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Time to UNPLUG! Three Easy Ways to Turn Off the Tech and Make More Family Time

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unplug

by Brian Turtle, Endless Games

It’s the day after Christmas and I’m walking down the middle of a major Pennsylvania highway with my two little girls.

For that to make sense, we need to rewind a little. My wife, two girls, and I had packed up the old “Wagon Queen Family Truckster” and set out from NJ to Pittsburgh for our annual holiday visit to the in-laws. Halfway into the trip, the PA turnpike shuts down… as in completely shut down and did not move for four hours.

What happened inside the car during those four hours really opened my eyes. My wife and I got antsy. Our two girls in the backseat took a different approach and began playing “road trip” games like I-Spy and Hangman. Then, before we knew it, we were all playing “road trip” games. Laughter and smiles were met with more laughter and smiles.

Eventually we were rerouted off the highway, and resumed our trip west. I’d be lying if I told you that in our 12 hour journey we didn’t use the portable DVD player to pass some time. We did. But I was most proud of my girls for knowing how to deal with some free time without instantly reaching for a cell phone or an iPad.

The experience took me back to road trips I’d have with my family as a kid. We didn’t have the emergency car DVD player, and we managed. We talked. We laughed. We learned about one another.

It was a simpler time then, and I’m proud to carry on some of these family-bonding moments with my own children. Fortunately, these moments don’t always require you to be locked in the car for half a day together!

You can UNPLUG from the hustle and bustle and plug IN to your family every day. Here are three simple ways to turn off the tech and tune into family time:

No Toys at the Table. In our house, we try to unplug with the “No Toys at the Table” rule during dinnertime. It started out to keep the girls from getting spaghetti sauce on their dolls, but has evolved to keeping mom and dad off of our smart phones and engaged in the family news of the day. This simple 20-minute “time-out” gives us a great opportunity to hear how the school day was or how things are going at gymnastics without the interference of emails and Facebook posts.  When we feel like staying unplugged a while longer, we’ll break out a game after dinner or during some other down time.

Make Time for Family Game Night. In our house, we try to squeeze in a Family Game Night a few times each month.  The board game is perhaps the last platform of pure human interaction. Unlike most video games or other flashy “plug in” devices, the board game creates a level playing field where everyone can share in the experience together. The best ones are the kind that allow for little anecdotes or personal recollections to develop as you work your way around the game path. Like that 12-hour road trip, the board game is really about the Journey and not the Destination!

No TV Night. Plan a night to turn off the TV once a week.  Play a board game. Communicate with your family.  I promise you the biggest resistance you will have will be in opening up the game box. Once you open it up, the fun will happen, and the moments you create with your family will be genuine, and will make real memories.