It seems like TV is this shameful topic of discussion amongst parents. Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with another mother and sheepishly mentioned how you let your child watch TV until you determined their side of the fence? I have. Most adults in the world of children (parents, grandparents, educators, etc.) have very strong opinions about children and television -- either they're all about it (bring on the movies!), they don't let their children watch at all (just say no to drugs ... and TV), or a combination of both. To each their own, I suppose.
Andi and I are somewhere in the middle ... probably skewing on the side of more television exposure than less. For us, screen time started around 8 or 9 months with Tory as a way to occupy a fussy child on long car rides to the lake cabin. We are both in agreement that some TV time is fine -- everything in moderation. It's easy to dream of a life with no TV, thinking every moment of a child's life will be spent painting and crafting or doing educational activities together. In reality, that's just not the case, in our household at least. For us, TV usage is heavier in the winter months / lighter in the summer months. If we can be outside playing and exploring, we are. When it's freezing and we've exhausted all the Pinterest-y ideas beyond measure, TV saves our sanity. And frankly, Andi and I both like to watch TV ourselves so it's on in our house at various points in the day.
Anyway, a few comments Tory made recently about children's television shows made me realize: TV is teaching my child in good, helpful ways.
In the last six months, I've had a heck of a time getting Tory to brush her teeth. She fought me tooth and nail to brush and I'd tried everything I could think of to make her cooperate. Not a happy experience for either of us. Finally, I sort of threw in the towel - isn't that horrible? - and only brushed Tory's teeth when she'd let me without a fight. I bought some kids mouthwash and usually could convince her to at least swish her mouth if nothing else.
Then, one day we were watching a Doc McStuffins episode about a dinosaur named Bronty who had stinky breath. Suddenly, a lightbulb went off in Tory's head and she finally understood why brushing teeth was so important. The next day I said, "We need to brush your teeth because you don't want to have Bronty breath!" and ever since brushing teeth hasn't been an issue. Seriously! All it took was Doc McStuffins telling her the importance of dental hygiene. She even called me out on my own "dragon breath" one morning and need for brushing. Thanks, kid.
A similar thing happened with naps. It's no secret Tory is a crappy sleeper (always has been) and naps were such a challenging time of day. She'd whine and fuss the minute I mentioned the word "nap" and sometimes it'd take me 60-90 minutes to get her to go to sleep. We watched an episode of Doc McStuffins where a race car has to recharge its batteries so it can play again and since seeing that show all I have to say is, "We need to take a rest so you can recharge your batteries!" Works like a charm. Now when Tory wakes up in the morning she says, "I have energy!"
When I buckle Tory into her car seat she often says, "Seat belts, so we can be safe!" -- just like Dora the Explorer says on many of her episodes. We'll be driving in the car somewhere and Tory will randomly ask, "Mom? Are you safe?" She wants to make sure I'm wearing my seatbelt, too.
Speaking of Dora the Explorer -- it's easily one of the most annoying cartoons on cable, but Tory can't get enough of it. I'd probably put the cabosh on it except she actually learns things from the show. Tory can count from 1-10 in Spanish. She knows basic colors in Spanish, as well as "up," "down," "open," "closed," "long" and "short," "hello" ... and I'm sure other words I don't realize. Heck, even I'm learning Spanish words from Dora.
The other day, Tory was watching an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse over breakfast and Mickey identified a crescent shape. I overheard Tory say under her breath, "Pretty sure it's a moon." #smartass
We are very selective on the programming we allow Tory to watch -- not just anything goes. Fan favorites around here are Doc, Dora, Sheriff Callie's Wild West, Mickey Mouse and Peppa Pig. Pretty harmless. I don't worry about television squashing Tory's imagination because as I said, everything in moderation. She still gets plenty of time playing with toys, reading books and being outdoors.