I couldn’t tell you where this idea originated, only that I saw it as a part of an article about self-care, but we have recently started instituting something called “the Amish hour”.
While we fall short of unplugging every item in our house (no candlelight just yet, but perhaps when the days start to get longer we may consider it), we have committed to shutting down cell phones, keeping the radio and television off, and just generally keeping ourselves away from screens and sounds that aren’t our own. We chose to do this during the hour just before we start our bedtime routine in earnest, which consists of reading M. a couple of stories and a chapter or so of a book to E. followed by brushing teeth, hugs and kisses, and listening to a Sparkle Story. I had realized that prior to instituting the Amish hour, the kids would get super wound up before bedtime. Perhaps they had been quietly watching a show for a while and were coming out of that quiet space and were ready to make noise. Or they may have been playing music on my phone and were getting wound up, starting literally bounce off the walls as they danced around. Whatever the reason, I was realizing that technology, in whatever format, just before bed, wasn’t putting their bodies in the right place so that they were ready to settle in for bedtime.
Things are vastly different when we keep our electronics put away during this time, and it’s not just different for the children, but for my husband and I. We’re spending more time reading and relaxing together, playing games, and talking, both with the children and just the two of us while they play. (I’ve included household appliances such as the dishwashers with the technology that gets unplugged during this hour, so no dishes are to be done, either!) While I’m very lucky to have two children who generally (knock on wood) go to bed easily, this change has made bedtime one of the absolute most simple experiences of our day. There is little whining (on the part of E. and M.), limited losses in temper (on my part), and we all settle in for the night quite happily, the children falling asleep with minutes of lying down.
While we vacillate back and forth between being mostly screen free and spending a lot of time in front of a screen, I really like this idea and plan to make an effort to keep it a sacred time for our family, regardless of where we are in our nearly cyclical levels of screen usage. I’ve found, through a few years of experience, that it’s really hard for our family to be entirely screen free, and I’ve almost at the point where I’m okay admitting that, but I never will I give in to the idea that it’s okay for my children to have a screen any time they’d like, and this particular experience has been so thoroughly good that I don’t see us giving this time back up to the TV, phones, or computers again any time soon.