At the start of quarantine, I was desperate to provide my two school-age kids with opportunities to engage, explore and discover while stuck in the house. Since the pandemic has us largely on lockdown, taking advantage of museums, travel, activities and day trips like we normally do is drastically limited. Without access to such activities, I worried that I would run out of interesting ways to activate my kids’ curiosity… and my own. That’s when I decided to turn to a surprising ally.
Typically, I spend a lot of energy battling screen time in our house. We have screen usage rules for our 7- and 10-year-old, but my husband and I frequently find ourselves under attack from a very vocal battalion that is always pressing for more, more, more. So, recently, I decided to give it to them, with a very specific objective in mind.
Enter, our Weekly Matinee.
Once a week, for us it’s on Tuesdays, we pop some popcorn and sit down to watch a kid-friendly documentary. This TV-time right smack in the middle of the day is a deviously easy, yet rich learning activity. The Weekly Matinee provides exposure to interesting topics. We always learn something new and have lots to talk about afterwards. In fact, I keep the remote close when watching because my son and daughter often have questions during the film, so we will take a quick pause to discuss. I’ll also hit pause if I feel like they need some context or explanation or to ask them their thoughts on a particular point.
To make our viewing selections, I rely on curated lists of age-appropriate choices found online. I make sure to consult parent guides for the films, as well, so I can make sure the content is a good fit for my kids.
In the past few months, we’ve explored the desert and her inhabitants, met 8-year-old golf prodigies, studied pollinators, traveled to the International Space Station and Mars, learned about Titanic and the construction of a life-size Lego house in Denmark. All of us really look forward to gathering together on the couch and watching. Far and away, it’s been one of my favorite things to do with my kids. They eagerly anticipate these afternoons, as well. It certainly helps that since the Weekly Matinee stands outside of their normally limited time, it really feels like it’s a special treat - for all of us.
I’ve discovered that sparking our curiosity in a rich, diverse way is completely possible, even when confined to the house. The Weekly Matinee allows us to learn, think and explore right from our own family room by using a former adversary to our advantage. I’ve ended up wielding the screen to battle boredom - and it’s a true victory.