Saturday, 16 March 2013

Unrestricted access.

For all the parents out there who worry that their kids are spending too much time in front of the tv or computer, who restrict TV/computer time to a certain number of hours per week or have a constant battle on their hands to keep their kids away from one screen or another, I want to share my experience.
Ive never really been the type of parent who implements structure.
 As babies they ate when hungry and as much as they needed and slept when tired for as long as they required. I had no timetable, nothing was measured and even though my husband and I both worked when my eldest was a baby we still found this the easiest way to handle things. Both my babies were very happy and contented with no health problems.
In our house my kids have unrestricted access to a TV, DVD player and over 100 kids movies ,a computer, a tablet ,internet, personal music player and Nintendo DS.
My little one is attending pre school but R is at home most days therefore allowing plenty of potential screen time each day.
I've been casually observing and noting how much time they spend in each activity, paying particular attention to the days when they are both at home all day. I have discovered that with unrestricted access they choose to spend their time as follows.
 For every one hour of screen time they spend one hour studying/reading or being creative and two hours playing outside. In other words given complete freedom they choose to spend most of their free time outdoors in the garden or engaged in a creative activity.

 Now of course things can vary. If they get a new game or new movie that they particularly enjoy then they may spend more time than average in those screen time activities, just as if they get a new book or toy they spend a few days / weeks with the new interest, but it always levels back out again once the novelty wears off ,if they are given unrestricted access.
Its always been my philosophy that if kids are given the chance to regulate themselves, they always balance out naturally. This applies to every sphere of life i.e eating, sleeping, studying etc.
The problem is that most peoples lives don't facilitate this theory as kids and parents spend most of their time out of the home at school and work and meeting the demands of other peoples timetables.

If a child is spending 6 hours a day in school they may try to redress the balance with some down time in front of the TV when they get home or by playing computer games. The best a parent can do in this situation is provide a decent choice of alternatives.
 The other problem is that we are so used to being told how to do things that we begin to think that we need to be told how. We then believe that if we don't tell our kids how often and how long they can play computer games for, then they wont know.
In many ways its the act of making it a conscious desicion that is the cause of the problem. As soon as we focus on the issue of telly time it becomes a problem. If we expand our interests and don't mention it, its not important and doesn't become a problem.
Its a bit like dieting. As soon as you start focusing on your eating being the problem it becomes even more of a problem. Whereas if you just lead a healthy lifestyle and don't focus on the eating, your weight doesn't  becomes an issue so you don't need to think about dieting.
Anyway whatever our view or experience I think we can all agree that spending time outdoors is beneficial to our kids as is reading and being creative.

Here are some facts:-

Children are spending half as much time outdoors as they did 20 years ago. (Juster et al 2004); (Burdette & Whitaker 2005); (Kuo & Sullivan 2001)

In a typical week, only 6% of children ages 9-13 play outside on their own. (Children & Nature Network, 2008)

  • Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration. (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et al., 2007)

  • Sixty minutes of daily unstructured free play is essential to children’s physical and mental health. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2008

Its pretty obvious that kids are not spending as much time outdoors as they should despite parents best efforts. With all the distractions in our lives it can be difficult to strike a balance and it seems that most parents believe that its their responsibility to regulate their kids.
Maybe its time to take the pressure off the parents and start trusting our kids.
 Just maybe, if we stop making it an issue it wont become one.

So according to my experience  children with the freedom to choose their own activities with no guidance from the parent will strike a healthy balance between indoor and outdoor pursuits if the opportunity for a variety of activities is provided by the parent.
My kids are lucky as they have plenty of outdoor space to play in and this provides ample opportunity for unstructured outdoor play.

Favourite games for my girls, along with their cousins and friends, which they play on a regular basis (daily) in our garden are swinging on the rope swings , jumping on the trampoline, making mud pies, running races, cricket/badminton/football, catch and cook, agility courses with the dogs, role play e.g spy kids, Power rangers ,Robin Hood, Bridge to Terabithia, fishing, bird watching, and making dens.

Other favourite creative activities include painting, drawing ,colouring, cutting and glueing, clay modelling,dressing up and role play eg libraries ,shops, restaurants, schools etc, face painting, sewing, cooking and reading.

One of the great things about homeschooling is that it does require a lot of self direction from the children and it frees up a lot of time. Time which can be spent  engaged in activity.... or just hanging around.......!!

 Its important to remember that whatever children decide to do with their time, they are always learning. Living life is learning. Even when playing computer games! Also that kids, because of their natural curiosity and innate desire to learn, will usually consciously or subconsciously choose an activity which will be a challenge and therefore learning at some level, filling in the gaps in their experience. They dont need us to tell them what they are. They already know! Just give them the opportunity. Trust your kids!

If you found this interesting then please take a look at the following article which I just found on the same subject.


  1. HI Claira, pretty much agree with this. I have never been one to give much structure but of course as you say we do have to work around others. I go on the idea that if Chloe has a late night and feels rubbish in the morning she will then learn that the next day she will need an earlier one. Callum pretty much at 17 has chosen to live with my dad cooks for himself and does his own washing. This is because I always stuggled with getting him to eat what I cooked so i decided he could choose for himself hence he became independent. Emily well she doesn't have a bed time routine and chooses to fall asleep most night on the sofa with me or her dad, due to the fact her dad works late night. If she was restricted to a certain time he would never see her. She often chooses to go to bed early mind with her sister. I think the problem comes when you stop monitoring and boundaries are not in place. A balance is required but I believe parents often think they need to follow the structure of that of their society or they are doing something wrong. Comparing of children is the worst thing to do and by treating them all as individuals they find their way to independence and make their own mistakes allowing them to grow up autonomous.

  2. Hello there fellow-Goan-mommy,

    What you're doing with your older girl is inspiring!
    I found your blog while searching for 'Green Meadow School'.
    My little girl is around 2 and a half - and I'd like to enrol her into a pre-school.
    You mention your little one is in pre-school as well - is it Green Meadows or another one?

    1. Green Meadows has a pre-school called First Steps which my eldest attended before Green meadows.
      My youngest goes to 'Little Giants' in Calangute. The reason for sending her there was that they offer flexible hours and a choice of half or full days whereas First steps is full time only.
      I was happy with both schools and would recommend that you check them both out before making a decision.
      I hope this helps. Good luck.

    2. Thank you so much for replying.
      I'm unable to find a weblink for Little Giants, do you have one please?

  3. There is no website for Little Giants school. It is just a very small local school. You can make enquiries by email at or call on 09326817730

    1. Thanks so much Claira,
      Your help is much appreciated.

  4. Hi Claira,

    i found your story very inspiring. I am british mother living in goa with 2 girls. I would love to meet up with you for a coffee so we can share some tips. I live in calangute and my niece goes to little maybe we could meet up around there. let me know. thanks Lea

  5. Hi Claira,

    i found your story very inspiring. I am british mother living in goa with 2 girls. I would love to meet up with you for a coffee so we can share some tips. I live in calangute and my niece goes to little maybe we could meet up around there. let me know. thanks Lea

  6. hi claire,

    love your story very inspiring. i too am a british mother living in goa for the past 4 years. i would love to meet up and arrange a play date. i also have 2 girls. i stay in calangute. let me know if ur free. thanks lea