One question I get asked a lot during and after my presentations is “how much time to do you let your own kids have on the computer?” and the answer, in a couple of words, is “not much.” Both Tess and Tucker have their own accounts on our iMac which is conveniently placed in our living room, and they have access to a limited number of programs for 45 minutes a day. (The television is almost never on in our house, btw.) They can request more time if they like, and I often give it when Tess is in the midst of something on Google Sketch-up (me hoping she’ll follow in the footsteps of her mother the engineer) or when Tucker is deep into the latest batting statistics for his beloved Phillies. (I know, I know. Cubs are his second favorite team.) If it’s Webkinz or Line Rider, when time is up it’s up. But by and large, especially in the summer, Wendy and I want them off the computer and outside shooting hoops, jumping on the trampoline, or climbing up the mountain making forts and looking for snakes. Or reading books on rainy days. Or just being bored.

Wendy said that to me early on in our parenting lives when the kids were like 3 and 5. “Sometimes it’s good to let them be bored.” I’d never thought of it that way, but I’ve come to believe it wholeheartedly. They need to learn how to entertain themselves, to fill up their days.

Last weekend, they got really bored. After two months of weekend basketball stuff (which we are re-evaluating), Wen and I just wanted a couple of days to veg. The kids couldn’t believe it. They kept begging us to do stuff. We kept saying no. Computer? No. TV? No. It went on like that for a good two hours. But finally, it got quiet. We heard them rummaging around in the kitchen and in their rooms, running in and out of the house, and then a measured commotion down by the basketball goal. “I think they’re doing suicides,” Wendy whispered when she looked out the window.

Yes, they were. And not only that, they had devised a daily practice schedule (click on the pic above), which they proceeded to work through for the next two hours, coaching each other, supporting and praising each other, until the very end when Tucker threw the ball at Tess, she hit him in the head with a stick, and they both came stomping up to the house locked in mortal sibling combat. Oy.

Anyway, on par, boredom is good. They’re 8 and 10. They’ll have plenty of time for the computer…