Confession: our TV is on almost daily. It’s not on all day, and we’re super selective about what gets watched. We don’t do traditional television, so we’re not inundated with ridiculous ads, and it’s never on just as background noise.

But still… there it is. Our TV is on at least for a few minutes, six days per week.

The other day? It’s off—no iffs, ands or buts. The kids know this in advance, we grownups write it on the calendar, and so even though the youngest still asks, “Can I watch a cartoon?” out of habit, the rest of the family knows this TV-free day is written in our weekly calendar.

Games on the smartphones are off-limits, too.

As are the ones on the internet.

And screens anywhere else, for that matter.

We’ve been calling this new ritual our screen sabbath. Even though our lives don’t revolve around screens, if we’re not careful, all five of us can stare at them more than we realize. I’m not crazy about that.

We instituted our screen sabbath as a way to curtail any potential obsession, crutch, or knee-jerk reaction to a few hours’ downtime. As a way to silence the noise in our everyday lives. To remember the effort it takes to have meaningful, worthwhile entertainment that doesn’t involve other people acting on our behalf.

It’s not just hard for the kids and their cartoon-watching ways. This means aside from the occasional text or quick glance for directions, Kyle and I don’t use our smartphones, either. Easier said than done, believe me.

kids at the lake

We spend most screen sabbaths outdoors. We’ll grab a quick lunch after church (oh—and the fact that we call our screen break a “sabbath” is not because it’s on a Sunday—we’d still call it that if it were a Tuesday. It just means rest…), then head to the sledding hill in the winter, a lake in the summer, or a simple walk or afternoon drive.

Sometimes it’s a simple afternoon at a local park. Many times, it’s wandering in the backyard, or even just reading, playing, and crafting in a quiet house.

Instituting this screen sabbath really isn’t much—I mean, we’re only talking about 24 hours per week. But for me, it’s become a centering, where I better hear my thoughts, my husband’s words, my children’s laughter, and my convictions that life isn’t all about my entertainment.

We’re not 100% perfect at this, and there are weeks when it just doesn’t work (hanging out with friends, invitations to the movies)… we’re not rigid, dogmatic, or letter of the law here. But for us, if we didn’t make it a “thing,” it wouldn’t happen. Habits would creep back in.

I like this ritual right now.

I’m grateful for the background quiet and the voices loud. I remember a little better what it means to slow down.