When we have a new baby or are sick, I find we really lean on television to make those hard days go more smoothly. In the moment I am so grateful for Netflix, but after even a few days of reckless bingeing on super hero shows (our latest favourite), I can already feel the consequences. For me, TV encourages me to be sedentary. I don't have to entertain anyone and, honestly, I get drawn in by the flashing lights and drama of their shows. For the kids, it becomes their sole focus. "What can we watch today? Just one more? I didn't get to pick MY favourite!" It gets exhausting and honestly tempting to just give in and watch all our waking hours just to keep the whining down. The thing is, TV loses its value as a treat when it's being watched all the time. So, we're left with a bad habit we need to break.
In my experience the best option is to go cold turkey. I try not to make a big deal out of it. When they ask I just say "not right now" and offer another activity instead. They need to be eased back into self directed play. With that in mind, I get involved as much as possible. Besides just turning them outside (an obvious choice in the warm weather), I make sure I have an arsenal of activities ready. Sometimes I find a project they can look forward to over a whole week is a great distraction. For example, this week we're making a papier maché volcano. We've already made the structure, so now we're waiting for it to dry (may take a while as preschoolers are of the more is more school of thought when it comes to paste use). Once it's dry we'll paint it and once that dries we'll do the baking soda and vinegar eruption. In between I've stocked them up with lots to colour, some easy science projects and things like modeling clay. I'm also adding more reading chapter books out loud for restful moments.
It takes a lot of patience, but all of that is worth it to see the fog lifted off their brains. I love TV as much as the next person but there is such a thing as too much.