work in games. But since we are at it all day and it feels like work we are not playing at home -at all. I do let the kid play a bit but he is more interested in doing things with me. The problem was watching Netflix, which he did a lot lately. To cut it I still give him a little cartoon time, but now it's followed by activities to help shutting it down. As in, giving him a Ford Mustang, showing him the scene of the pursuit (only that scene) in Bullit, then letting him run loose with string (to draw roads in the carpet) and cushions (to make hills to jump). Once this done, creativity play comes naturally and Tv is forgotten for hours, if days.

  10. Amen and amen. I notice the samenwith our boys! Its so encouraging to see results. Pretty sure we may need to do the same thing - thanks for the nudge!

  11. We don't watch VV or movies, we don't have Netflix and we have no video games. It is Heaven. I have 1 four year old son and we PLAY. And explore. And read. I think that's what these younger years are for. Exploring the backyard, going on a bike ride, and lots of hiking.f

  12. Agreed! I want our boys to continue being creative, and sometimes it seems to be sucked out (along with their good attitudes) of them when they play too much Wii.

  13. I think I need this more than anything. When I have the most screen time in a day, I'm a much lazier parent. FOR SURE. I can totally tell a change in penelope, too. We've put a lock on her phone (my old iphone), which has made a huge difference.

    There were a few days when Penelope was waking up in the middle of the night to seek out our phones and play with them. It's nothing short of an addiction!

    You're inspiring, Mer. I might need to do an unplugged week with my kiddo.

  14. Oh my goodness, I just LOVE all of your comments! So helpful!

    Melissa, yes my kids had a little addiction to the iphone as well that we had to nip in the bud.

    I'm really liking the Saturdays only rule as well as the idea of showing a bit of a show only to have it lead to creative play or a project.

    And yes, this is a privilege that comes AFTER doing their chores. My sister gets her boys to clean the toilets in order to play a video game. Love that.

  15. Thank you for the reminder! I always wonder why my kids are so dramatic. I think it's time for tv to go away. Maybe we'll have a tv free summer this year! I love seeing pics of your kids playing so creatively. I want to do more creative projects with my kids.

  16. We had to do the same thing recently! Tv is now a weekend thing and maybe if they have a day off from school thing. It's also had me look at my screen time and what it does to my creative energy.

  17. Legos, Legos, Legos. I don't know if they can save your kids like they saved mine, but I have two little boys ages 3 and 5 who only wanted Wii and Netflix all day, all the time. Then we pulled out an old set my husband had stashed away, and we slowly started building up a collection of their own (mostly Star Wars and Ninjago themed), and I can't tell you how much our lives have changed! The boys still want TV and Wii, but I would say that their screen time has been cut by 80%. And not because I had to take it away, but because they prefer their Legos over the TV.

  18. Yes! my son has the same problem! too much television, iPhone games, or video games will have him in a really bad mood all the time. he gets a bad attitude, doesn't play well with his sister, can't take criticism. we also have had to take the wii away. but i'm still afraid to bring it back... maybe over the summer.

    i noticed this happens to him since he was really little, but i had never thought to wonder how media might be affecting me! that's something to think about...

  19. I relate to this exactly! It was weird, I started noticing video games were almost like drugs for my boys and they acted completely different when it was time to turn them off - like withdrawls. Suddenly nothing else they owned was fun, they were so bored and the arguing was ridiculous! We now have a video game day once a week. It actually is a school day (wed), but they only have a small window to play. They have requirements to meet before playing - tidy room, homework and 20mins of reading. then they can play until dinner time. Somehow just controlling it and setting expectations has helped a lot. the other rules are if any fighting or bad sportsmanship happens during the game it gets turned off no questions asked, they can also lose the privilege of video game day for some kind of major offense (like a big fist-t'cuffs, dishonesty, saying things like "Stupid"). I've actually only took it away 1 time in the last 6 months. Best wishes! I think it will work out.

  20. I canceled cable TV when my then 7 year old daughter asked me if she could do her "thing" and I said, "What's your thing?" and heard "TV". No kidding, the next day I canceled cable. That was the best thing I've ever done. No more Disney, no more Nickelodeon. I can relate to what you said about her "coming back" into this world. It was amazing.
    Now I want to do the same thing with video games and my 13 year old stepson. Kristin said exactly what I have been thinking. Fighting with siblings, attitude and withdrawl when we say he needs to take a break. It is pretty scary!

  21. we've never had a tv or much less any sort of video game setup-- and i wish i could say that meant my children were never dramatic and never fought! :) but in any case i feel much better about their use of time, whatever it may be that they choose to do. plus i feel much more justified when i let them watch the odd movie on the laptop once in awhile. (and oh i enjoy the peace and quiet that brings. . .)

  22. We see the exact same thing from Koa. I've always thought it was a readjustment issue for him. In other words it's not so much that Tv overstimulates him it's more like it allows him to block out all other stimulus so that when he's asked to reenter reality it's overwhelming and he goes into sensory overload (hence the melt downs). For a kid that has sensory intergration issues it can be a major releif to be able to block out some of the chaos but it can also be highly addictive. Cally has started having screen days at her house. If it's screen day the kids are free to chose a video game or Tv show but if it's not a screen day all "screens" are off. Koa has latched onto the concept from hanging out over there so I thought I might implement it here. He also lost his charger to his DS which I am in no hurry to find!

  23. I couldn't agree more. I have three boys and we have gone through periods of both too much and no screen time. The creative play and sweetness is so evident when we stay away from the screens. I have just recently noticed the same for me. Our internet was out for four days and I got so much done, my mood was better and I was picking up a book or my knitting instead of killing time pinning and looking at blogs. I believe so strongly that imaginative play is the most important thing young children do. Thanks for the inspiration we are going to make the media disappear for awhile hear too!

  24. Oh this is so true.
    We have not had even basic tv channels in our home for at least 10 years.
    We've had dvds and recently added netflix
    We let our 3 older kids (7, 5 and 3) watch some shows on the weekend and that's it.
    Unless Mommy is extra tired or someone is sick, no weekday tv--period.
    We don't do any video games, computer games, and we don't have an iphone or ipad to play with.
    When we go somewhere, they draw or read books.
    Even on 6 hour road trips--we listen to books on cd.
    When they do watch tv on the weekends, even 1 show per kid, they get crabby and cranky and say they are bored as soon as tv time is done.
    During the week they are drawing, inventing and creating all day long.
    TV dulls their imagination.
    Video games are even worse.
    My mother in law brings her iphone and ipad each time we see her.
    My boys make a beeline for the games she's bought for them to play.
    They don't want to do anything else.
    Yes, it keeps them quiet, but they don't play.
    And after a while, their behavior is atrocious.
    I am not a fan of the video games.
    I plan on maintaing a pretty screen free home throughout their childhoods.
    Reading, drawing, building, dreaming, thinking, inventing, listening and simply talking to one another are all so much better than getting sucked into the screen.
    Even though at times it is so tempting to let the tv be my babysitter.
    It's always better when I don't give in.
    Love from,