Discovering Waldorf – ‘The Elephant in my Living Room’

Media in the home… a Waldorf topic to be delicately discussed. In our media-driven age, it is such a difficulty to adhere to the Waldorf insistence of a media-free home. We are all aware of the harmful effect that too much TV has on our children. Yet, some of us can’t imagine how to achieve a life without the big screen. ‘TV is educational.’ ‘TV gives me the break from my kids that I need’. ‘TV give them a space in which to wind down’. ‘TV gives them so much pleasure’ These are all excuses I myself have used while knowing, in my heart, that these needs can be satisfied in a much more wholesome, nurturing and soulful way than is ever delivered by Television.
My dear friend Shannon, has agreed to share her experiences of how she and her family have embarked on the slow process of moving towards a media free home. Yes, it is difficult in the beginning, but as you will see, the rewards are great. Enjoy!
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The Elephant in my Livingroom – by Shannon

For a long time I had been fascinated with the Waldorf education model. I spent hours researching schools and the practice online. It was not until the creation of a Waldorf program near our home that I jumped in. It was so comfortable and easy to be at school with my young son. It was like soul food to be honest. I felt like we had finally found our community. The natural beauty of the world was welcomed in the form of the toys, teacher and curriculum. There was really only one challenge for my family….no media.

In my families quest to deepen our waldorf practice, I had to tackle our love affair with the television. As many of you are aware the waldorf philosophy sees media input as detrimental to our childrens development. It hinders their imagination and blocks their soul. As I began to pay attention to the play in our home, I saw how serious this really was. My youngest, only two at the time, was mesmerized by the images flashing across the screen. Even if he had begun to play something on his own, which was rare, he would scream if you tried to turn off the T.V. I felt awful, I had created a tiny television addict. This apathy was apparent in my whole family.

Thus we began our journey away from “the elephant in my living room”. Our play group teacher suggested we start a weaning process. I began by just trying to distract from turning on the t.v. as long as possible. We started to really play together and get out of the house on outings more. We started to really reign in what there was to watch. The real shift came for us when my now 3 yr old entered the pre-k/kindy class. Our teacher very kindly and firmly asked us to restrict the media viewing even further as it was affecting his play at school.

Our next step down the path was to cancel the cable and create family movie night. Not only did this generate some quality together time but it stopped the constant asking for t.v. time. The children know it happens ever week at the same time. The results have been amazing. The children not only play on their own more, their creativity is through the roof. My young son now asks for floor games instead of the television.

A floor game we developed called ‘Crashing Castles’. Each player builds a fantastic feat of engineering. Then each player gets a turn to see if he can crash his car into the opposite players castle. The player whose castle remains standing the longest is the winner.

He relishes time spent with his father, making up games after work.

Everyone seems to be happier, less agitated and wound up.

We are not media free yet but we are working towards it.

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Thank you, Shannon. I love the fact that your family now relishes time spent together playing games, reading and just talking together. These are memories you will all cherish. An episode of Dora will soon be forgotten but the sweet ‘Castle Crash’ games your son and his father play will be family heirlooms remembered forever. I bet he will even play it with his own son some day.

Shannon writes a super fun blog called Shenanigans. She is one of the few people who have found a ‘country’ lifestyle in our huge metropolis. She also runs a gorgeous natural soap shop called Sacred Waters Soap Co. We use her gorgeous smelling, gentle feeling soap every night. It cleans us and calms us and sends us to bed happy. Thank you, Shannon – luv ya!

Read the other great discussions in the Discovering Waldorf Series.

Blessings and magic.


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20 Responses

  1. Thanks for this article! It’s gratifying to read about the process of media weaning. Mainstream parenting articles are filled with advice to cut down on media for children, but it’s taken in the same vein as “Exercise and eat your vegetables.” I think it’s a good idea to have a movie night so that media doesn’t become forbidden fruit, so to speak. When my daughter gets a little older, I think we will have a movie night, too. We have a small house, and so it was relatively easy to make the case for getting rid of the tv. (When the grownups see movies, we watch them on a laptop with headphones. It works.) We roll with the outside opinions that we’re a little quirky, because that’s nothing new.

  2. I enjoyed this piece, thank you.

    Shortly after we gave birth to our daughter, our old TV broke, and we never replaced it. We have an aquarium filled with colorful fish on the wood “tv stand” instead, and fill our evenings with being outside, cooking together, crafting, adventures and conversing. I don’t regret it for a minute. Later on, in a number of years, we can watch a movie or show together on our computer, just as Farida suggested. It’s incredible how liberating it can feel to not own a TV.

  3. Our journey toward a media free home has many parallels to Shannon’s. Our older kids also have a set movie time each week and it definitely has lessoned the dependence/begging. It’s so nice to have kids who can entertain themselves without a TV!

  4. I never thought we would be media free this time last year, but we are now, and it has made such a difference to all of our quality of life (husband and I do watch in the evenings, but trying to cut down, children watch odd dvd if ill or long school holiday but nothing otherwise).

    For those looking for strategies to wean away – the thing that worked for us with our 6 year old boy was to make a bet with him whether he could go without TV for a period of time, starting with a week, then a month, then three months – if he won the bet he got something – a toy or a treat out – nothing that major really, but it was sufficient incentive to really motivate him and keep him going in the initial sticky patches.

    To anyone considering it, or struggling, I would so wholeheartedly say go for it and persevere – it’s so worth it.

    (And, as a final comment, consider the viewing that does take place – do the children really sit quietly and watch, or do they still wander in and out, asking for snacks/drinks/etc, fighting over programmes etc – we found they actually amuse themselves for longer and play better now they don’t have the TV and the whole TV on for 10 minutes peace thing is really a bit of a myth as it rarely distracted them for long).

  5. We are tv free, but struggle with computers. I wrote about Television and our Family recently –the reasons for having no TV have changed now that my girls are 11 and 14, but the decision has not. It was the best decision we ever made.

    I recently read a book that discussed television and children’s abilities to play nicely with siblings. The author found that children who watched educational shows with sibling themes often behaved worse afterwards because the show laid out a long scenario of a sibling issue and then a 1-minute solution. The shows backfired because the kids never really got the solution.

  6. I decided to bite the bullet big time about 2 months ago. See, my family also LOVES TV. My oldest son is mildly autistic, so its a double whammy for him. I started the weaning process got the kids down to only an hour or so a day. But then I got tired of the whining, and the pleading, and the temper tantrums, and the fighting over turning the TV on. I also really disliked the fact that they were getting up earlier and earlier in order to watch more TV

    I started warning the children that the TV Fairy might come some night and make it so they couldn’t watch TV anymore. That the TV Fairy told me that they watched way too much TV. My children (oldest is 7) scoffed at the idea.

    The one night, the TV fairy did in fact come. (In the form of a heavy duty electronic timer.) The children got up one morning and the TV no longer worked.

    Oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth. But life settled, they got used to it. And now the TV is on for exactly one half hour each afternoon, so I can cook dinner.

    Now they are used to it, they still enjoy Friday Night movie night, but that’s all they get.

    But they still ask for more. *sigh*

  7. Thank you, thank you for this!! Our girls are media free and always have been, but it’s been harder on my husband and I. When we moved to Oregon I finally talked him into only having *gasp* ONE tv. (sounds ridiculous, I know), andhaving that tv not in our living room or any family space but in a cabinet with doors on it, in his downstairs office area that the girls are never in. This is also where we keep our computer so it’s all far away and out of site out of mind. We are really loving it!

  8. Thanks for sharing, I know myself I use those excuses as well. Our family has Saturday night unpluged. So no electrical devices are allowed to be switched on at all or used. I too find it easier to not turn the tv on, as it will stay off longer. I am not sure that my huband is ready for a tv free life just yet, but we are working towards it.

  9. What a wonderful post. My girls ages 4 and 7 watch a litle TV. We are going cable free and I’d like to ditch the TV alltogether but my hubbie likes movies. And I have to say I do like an occasional educational DVD from the library for the girls now and again.
    I admire those that are TV free.

  10. We actually put our tv away last month, so we are slowly on our way to being tv free. (although, I will confess to bringing it out on Mothers Day to watch Coronation Street…an absurd and guilty pleasure). I do like to watch movies, and I let my daughter watch a movie on weekends, (on the mini dvd player)…she hasn’t had any problems with giving up television during the week…in fact, her ability to focus on tasks is far greater since we’ve limited her television time. I also found that our children were much more peaceful at bedtime when the tv was off all evening, (because they could hear us watching it from their room), and we had far more time to do the things that really matter…like create, discuss, read. Thank you for such an inspiring article! I so enjoy these Waldorf posts!!
    with love

  11. We don’t have a tele at all and so I can only imagine the hard weaning! well done. hard days are tricj\ky with no tele but we survive and i have no doubt are better for it!

  12. I want to share something I found very interesting. My kids rarely watch TV at home. They hadn’t watched any TV for about 3 months prior to Christmas and then we let them watch some Christmas movies that we all love. We bought Pinocchio as a Christmas gift for the kids because they absolutely love the story. Well, it just so happens that the movie has confused Maya (4) as to what is and isn’t okay to do. One day after watching the movie she asks me why Pinocchio and the other boys turn into donkeys if they hadn’t done anything bad. She elaborated by saying that they didn’t hit, yell, throw themselves on the floor or cry… they just played pool and put a smoking stick to their mouth. It then, for the first time, dawned on me that she was actually learning a lesson from the story that we were telling her because she was imagining that the “bad” things Pinocchio was doing were the things she knows she’s not supposed to do.

    Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! My hard work at limiting any screen time actually makes a difference… it’s not in vain.

    I have really enjoyed reading all of these posts!


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