Monday, May 21, 2007

Toddler TV

I was all set to get to the taxation issue, then just ran out of time this weekend. But maybe tonight. In the meanwhile, I want to comment on something else. Toddler TV. Or rather, having one's toddler watch TV.

I've seen studies recommending that children under two watch ZERO hours of TV. Like that's ever going to happen in this society. But there is a difference between TV a toddler would watch and TV a toddler would ignore.

My wife loves to put in DVDs for our daughter to watch. And she loves to watch them. We started with Baby Einstien. Which leads to an aside. I don't think you need to put in special DVDs to make your kid "smart." I think it is mostly just a marketing gimmick. At that age, just exploring a room or playing with blocks is probably more intellectually stimulating than just watching animals and puppets set to classical music. But one thing the DVDs do deliver on is that they hit their target audience. Even when my daughter was very young and could barely focus on anything, she liked to look at the Baby Einstien videos. Later, we discovered she also liked Little Einstiens on Disney (which we now have DVRd almost 30 episodes, so she can watch any time). Those are really aimed at older children than 21 months, but she loves watching them anyway. I think she has picked up some vocabulary from it, at least in understanding, if not in voice. But then the same would be true of anything she watches.

And finally, there's Monsters, Inc., Shrek, and a new favorite, Happy Feet. Oh, and Finding Nemo. She loves watching those. Over and over. I probably have Monsters, Inc. and Shrek memorized by now I've seen it so many times. Which is part of the problem. My wife whenever she's watching my daughter pretty much always puts in the DVD. It doesn't help that my daughter will walk up to her, DVD in hand, and ask her to put it on. What is truly scary is watching my 21 month old daughter open the DVD player, put a disk in, press play, and turn on the TV, all by herself. And she's been doing that for a while. Sometimes she hits the wrong buttons and doesn't quite succeed, but it is still fascinating to watch her saavy with such equipment at a young age.

Now, as I stated above, some say you should not let anyone under two watch TV. And I am concerned with how much TV my wife has our daughter watch. Usually the first thing I do when I take over watching our daughter so my wife can do something else is I turn off the DVD and TV. Usually one of the first things she does when she takes over for me is turn both of those on. It is one reason I'm actually glad we have day care, because there is no TV at day care.

I understand why my wife does it - it is easier to watch our daughter if she's sitting in one place or even if while moving around, she is entertained. But I get concerned that this has her neglect doing other things she should be doing. Like interacting with us or playing with her toys. And she is quite a lot of fun to play with right now. As her parents, we are her whole world at this age and she is very funny, she laughs, she babbles, she likes to take us to things, she shares her toys with us, and it is just a joy to be with her.

I confess that when I get home from work and pick her up from day care, I usually put on the TV myself, but I don't put on anything she's interested in - I put on news and such, so she then ignores the TV and plays or she pays more attention to what I'm doing.

I get worried she watches too much TV. I don't want her to grow up to be a couch potato. Particularly given that I can be so much of one, though less so with her, since it is hard for me and my wife to really sit down and watch anything most of the time because our daughter demands our constant attention. News you can sort of put on in the background and don't have to listen to all the time.

Anyway, I don't quite know if there's a point to this post beyond my observations and concerns about TV and my toddler. And my concerns about my wife's quick-trigger when it comes to putting in the toddler DVD.


Octogalore said...

I have the same dilemma -- my daughter is almost 3 and loves videos. I didn't have a TV growing up and try to limit to a half hour on weekdays and an hour on weekends. But it's hard.

The Harold and the Purple Crayon series is one she loves, it's more imaginative (I think) than many, and much better (again, IMO) than the Einstein ones.

DBB said...

I've never heard of that one, I'll have to check it out. One thing I've found is which movies are actually watchable over and over without causing an uncontrollable urge to stick a loaded gun in your mouth.

Monsters, Inc. and Shrek hold up surprisingly well. Happy Feet I get lost with because I never have sat down and watched it all the way through. But it is fun because my daughter, now 21 months, loves to stand up and dance to the music and she really gets dancing when they do a particular number on Happy Feet - it is so adorable. She's 21 months and already dances better than I ever will.

beansa said...

Have you seen Hayo Miyazaki's movies? My daughter loves them, though she might have been around 2.5 or 3 when we got the first one - My Neighbor Totoro, which is beautifully animated and remarkably not annoying, and the two central characters are female.

DBB said...

Hey thanks, I've never heard of those either (but then I never was much up on children's anything before my daughter, beyond noting that my sister had a HUGE Disney collection), but I'll check it out. It sounds interesting. Hopefully Amazon has it (they usually have everything, though).

d said...

our babe (3) loves the tellie too, but she's too young to know whats good for her, so sometimes she gets it and sometimes she doesnt. I don't think its an issue of 'if we should' rather than 'we must moderate'. And, like beansa said, throw in some non-disney, or monsters ink in danish, or somthing from somewhere else, like wildlife documentaries, or try this: put the tv away for a week and within 3 days, at her age, she'll have forgotten that it ever existed and your wife won't need it to keep her in one place because she'll realise that it is in the nature of children for them to move around and that it's our job to teach them to do it savely and appropriately.

in case you hadnt realised, i'm encouraging you to follow your intuition and slice the movie watching ... its bad for them in excess and wonderfully inspiring as a treat.

interesting comment.
parenting, hey, what a job!
good luck to you !

Gray Lensman said...

I think your basic instinct is correct. You should try doing away with teevee altogether, at least until the child is several years old, like 25.

Seriously, my wife and I have not watched teevee for about 20 years and we don't miss it. We might watch a movie DVD once in a while, but that's it.

The most noticeable effect I have observed is that I sleep sounder, with more vivid dreams and less hangover in the morning. My theory is that something about the way video is propagated on the screen suppresses some brain wave (or something like that). The computer monitor doesn't seem to have the same effect. Different resolution?

In any case, reading, computing, listening to music, making music (however poorly), talking, and just staring into space are preferable.

Read to the kid. My mother spent untold hours reading books from the library when I was a baby (the 40's). I was reading (the comics) by the time I was 4 and haven't looked back.

DBB said...

That's a good point about reading to the child - I can't wait to really read to her - right now, she really doesn't understand enough words to read to her, but when she's a bit older, I look forward to reading to her alot.

She does seem to like books - she points at pictures and waits for me to name things in them. She only occasionally rips the pages out. ;)

I'm too much a TV junkee to give it up entirely, but I will be sure to provide much more stimulation for my daughter than just the idiot box.

d said...

hi again,
children learn language in a slightly different way to us. They learn through 'roughly' understanding.
Your wee one is too old to not be read to, really.
She needs to learn about making meaning from tone, how to formulate questions, how to articulate shapes of words by exercising aural skills, and visual imagination is stimulted by story telling, no matter if she gets the literal meaning or not. Reading to wee ones under 3 or 4 is not a goal aimed at literal comprehension, just yet. There is other inportant stuff on offer.

One book per day would be a great gift to her.


Any Dr Seusse classic would be great place to plant her 'rough' language relationship.

DBB said...

We do have some doctor seuss, as well as some other books and I have read to her from them - right now, the biggest obstacle is keeping the book in my hand while reading - she keeps pulling it away from me to point at pictures and such. Which is fine by me (well, unless she rips the pages out - we have a lot of scotch-taped children's books now... So I do read to her, just not that much.

beansa said...

dbb, I am up much too late, and I have to ask - have you not heard of board books? Totally unrippable! Sturdy enough for chewing! Amazing for toddlers and preschoolers alike.

We are a family of insatiable readers and have been reading to C on a daily basis since, uh, before birth. Important to literacy (pre-literacy skills) are associating text and words, blah, blah, but most of all it's so pleasant an activity, especially with the unrippable books.

I seem to remember that toddlers like the board books with actual photographs in them, faces for sure, and animals and things like cups and shoes or whatever. Dr Seuss is good because rhyming is important to understanding language. C really loved Sandra Boynton books. She still gets out her "baby" books every now and then and "reads" them to her stuffed zoo, it's truly astonishing what she has committed to memory.

Yes, definitely read to your little sprout, totally great idea! And what the above posters said about putting away the tv is so true - we do it every summer and after a 3 day adjustment period it's like the damn thing never existed. Then the rain comes back in Nov and we all cave by January. Sigh. Seattle sucks in the winter.

DBB said...

Beansa - We do have some of those hard card books. They do hold up better, but we eventually had to buy another copy of her favorite because she managed to totally rip that one to pieces - it just took her a while...

Our toddler can survive without toddler TV just fine - I almost always turn it off when I'm watching her. She probably knows by now to expect that. Though it is fun sometimes to watch her watch Happy Feet - she tries to sing along and dance and that is just so adorable.