Wednesday, 25 March 2015

We rose to E.On's Screen-Free #SwitchOffChallenge

When I was a kid growing up in the seventies and eighties, I used to love watching a programme called Why Don't You?, whose theme tune was "Why Don't You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go Out And Do Something Less Boring Instead?". Despite the irony that wasn't lost on me, even then, of a TV show encouraging me to turn off the TV and stop wasting my time, I loved the ethos of the programme - rediscovering simple pleasures like arts and crafts, baking or getting outside in the fresh air rather then turning on the gogglebox.

I was therefore very excited when energy company E.ON got in touch to find out if we'd be interested in taking part in their #SwitchOffChallenge. They have undertaken new research which has found that over half of parents (53%) want to spend more quality time together as a family, and over a third (37%) say that gadgets have the biggest impact on the amount of time they spend together as a family. In fact, almost 1 in 5 parents (19%) stated that their children couldn’t go more than two hours without technology. As part of their campaign to try to get families away from their screens and spending quality time together, they challenged us as a family to ditch the TVs, tablets, games consoles and PCs for 2 hours a day over the course of one week, using the time to take part in back-to-basics activities such as board games, baking and arts & crafts.

When we're on holiday, I always make sure we pack in lots of activities both in and outside of the house, but I must admit, on school days, for both me and the kids, once we've got homework out of the way and before I start on dinner, we do tend to have a mindless hour or so catching up on emails and facebook, watching cartoons and playing apps on the ipad. That was the screen-time I decided to try to do away with for a week. I always see it as my wind down and recuperate time after a busy day at work, but I was interested to see how we would get on with packing in some extra activities instead.

Here's what we did :

Day One : Baking Up A Storm

The last thing I want to do after a long day at work is making complicated recipes that generate lots of washing-up with the kids. Simple things like cupcakes, cookies, brownies and fridge cake can all be knocked up in minutes though and they can all (except for the fridge cake of course!) be put in the bottom of the oven with whatever I'm cooking for tea.

Day Two : Jigsaw Puzzles

E.On had a great idea for board games and jigsaw puzzles, suggesting starting a lending library with your friends and neighbours so you can give a new lease of life to all the ones that are feeling unloved at the back of your cupboards. We had plenty to keep us going though and working on a puzzle all together gave us a great chance for a catch up, chatting about all the little things that had happened throughout the day.

Day Three : Helping Cook Dinner

I decided I might as well kill two birds with one stone and keep the kids entertained while doing something useful ! The Madhouse kids love baking but they don't get that involved with the real cooking so when I asked if they wanted to help chopping and peeling the vegetables for dinner, they jumped at the chance. It does take longer than doing it all myself but in the absence of screens, I suddenly found I had more time and didn't need to rush anyway. I also noticed (as I have before) that the kids are much more likely to finish their dinner if they've helped with preparing it.

Day Four : A Trip To The Swings

They may have had a busy day at school but the Madhouse kids were still full of energy so we headed to the swings. We weren't the only ones to have this idea so they played with some of their schoolfriends and burnt off some more energy while I had a natter with the mums.

Day Five : Feeding The Ducks

As the evenings are starting to draw out, I decided we could head a bit further afield so we ventured out to a bigger park that has lots of woodland walks, play areas and a big duck pond. We turned it into a bit of a nature walk, looking for the signs of spring but we didn't really find any yet, just a few daffodils and some moth-eaten catkins ! There are a series of geocaches in this park too which is another great way of getting away from the screens and going out on mini adventures. (Check out my geocaching posts if you have no idea what I'm talking about !)

Day Six : Extended Bedtime Stories

When the rain stopped (outdoor) play, we decided to get changed out of our damp clothes and jump straight into pyjamas as soon as we got back from the school run, then snuggled up under a blanket on the settee and read through a whole pile of picture books together. Bedtime stories often end up being a rushed affair because I'm tired or it's late or I don't want to miss the start of Eastenders (ahem !), so moving storytime forward is actually a great idea.

Day Seven : Messy Play and Arts & Crafts

After our successful handprint crafts a few weeks ago, I'd promised the kids that we'd have another go but using their feet instead this time. They've been badgering me to have a go ever since so I decided now was the perfect time. My top tip? Take the paint pad and the sheets of paper up to the bathroom then they can hop straight in the bath to wash the paint off their feet afterwards !

This week has certainly been an eye-opener. Although I always get the kids involved in activities and trips out at the weekends and during the holidays, I have always been happy to write off the "dead time" between school/work and dinner because I thought it wasn't long enough to do anything sensible in. I've been proved wrong though ! I'd be interested to see if switching off all the gadgets and screens for two hours a day would help lower our energy bills overall too.

Disclosure : We received a shopping voucher to stock up on supplies to take part in the  #SwitchOffChallenge.


  1. I remember 'Why Don't You' - fab programme. They should bring it back! I have to admit my daughter does her homework with the tele on in the background. Terrible. I must make her turn it off.

  2. I remember "Why Don't you?" also! interesting how technology has both improved and altered our lives. It is good to enjoy the simple things that usually don't cost anything.

    1. It's funny to see how, through the generations, kids love doing the same things too :)