Growing Season

TV-Turnoff Week is just around the corner, April 20–26, to be exact. People have been asking me for ideas on how to keep kids busy and happy (and parents sane) without television and video games.

With Michelle Obama’s White House vegetable garden in the works, I would like to suggest that TV-Turnoff Week be used to plant more gardens wherever possible. In fact, a garden can be created on an apartment balcony with just a couple of pots. A neighbor of mine just dug out a few large rocks in his well-landscaped yard to make room for some onions and carrots, among other things.

Everyone in the family can help with a vegetable garden. Even toddlers can learn to dig holes and pull weeds, and later on they’ll be more willing to try the fruits and vegetables they’ve planted. When my son was three, he ate one of the carrots we grew when the dirt was barely washed off.

I plan to use part of my front yard for my garden because it gets a lot of sun. I don’t have much experience gardening, but that doesn’t matter. My neighbors can help me and there are lots of other resources available, such as Organic Gardening, which is full of information for beginners. A non-profit organization in Portland called Growing Gardens helps low-income families have vegetable gardens and Portland Yard Sharing hooks people up with others to share gardens.

If you’re not interested in gardening, don’t fret. TV-Turnoff Week is also a good time to do other things outside, rain or shine. Families can take more walks together, ride bikes and take the bus, if they don’t already. Kids can explore nearby creeks and climb trees.

For families who want to explore the scene beyond their own neighborhoods, the Sierra Club and Kaiser are hosting a series of hikes around town, beginning April 18, to help kick off TV-Turn-off Week. For the more adventurous, you can also go to my son’s website to check out his featured hikes.

Lately in Portland, we’ve been enduring unseasonably cold weather, and so I should point out the benefits of TV-free time spent inside as well. It’s a great time to try new recipes, read new books, do art projects, play board games, sing and play musical instruments, and interact with family members and friends (without a remote or an X-Box).

It really is easier to raise kids with less television or none at all, although it can be hard in the beginning. The good news is that kids who learn not to rely on television develop their imaginations more and get better at entertaining themselves sooner, which is good for everyone.

I wish all of you who are participating in TV-Turnoff Week the best of luck and best wishes on your garden this year should you choose to have one!

Happy Spring!

Ellen

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