Monday, March 12, 2012

Toddlers and Television

When you have children, there's a long list of things you "shouldn't" do. Don't give them a pacifier in the first week. Don't react every time they cry. Don't put them in their crib when they're newborns. Don't give them a bath every night. Don't let them watch TV.

Guess what? I've done every single one of them. And you know what? My kid isn't damaged in the least. In fact, I have to say, she's pretty damn smart.

The point of today's post isn't to demean or put down any other person's parenting style. In fact it's quite the opposite. As I talk about how we use television in our house, I encourage parents who struggle with the "do's" and "do not's" of parenting to do what works for them, in their house, with their individual children.

I'm warning you, this will be a brutally honest post, so if you are squeamish towards moms and dads that do things in their own way, I urge you to stop reading here.

My child watches television. She watches it almost every day. While we try to limit it to 30 minutes, max, occasionally she'll watch up to an hour of tv. Recently a report came out that said that children under two should not get any screen time at all. Of course this created an internet flurry of worried parents wondering how in this day in age they could re-arrange their lives so that their kids avoid the screen completely. While I'm not trying to de-bunk the research done by any organization regarding children and television, I am advocating for parents to know their children and know if television is right for them.

Warning - this is about to get a tad braggy.

Molly is 17.5 months old. Her vocabulary is above average for her age. She is incredibly social. She understands and follows directions regularly. As parents, we do not feel that a little television is going to hinder her development.

Here are the four ways we use TV in our house:

1. As an Educational Tool
One of my favorite things to do is watch TV with Molly on my lap. We sing, we clap, we dance - television gets her EXCITED! There is a segment on Yo Gabba Gabba (her favorite show) called the "Dancy Dance." Famous people, like Tony Hawk, Elija Wood, and the band Sugarland join the characters and come up with their own simple dance moves which they teach the characters and all do together. My jaw dropped to the floor a few months ago when Molly began to correctly do the "Chippy Chippy Chomp" along with her tv friends. Over the past few weeks she's began playing along with DJ Lance as he jumps, claps, "raises the roof" and spins around. She points to doggies, kitties, and babies, and she sings along to the Elmo theme song. She's learning to be a mover and incorporate dance and music into her life. Are there other ways to have this happen? Sure - we sing and dance without the tv all the time, but this is another means that truly speaks to her.

2. As a Babysitter
Gasp!! I said it! Any parent who allows their child to watch tv and swears up and down that it has never ever been used as a babysitter, even for a few minutes, is lying to your face. Sometimes it just makes life easier. Our mornings are very hectic (as they are for most families). One of us showers while the other has breakfast with Molly. Then we switch, and the non-showering parent gets her dressed. Then she grabs her blanket, her doggie, her milk, and her rocking chair, and settles in for an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba while we run around pulling together lunches, walking the dog, getting ourselves dressed, pounding a cup of coffee, and eventually sprinting out the door. For us, it's necessary, and for her, it literally is the highlight of her morning. (Really - you should hear her squeal as her Gabba friends come on the screen!)

3. As Quiet Time
Have you ever just wanted to crawl under a blanket, lay on the couch, and watch TV? Well, so does my kid. Kids are BUSY. They're loud, they run around, their brains are working overtime trying to just take in every little thing in this new world around them. And sometimes that makes them tired or cranky - just like you, and just like me. When Molly needs quiet time, she reads books, or she watches TV. It helps her to re-charge, and it makes her a happier person.

4. As Bonding Time
How many times have you taken your kids to their favorite playground, or made them their favorite meal? As parents, the greatest feeling we have is doing something we know our kids love. I absolutely love sitting down for a segment of Elmo's World with Molly, and on my sleep-in mornings, she and Daddy hang out in the basement in front of the big screen and watch Gabba or Fraggle Rock. All we need is that one look or big hug that says "Wow Mom, wow Dad, thanks for doing this with me." We snuggle and sing, and sometimes, that 30 minutes in front of the tv together is really, really special.

As I said before, you need to do what works for you and your family.  This works for us, and tv time can be a really beneficial and special time in our house, along with story time, meal time, and play time.

How do you use television with your kids? Share your ideas. It's a judgement free space. 

1 comment:

  1. Kristina - you are amazing! So well said and I agree - TV is not all that bad! Cooper watched a Discovery program each night growing up and I think he's turned out to be a very well rounded kid.
    Where you find the time to do these "extras" is beyond me.