Teaching our children to be amused

Feb 1, 2012

The other night I attended a parenting seminar at my son’s classical Christian school. What I love about his school is how intentional they are in their approach to educating and training children. I also appreciate their counter-cultural perspective.

However, as a mom of three young children I often make choices that aren’t intentional and frequently follow culture. So I always brace myself before these seminars. I know my “mommy guilt” may raise its ugly head.

The parenting seminar was taught by a husband and wife, Robin & Michael Lewis, who have 4 grown children and who started the school.  Mrs. Lewis began talking about the topic of “amusements.”

She defined “amusements” as “those things that occupy our attention.”

Oh no! One of the topics I struggle with the most…”entertainment”. T.V.? Video games? iPhones? Nintendo DS? Do I let my boys engage in these activities? Is so, how much?

BUT instead of saying “T.V. is bad” or “Don’t let your kids play video games”. She took a different approach…

1) Look at the probable outcome

When thinking about amusing our children or giving them choices of amusement we need to think about where that choice leads.

For example: If I hand my 2-year-old an iPhone to play a game or watch a movie while his brothers are in Taekwondo, where does that choice lead? What will he be amused by when he is 6 or 10 or 21?

What about when my boys are bored and they only think to watch a T.V. show or play a video game? What will they choose for entertainment as adult men? Only something with a screen?

She emphasized that “lifelong habits are being formed now” (no pressure ;)).

2) Take the time to teach them new amusements

In order to expose our children to a wider variety of entertainment options, Mrs. Lewis suggested spending 15 minutes once a week teaching or showing them a new skill. If there is something you enjoy, share it with them.

3) Fill your home with quality choices

Instead of playing “games of chance” (like Candy Land) with our children, Mrs. Lewis suggested we should offer them strategy games. 

This was a revolutionary idea for me. As a speech-language pathologist I own many “games of chance”. Candy Land, for example, is a great game to play during speech therapy…I could set the deck so the child would win, the turns were short and the directions were simple.

But she presented a new perspective…we need to teach our children to think when they play games. She gave the example of her son and his friend that played strategy games for hours on the weekends. Now her son’s friend works for the U.S. Government state department planning international strategy.

She also suggested choosing toys with “multiple play” value. Toys such as: blocks, balls, soldiers, Legos, costumes, and even big pieces of fabric/blankets. These toys provide more opportunities to engage their imagination and creativity.

4) Amusements should spiral towards home

When introducing amusements to your family, Mrs. Lewis suggested making choices that direct your children into your home, not away from home. Every family has talents and interests. We should be sharing those with our children and engaging in those interests as a family.

For example, perhaps you enjoy cooking, gardening, or traveling. If you cook together or travel together, you develop a common love. As your children grow, she suggests, they will be more likely to choose to be home and engaging in these family interests over being with their friends.

Okay. So how do you feel? guilt? burdened? I hope not!

I’ve found that in the week since I heard her speak I haven’t made drastic changes…my boys still watch T.V. and play video games. BUT it has shaped my daily choices.

My goal in sharing it here is to provide a different perspective than the one our culture is giving. To encourage you that you can make a difference in training your children in their amusements. To empower you. To inspire you. Definitely NOT to overwhelm you.

The last piece of advice from Mrs. Lewis:

“Each day pray for wisdom in parenting your children. The two biggest deterrents to good parenting: 1) pride 2) not praying for wisdom”

**For a little humor check out this updated version of “Goodnight Moon”…called “Goodnight iPad”:
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ouOwpYQqic&w=560&h=315]


  1. Lauren

    This is great! I struggle with the entertainment options we put before our kids. They are not allowed to watch hardly ANYTHING other than Wild Kratts, Thomas the Tank Engine, and What’s in the Bible DVDs (with a VERY occasional exception of Cars or Tangled or something). Even then, I try not to let them watch anything unless they are bouncing off the walls and I can’t get them into anything else. I hear you, it’s easy to put a screen in front of them, especially the little ones, including our phones, rather than engage them. I had a similar situation last week where I had to sit a few hours in a coffee shop with my boys waiting for our van – I gave them each 15 minutes on the phone, then we played a game (I spy) and walked the street. We had a great time! These are all fantastic alternatives, thank you for this post!

  2. Erin

    “Goodnight iPad” is funny – very tongue in cheek! I’m glad you posted about this because it helps me to move beyond the “mommy guilt” of letting the kids have screen time and into the mindset of what else can they be doing to engage their minds and bodies? I feel like we all know this point, but in your God-given wisdom, you’ve broken down the talk you heard into a way to encourage intentionality. Strategy games! Of course! But I never think to play something other than a straightforward board game. I’ve realized that if I want my kids to complex, critical thinkers, I need to give them ways to flex those mind muscles! Thanks Heather!

  3. Kathryn Morris

    Love this! Would have loved to have been there to hear this couple. Thanks for sharing these. They are great points,

    • Heather MacFadyen

      Kathryn…they will be back to speak a couple more times this Spring. I’ll let you know when they are coming.

      • Christy

        Heather, I would love the schedule of when the Lewis’ are speaking as well. Email it to me when you get a chance.


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