I’ve reluctantly written previously that Leo watches more TV than I care to admit. He watches between 40-60 minutes in the morning when I get dressed and feed Emilia, and about 4 days a week he ends up watching another 1.5 hours in the late afternoon when we are all tired out. Leo doesn’t nap, so this feels like the only way for both of us to get some much needed downtime. I’ve noticed that on days when I try to skip the afternoon shows, we usually end up with a meltdown on our hands around 4 or 5 pm. I do think a little TV is better than a big fight, and clearly he is getting some rest from it if watching it in the afternoon helps him to keep it together until bedtime. But, still. I am relying on TV more than I would like.
And, as this TEDxRainier – Dimitri Christakis – Media and Children – YouTube. talk explains, there is a some good data that links TV watching with inattention. In fact, one study reported that for every hour a child watched TV before the age of 3, they had a 10% greater likelihood of developing inattention later in childhood. Wow! Fortunately, that statistic didn’t hold true for educational TV. Phew! I can still put on Sesame Street and LeapFrog without too much guilt! The researcher in this talk points out that even purported educational videos, like Baby Einstein, have so many screen changes and flash imagery that the child’s brain is being trained to expect this high level of stimulation all the time, and when the world is not as stimulating, the child gets bored and stops engaging. Hmm, I wonder where Leo’s favorite shows fall on the screen change/flash imagery continuum…
Enter: Operation Reduce TV Time. Certainly there are more valuable activities we can use to fill our time. The warm weather is definitely making this goal more attainable. Like most kids, Leo loves to be outside, and I do too. We have been hitting up multiple parks in one day and our sandbox is getting lots of use.
Here are the other strategies I’m trying. In the morning, instead of watching TV, I’ve gotten a few chapter books on CD for him to listen to in his room. I’m hoping that will hold his attention enough to keep him in his room and out of trouble. That is one draw of TV in the morning: he loves it so much I know he won’t be wandering the house, making messes, or getting into mischief while I’m in the shower.
My goal is also to try one new activity each week. Leo is not a big fan of craft projects, but he loves mixing stuff or manipulating objects. I saw an idea recently on Pinterest to set out varying sized nuts and bolts and let the kids match them and practice screwing them together. Leo would love this because he gets to manipulate real tools, and it offers great practice with fine motor skills.
We also had good success doing seek and find books together in the late afternoon. I find it hard to make it through reading an entire book with Leo when Emilia is around because she often interrupts us and that frustrates Leo. But the seek and find format allows him to work independently for a few minutes when I need to tend to the baby. I’d also like to try workbooks with him, as one of my friends suggested this as an activity her daughter enjoys.
Water balloons on the back deck while I cooked dinner was a big hit the other night. And doing small baking projects together (like from a box) is manageable and fun.
Let’s learn from each other! How do you do it? What activities are boredom busters in your house? How do you get a little quiet time without TV?