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I Banned Smartphones and Gave My Kids a Rad 1980s Weekend They’ll Never Forget


Welcome to 2018, where children everywhere are wasting their time watching other kids do fun stuff on YouTube. Days are wasted away playing games like Fortnite, and every three seconds someone is taking a selfie with a different snapchat filter to send to 35 of their “closest” social media friends. Screen time is a constant battle, and I often wonder why my kids never head out the front door and say, “I’m going to ride my back for a few hours!” like I used to when I was their age.

My kids are accustomed to a consistently rigid and jam-packed schedule, and they’re not required to use their imagination or initiate self-entertainment often. When I was young, travel sports were not quite as popular, and there was no demand to keep up with social media and texting friends at all hours of the day and night. We had to be creative and resourceful when looking for ways to have fun during our (much more frequent) free time.

So, this past weekend, I did something I don’t usually do, and I banned all the modern methods of having fun along with the use of all cell phones, iPads, and gaming systems. I set out on a quest to introduce my kids to some old school fun and games, mom’s edition. I spent some time reflecting on my childhood sleepovers from 1987 and a devised a plan for a throwback ‘80s weekend. Here are some of the things we did.

Called the Radio Station

This is one of my favorite pastimes from my own tween years. I vividly remember calling Delilah at Night and sending a radio dedication from yours truly to that boy I had a crush on. My friends and I would listen all night to see if our dedication was aired, and when it was, we would wonder if that special boy in sixth grade heard it on the radio at his house. Or perhaps we would just call the local radio station, request a song from the DJ, and listen patiently to see if our song and personal request was played on the air. On the rare occasion, the DJ would even play a recording of our actual voices requesting the song!

And so, I introduced my kids to this fun, interactive activity. We called different radio stations and took turns requesting songs and tuning in to see if we made the cut. When my son’s request was played on the radio with a shoutout — This one goes out to Emmet in Simsbury! — we all screamed and jumped for joy. When we were done celebrating, we sang along in the kitchen and busted out our best dance moves.

Played MASH

You are never too old for a fun game of MASH. I mean, who doesn’t want to discover who they will marry, where they will live, and how many kids they will have when they grow up? The kids loved helping each other come up with names of boys they might marry and possible occupations they might hold when they are adults. Yes, everyone wants to end up in a mansion married to a doctor, but like real life, it doesn’t always happen that way in MASH. It did, however, bring hours of screen-less fun for the whole family — and it even got my tweens talking to me about school and boys.

Made Prank Phone Calls

Does this make me a bad mom? I promise we only pranked people who we knew would be okay with it! Back in the day, prank calls were easy to make, as caller ID didn’t exist and we were using those old phones that actually plug in to a phone jack. Today, prank calls take a little work. Now, I really wanted my kids to get the full effect of pranking, so we downloaded an app that disguises your phone number with a fake one of your choice. (I know this is totally wrong, but we were only calling my sister, so it was harmless.) The kids disguised their voices and asked silly questions, like, “Is your refrigerator running?” We were all (literally) rolling on the floor laughing as my sister tried to figure out who was calling through her own laughter, too.

Made Collages

We also gathered piles of magazines, newspapers, and pictures and I introduced my children to the fine art of making collages. I explained to them that before the days of digital pictures and apps that organize collages with the click of a button, we used to cut and paste from actual paper, with real scissors and Elmer’s glue! We got right to cutting and pasting, and we all made our very own collage of random pictures and words to hang in our bedrooms. As we were finishing up, the kids were picking the small pieces of glue off of their hands, and I thought, “Oh yeah, picking glue is fun, too!” They looked at me like I was totally crazy as I poured a thin layer of glue on the palm of my hand and my fingers, too. I let the glue dry and showed them just how entertaining peeling glue off of your hand can be. (If that’s not a perfectly 1980s children’s activity, I don’t know what is.)

I did allow some screen time at night to watch The Goonies and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as we ate popcorn that was popped in a pot on the stovetop with real melted butter. My kids were given a glimpse into the life of mom as a teen, and we truly bonded — without a selfie, a text, or an Instagram post in site. We certainly can’t make this magic happen every weekend, but it was nice to use nostalgia to offer my kids some alternate, antiquated methods of having fun, as a family…. without a screen in site.

This post was written by Suzanne Hayes.

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