Installing Speed Bumps to Television Viewing

This post is by regular contributor Tricia Hogbin of Little Eco Footprints.

I’d love to have a TV-free home. We’ve lived without a television before and I love the calm and creativity that comes with being screen-free. However, it’s one against two in my household, so the TV stays for now.

I’ve managed to negotiate every second day as screen-free (TV and computer free) and I’m happy with that for now. I’m also using ‘speed bumps’ to delay the TV being switched on. Speed bumps like the tea party waiting for guests pictured above 🙂 Here are a few other speed bumps I’ve strategically placed within metres of our television in the past week:

A shop waiting for some sales.

A few favourite dolls waiting for imaginative play.

A loved silhouette matching game (downloadable for free here).

A pair of scissors sitting upon a pile of pictures.

A basket of sewing cards (our favourites can be downloaded here, here and here).

And my favourite speed bump, a doll’s house placed smack-bang in front of the television.

Further reading on the benefits of decreasing television time:

  • Get Up & Grow: Healthy Eating and Physical Activity for Early Childhood – Family Book, Australian Government.
  • Children, Adolescents and Television, American Academy of Paediatrics.
  • Screen time and children, Raising Children Network

Do you have any tips for delaying the flick of the TV switch?


  1. What wonderful ideas Tricia, very creative. I would think that the power struggles over the TV would be minimised with these careful speed humps. I too, woould love to be TV free. At the moment we are on Monday’s and Tuesdays as these are preschool days. Ever other day its only for playschool and there is no TV’s on after playschool. Now to only work on weekends. Thanks for the speedbump inspiration.

  2. oh I LOVE the doll’s house in front of the TV!
    I have dreams of my TV being hidden behind sliding panels of a wall unit when our renovations are done…. I think not having the TV right there staring blankly at you (and the kids) is a big plus when it comes to watching less of it!

  3. Those are great ideas and I am definitely checking out the sewing card links!! thanks! 🙂

    We don’t have tv service, but we do have a tv and we can use it to watch dvds plus we have netflix so we can stream movies, etc. My daughter does watch some shows, but I like this option better because we can really control what she watches instead of there just be a ton of tv stations to flip through!

  4. I also was tv free pre marriage.

    I love your speed bumps idea. I also find recording (rather than watching) direct helps as you don’t get suckered into more shows, don’t have ads, and don’t have time pressure.

    My husband just negotiated our Monday nights be dubbed “Macgyver Mondays”, it is funny because now we watch an episode and all go to be. Much more social.

  5. Ahhhhh!!! That dolls house RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE TV!!!! That is the BEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN!!!!!

  6. I seem to be fighting a losing battle with my avid TV watchers. We do restrict what the boys watch but Junior asks to watch more and more and Aussie Dad often puts the TV on to try and keep my very early risers quiet in the morning (Ahhh!). Perhaps I need to get myself one of those lovely dolls houses to put in front of our TV!

    1. I can relate to turnning the TV on for early risers. We made the mistake if doing that for my daughter a few times. It didn’t take her long to work out that if she woke up really early she got to watch TV. She started waking up earlier and earlier.

      1. I was shocked to read this because my DS3 does the same thing! I never realized that I created this early rising, TV monster! 😀 We’re going to have to do something about this ASAP.

  7. Immy only watches a select few pre-recorded programs which I feel comfortable with. When I want TV free days the TV conveniently ‘breaks’ thanks to a pull of the power plug LOL

    1. Thats a great idea! I’m definately going to try the ‘broken TV’ trick. 🙂

  8. This is such a timely subject! My son is oh-too-in-love with the TV. We don’t have cable or satellite (thank the Lord) but get videos from the library. The speed bump idea is awesome! I also like the every other day screen free. We need to do that. You have excellent ideas for ready to go play. My son is really into scissors lately so getting some pictures for cutting out would be one idea for us. Thanks for sharing this!

  9. I grew up in a TV free house. (We consumed like addicts when we went to my Grandpa’s house). But the absense of TV at home was good. I have grown into an adult who is not fussed by much TV, and neither are my children. But I am a massive screen time user of the computer. As I realise, my children are too…

    I think I need to review our overall screen time, not just TV…

    1. Yep, the computer screen time is a big one for my hubby and I. We realised it was hypocritical to restrict our daughters TV viewing and then sit in front of the computer for hours after she’d gone to bed. The screen free days are probably more important for us than her TV free time. I love TV free evenings. We actually have proper conversations.

      1. I agree, I need to stop checking my emails and facebook when my son is awake! I love the idea of the tv free day every other day. It would be a real challenge as I am single parent and use tv to assist in me getting dinner ready but my son accepts rules very well and would understand (i hope) knowing a day is tv free and would need to find another activity or help me, on tv free days.

  10. Christie @ Poppy Seed Baby says:

    I love these ideas! Especially the silhouette game. My lil one is too young for all this but it’s good to have tricks up my sleeve for when the time comes 😉

  11. Our house’s been TV free long before our son was born. We literally don’t own a TV set. But we do own 2 laptops and a subscription to Netflix so we do end up watching a fair share of DVDs and streaming video. Which can quickly get out of hand. I’ve noticed that the key for us is to get into a pattern – a few (2-3) days of no screen time whatsoever. After these 2-3 days, our son doesn’t even bring up the question of cartoons and such. In all fairness, he doesn’t really care much for the whole thing anyway (maybe has to do with screen size?). Not sure how he’s going to fare as he gets older (he’s only 4).

  12. This is such an important topic. My little girl is 18 months, so it’s easy for now, the TV is never on while she is awake so she doesn’t actually know what it is (sometimes she uses it as a mirror though). We’ve also had lots of comments from family and friends who don’t understand why we don’t let her watch TV, so I know it’s only a matter of time before she realises what it is at someone else’s house and asks us if she can watch it at home 🙁 That’s when I’ll be using some of the great ideas from this post! Thanks.

    1. I remember being criticised Mel for not encouraging my daughter to watch TV. I had a relative accuse me of depriving her when she was only 18 months. When visiting she’d turn the TV on and plonk my daughter down in front of it like she was doing her a favour? I was pleased to see the recommendations from the gov stating that children under 2 should have no NO TV time.

    2. We don’t have the TV on when Immy is awake either, Mel, unless it is one of the few shows we tape to let her watch our TV is off. It took my hubby a long time to get used to it though!

  13. I also have an 18 mo daughter Mel, and I am constantly defending our decision not to let her watch TV. To be honest we haven’t really watched much since we moved (about 6 months ago) as the antenna at our new place doesn’t work and I can’t be bothered mucking about with the rabbit ears! It’s been a really nice change for the grown ups, although I have noticed our use of the computer has increased… I’m always shocked when we visit other peoples houses and the TV is on in the middle of the living room, no matter what time of day or what’s showing, just on for the sake of being on. I can’t stand it! And here was me thinking I was the only one who felt like this 🙂

    1. You’re definately not the only one who feels like this Mithra. I know what you mean about being in a house with the TV on all the time. When do the people who live in such homes relax and have meaningful conversations?

    2. Thanks for your comments Mithra, Tricia and Christie, it’s very reassuring to know we aren’t alone! We find we get a lot more done (hobbies, reading, cooking, going for walks) than when we used to watch TV regularly, and our daughter is up at the kitchen bench helping make dinner rather than watching TV while we cook (cooking dinner seems to be a key time people use TV for their children).
      I love the ‘no tv under 2’ guidelines too Tricia, and have emailed them to friends who are pregnant as it seems few people are aware of them.

    3. I recently rearranged my living area so that the tv is not the main feature, play areas are and the tv area is much smaller now due to repositioning couches so my son cant even play in front of it, he has to go to one of several play zones in the house. So if he is watching he has to sit on the couch and watch. He does not usually sit and watch a full show as he loses interest but he has started choosing to watch tv at meal times, and says “i have had enough dinner” so he can go and watch tv. We introduced tv off at meal times and it is his job to turn off tv before dinner and lunch (if it is on that is)…and he is proud of his job…he is 3.

  14. Such an ongoing battle isn’t it? We’re definitely not screen free, but with one child at kinder now and the other one still having good afternoon naps, we are pretty much tv free during the week. I have found that once it’s not an option for a while they don’t ‘need’ it as often anymore.

    I giggled when I spotted the tiny flatscreen in your doll’s house!

    1. Yep, I agree that once it’s ‘not an option for a while’ they forget about watching. Whenever I feel TV watching is getting out of hand or if I ask for it to be switched off and it’s not, I simply pick it up and put it away for a week or so. Works a treat.

      hee hee. I did momentarily consider taking the TV out of the dolls house before taking the photo.

      1. is that a TV? I thought it was a microwave! 🙂

  15. SquiggleMum says:

    Gorgeous. Love the name “speed bumps” too. We have a set time the tv is allowed to go on in the afternoons. 4pm. Before that we’re outside playing, then we come in for quiet cushion time while I cook dinner. If they ask before then I just say it’s too early. Sometimes they are so busy playing outside we don’t come in until later!

    1. Love cushion time! I think I should get a beanbag and his fold out sofa and put them in an area with a nice rug and a basket full of stickers, books and puzzles for cushion time while I prep dinner. Would be a nice little zone for him. We have a rule that he gets to do 4 pages of sticker book with me after bath if he does not have a tantrum while I prep dinner. Best thing that happened was he had a tantrum and I stuck to my guns and did not do stickers with him. Now he very very rarely has a tantrum, in fact cant remember last one!

  16. Love these ideas, thanks for sharing. I saw some TV covers on Etsy recently. I wish I had one when my children were younger so that they would know the ‘no TV’ days. Covering it up would give a very clear visual cue 🙂

  17. Absolutely perfect and a very timely reminder for me. Yesterday my 2 year old said “stop playing on your phone (I was looking at Twitter!) and read me a story” Oh the shame!! Will try some distractions by the TV but agree that it’s the parents needing to co-operate too 🙂

    1. I have fallen in to having mobile at table during dinner, would hate him to start doing that when he gets older instead of talking to me…must look at my own actions!

  18. Corsage @ A Dollop Of Me says:

    I LOVE your speed bump idea! And the creativity of your choices.

    We hardly watch TV at home but even so my 18-month-old can now ask for “TV”. She knows she can only do so when Daddy is home (I tell her I don’t know how to operate the DVD machine, which is embarrassingly true!)

    I may have to employ speed bumps in the future!

  19. Love your ideas. We have just moved and TV is not working as yet. My almost 4 year old has asked for it a few times but he does not seem to be missing now and it has been over a week since we have moved. Love your dolls house. Where did you get it or is it something you have had for ages?

    1. Hi Kate. My mum found the pre-loved dolls house at a garage sale. The furniture is by Plan Toys. Plan Toys make lovely eco and safe wooden toys. I’ve noticed Plan Toys products are available at a few of the online eco toy shops.

  20. These are gorgeous ideas, and thanks for the activity suggestions/links – I love the idea of just setting out materials (eg pictures and scissors) and letting it happen. My daughter is only 20 months and we do let her watch TV, but she only watches Night Garden in the evening, and I sort of justify it because we sit down with her and join in with the songs, and point out colours etc throughout the show – she’s not just plonked there. Our TV and computers are in a separate room with gates across it, and honestly, it’s out of sight, out of mind – you only go into the theatre room to watch tv or go on the computer, and if you don’t specifically want to do one of those things you don’t even think about it!

  21. A fantastic post, thanks Tricia! My daughter is 4 now and I do allow her to have more control over when she wants to watch a TV (no advertising) but she might watch it a bit and usually turns it off herself and will do craft, or play with her doll house or lately she has been drawing and listening to her story CD’s all day!

    I’ve got ‘speed humps’ everywhere and find that by creating a stimulating and enriching play environment we really don’t have to worry is she watches her favourite show for an hour a day when she spends the rest of the playing.

    I’d love to share this post with my subscribers.

    1. Thanks Melinda. I can imagine your daughter would have a wonderful play environment. You are more than welcome to share with your subscribers by linking back here.

  22. I love this post so much. I long for a tv-free household, like you mention. Also, like you, I have been outvoted. Setting up speedbumps is also something I try to do. It seems to get more challenging as my kids get older, too. I try to feel better about their screen time knowing that we watch it together as a family. So we talk about it and engage one another at least. I’m also trying to sell the idea of a weekly screen- free family game/puzzle night-working on it.

    1. Family games are a great way to avoid the TV Zoie. My daughter has recently started to enjoy playing board games and it’s real easy to distract her from wanting TV by suggesting we all play a board game together.

  23. I laughed when I saw the dolls house “smack bang” in front of the tv! LOVE it 🙂

  24. Great ideas! Thanks for sharing. Though for us the tv only goes on for short increments when I say and watching what I decide. Non negotiable. I’ve come to understand TV, not as a modern day evil, but as a tool that can be used “for good or evil”. It is prevalently over used in a way that inhibits relationships, health and personal growth – for both children and adults, but I believe it can also be used to explore the world, stimulate creativity and thought and give us a laugh. It is strange however that if u choose not watch/have TV you do seem to face alot of opposition- a little like addicts who can’t stand to watch a once fellow addict get clean. 😉

  25. Great speed bumps ideas! We haven’t had too much trouble yet with tv watching. As others here have said, our daughter thought the TV was a mirror until she was about 2 1/2. We never had it turned on when she was awake. But at 2 1/2 we started to let her watch one or two dvds. It was so interesting – she was mostly scared by them! Even if there was nothing scary in the story. Too much commotion and too many things happening too quickly at once. She only liked the really old-fashioned ones, like Mr Ben, Goodnight Gorilla, or Mary Poppins, that were much slower paced and quieter than today’s kids’ programming. Now that she’s approaching 4, she has a few newer ones that she likes to watch (Strawberry Shortcake and Super Why are her current favourites), but whenever she is invited to watch a movie at a friend’s house, she never likes it and gets overwhelmed quickly. However, now we are concerned about keeping her baby sister from incidental tv-watching. So the rule is that the older one can only watch TV when the baby is sleeping. Since she is at preschool all day and goes to bed shortly after the baby, it means there is hardly ever time for tv 😉

  26. We have “homework” time with my three year old. I have a closet of games and activities we do during “homework” time.

  27. MultipleMum says:

    Tricia, you have some fantastic ideas here and I shall take them with me and try to put some ‘speed bumps’ in place. I love the sewing cards and matching game so thanks for the links there. I give in to the nag way too easily! My two two year olds had no TV until they reached the magic age but they now love it as much as their older brothers. Sigh!

  28. Hi Tricia,
    Love your speed bumps. We were recently advised by a wwoofer that a family had been reported to DOCS for not having a TV for their children!!!

  29. Love the idea of speed bumps. That is so clever. Our TV viewing is very limited too. But I have never thought of trying to suggest something better to do, I am always just the mean mom that is either turning it off or saying no!

  30. I am coming to the conclusion that many boys are hardwired for developing a digital media addiction (my big boy certainly has one!), and the munchkin is no exception. I am particularly concerned on the effects on his behaviour once that magical 2 hour number has been exceeded! It’s astonishing that he is the same child.

    After the first few weeks of (almost) full-time pre-school, I’ve gotten tired of the auto-response when I pick him up, “Can I watch a video when we get home?”, so I just avoid going home. We go to the school library, the local library, for a walk in the park, to the playground and to his best mate’s for a playdate. Then, he might get a bit of TV time while I get dinner ready (nowhere near that magic number).

    As for me, I don’t watch much TV at all. I’d rather read a book (or be reading blogs it seems!)

  31. Oh my goodness, LOVE that last one with the dollhouse. Funny funny! All your ideas are very inspiring, and I love the “speed bump” concept as well. I do this as well, I think of it as “strewing” things about, or setting up inviting activities for them to stumble upon and get to work on.

    We watch TV as well, though I limit it to specific times of the day so that the girls don’t ask the rest of the time. Just got a cabinet where we can hide it away behind closed doors, hooray!

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  33. We need to put a few more speed bumps in our house, and I think that those sewing cards might be a nice little treat for someone to find after Kinder or when waking up one morning, so I’ve saved them to print out a little later on, thank you 🙂

  34. I sooo love your ideas, and pics. I’ll have to post a pic of where our TV is but basically it is centre stage in our little lounge, massive screen up on the wall. My partner LOVES TV, (I prefer to read) we have Foxtel and even though we are tightening our belt in so many areas he won’t let that go. I am restricting my daughter to the ABC now. But even restricting her to ‘just’ ABC is still too much and I so appreciate the links you provide too 🙂 Love the every second day idea as well.

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  36. A major speed-bump to TV viewing in our house is… the cost! Our kids (twins, 5 y/o) get $.03 for each chore being done without me asking. A little of it is available for spending on TV. For now, each episode costs $.03.

    1. BTW- we’ve only got a laptop to watch it on, so it’s that much easier to oversee.

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  38. I too love the term ‘speed bumps’ Tricia, the dolls house in front of the TV I’m sure works a charm. In contrast to other Mum’s posts here, interestingly our children are allowed have a varied TV watching time depending on whats on, this seems to work ok as its aligned with our normal household routine; but saying that we need to put more & more inplace to avoid amount of time spent on TV watching.

  39. Very. Interesting n useful

  40. thank you SO MUCH for writing this. i love your ideas, some of them i’ve used for a while now but it’s always nice to have more ideias. most of all, i thank you for letting me know i’m not alone and i’m not crazy. there is so much pressure from other mothers in our circle and even my MIL to allow tv, like we’re horrible neurotic and bizarre parents. noone ever bothered to ask what it is that we do, as a family, in the time that we are not watching tv… we play together, we cook, we talk, we do nothing. sometimes we just do nothing but lay in our bed. all this is so much fun, it allows us to interact and learn with each other.
    in our home, tv is never on while our daughter is awake, except to watch soccer games – during that time she either watches it with daddy or helps me cook dinner.
    last winter, around the 3 year old milestone we introduced Disney movies, but only once in a while during weekend rainy mornings and we watched it together. more recently she started watching one or two episodes of a selected cartoon once a week or sometimes twice, while daddy works out in our home gym right next to her because i came from work later. and sometimes she watches a dvd my parents bring from the library. i think this is reasonable, it was delayed to the most and it is under supervision and i see that to her it’s just another activity, not even the one she prefers to all others (which would be story telling without a doubt).
    but all her friends watch daily on average for an hour, and i dread the day she will come home from kindergarden asking me to turn the tv on instead of doing anything else, just because her friends do it too. i i don’t want to just give in to tv as a babysitter, i will always struggle to make other activities available to her (with one of us or by herself) but sometimes it’s difficult, because i’m overhelmed…

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