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A Grandmother’s Take on Watching Screen-Free Grandchildren

“Screen-free play at Gran’mommy and Gran’poppy’s House”

By Barbara Bedingfield

There is nothing more awe-inspiring than to watch a 2 ½ -year old at play, using the things at hand to create his worlds. In this particular instance recently it’s the toy basket which has become a boat, a little wooden truck standing in for Gran’poppy’s van and an egg beater which is the boat wench. We have kept two cardboard boxes in our living room for the past several weeks so that our grandchildren can play with them. They pull one another and replay scenes they’ve lived going out on Gran’poppy’s boat. A knife sharpener, a nutcracker, and a two-comb hair clasp have alternately served as back-hoes or as our grandson calls them his “baga.”

Children do not need finished toys. It is far more satisfying to them to make ordinary household items into whatever they want them to be. (Save your money and enjoy a clutter-free home) All of the grandchildren’s toys except for the cardboard boxes fit into one small wicker basket in our living room. The household items get stored back into their proper drawers. This kind of spontaneous, self-directed free play keeps children engaged for long stretches of time. No need to turn to the television—even if we had one.

We have the pleasure of caring for our grandchildren on many occasions and it’s always a pleasure because they are able to play and entertain themselves and since they have not had television in their home, they never ask for it. When Dad sat down to play the piano one recent evening when they were visiting for dinner, I suggested that my granddaughter dance. She happily complied and unselfconsciously pranced, twirled, ran and jumped all in time to the music. This is the kind of real, not virtual, experience that nurtures us all and when the screens are not there to intrude, the space is created for magical things to happen.