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TV Usage in caramama's House

I'm glad to know I'm not the only one using bribes and TV to get through the day. A few things came up yesterday about TV that I wanted to delve into further. So let's talk toddler TV!

Up until this winter, the Pumpkin probably watched a 20-30 DVD on TV every few days (as far as I know, although the nanny might have put something on also, but not often). She mostly watched Baby Signing Times (which I can't rave about enough!) or little shorts of books like Cordury Bear or Goodnight Gorilla or a Baby Einsten Nursery Rhymes. She was happy with them and the amount that she watched them.

Then came this winter, with my Seasonal Affective Disorder and the pregnancy creating crazy low levels of energy for me, while her energy levels stayed in her normal hyperdrive. Also, she started getting bored with the same DVDs. So I finally turned on Noggin (we are lucky to have extended cable) and discovered (and in some cases rediscovered) what I consider to be good quality shows that have the ability of holding the Pumpkin's attention on a station with no commercials. And thus began our foray into toddler television.

Cloud asked if I like Dora. I really do! I wasn't sure I would, but it is cute, helps language development (including teaching some spanish words) and teaches problem solving, following maps and remembering details. (Although I don't like that Dora's shirt doesn't always cover her belly. I have no idea why they wouldn't draw her shirt long enough, but her belly is always peeking out.) They go on missions that follow the same pattern every time. And there is Swiper, the fox, who tries to "swipe" or steal things, which I have been able to transfer to our real life.

When the fox tried to swipe something that Dora and Boots have, they (and the TV audience) say "Swiper, no swiping!" (as La Folle Maman mentioned yesterday). Well, the Pumpkin is very grabby and lately is into taking things and saying "mine." I know the grabbiness (with low impulse control) is part of her personality, and the "mine" is a developmental stage, but it's still frustrating. So now when she goes to grab something off the counter or take from me, I say "Pumpkin, no swiping!" I'm not sure she get's it 100%, but she does stop and think about it. And that my friends, makes it educational TV.

We watch Blue's Clues, a show I have enjoyed since babysitting days. This one also teaches problem solving, looking for things, remembering details and putting pieces together to form a larger picture. Of course it's also cute and has songs. The Pumpkin calls it "Bloos Boos" and she loves to ask "Where is Bloo doggie?" and we pretend to go looking for her behind the chair and other places.

I've also discovered Handy Manny and Diego, which are both occassional shows. She's only partially interested in Diego because of the animals, but I think most of it goes over her head. Handy Manny, however, is one she enjoys. She also likes Wubbzy, which is cute and entertaining.

My favorite is Toot and Puddle because they go to different cities on adventures and teach about other places and cultures. Londo's favorite is Oswald. I'm not sure why... I should ask him.

With this list, it sounds like we watch hours of TV a day, which is not always true. But we do turn it on when we need a break or need to calm her down from a tantrum and nothing else works. Or sometimes so I can clip her nails or put her clothes on. If any of these shows is on, we will let her watch them. Dora and Blue's Clues used to come on right as Londo was making dinner and I'd get home from work and need some down time, so that's why she's probably watched those the most. (I think they've changed the scheduling for the new year, but I'm not positive.)

The study that Cloud talked about in her comment yesterday is really interesting, and makes me feel better. It basically says that TV is not the devil and can actually help pre-schoolers learn skills (these are completely my words, and I must fess up that I didn't finish reading the study because it's long and I haven't had time to finish it). But what I've noticed is that what the Pumpkin sees on TV exposes her to more of the world than she gets from just Londo, the nanny and me. Even more than books can in some ways, because there is action to go along with the words and pictures.

About two weeks ago, when the Pumpkin would. not. lie. down for her nap, I sat in the glider and she sat on the ottoman and she was talking away. I realized she was talking about Dora and Boots. So asked her what they were doing. She said, "Dora and Boots fall!" I have no idea which episode she was talking about or if she was just making it up. But I asked her what happened next, and she said, "Dora and Boots fall! Crash! Into the water!" And after a little more, she mentioned a witch. (I finally figured she must have been referring to the Snow Princess episode which we had seen recently, but I didn't watch the whole thing since I was cooking, so I can't be sure.) I found this story telling ability incredibly cute. Her ability to recall and tell me what happened in such detail is a new development, and maybe TV helped her with that.

Anyway, I'm not 100% comfortable with the amount of TV she sometimes watches, but it doesn't seem to be harming her development. In fact, it seems to be helping in some ways, as she talks about things and concepts that are new to her which she learned about on TV. And the TV is helping Londo and I get through a very difficult time for us.


Becoming Mommy said…
I don't worry about TV. I really don't think it hurts kids so long as they get interaction and other activity/stimulation.
Heck, we have ours on from 6am to 11pm.
No one is necessarily even watching it, but the noises and voices keep Kerrygirl from noticing every leaf skittering accross the cul-de-sac and barking her fool head off.
So TV, it can be a GREAT thing.
MommyEm said…
Dorothy mainly watches Sesame Street in the morning and one video at night. I have not really liked many of the children's shows that are on, but the ones I have liked are Caillou, Little Bear (so quiet and peaceful), and Super Why (or is it Super Readers?).

I (kinda) stopped worrying (as much) about TV the day that Dorothy counted to ten by herself (Aug. 10th according to the post-it I have on the wall). I hadn't been working on it, except through books and other teachable moments, so it was quite a surprise. It hit me later that I probably had Sesame Street to thank for that, so bring on Elmo and Big Bird!
OneTiredEma said…
I can't have the TV on so much because I am really visual person and get completely sucked in/distracted. The only thing I can do while watching it is fold laundry.

When Miss M was Pumpkin's age we were all about Sesame Street. Because we get 2 PBS stations plus the 24-hr cable PBS kids, she could watch it at 7, 8, or 9 am. It was awesome.

AM never got into Sesame Street because he's all about what she's watching. So now Curious George is a big hit (although the math/science concepts probably go over both of their heads), Clifford is HUGE (we have a couple of Clifford books, including the original, Clifford the Small Red Puppy), and they also love Super Why! Which is perfect for PreK, but it's about reading and letters and words, so I can't say that I object to it for AM either (I would be unsurprised he started to read at 4, like Miss M).

The other thing I like about CG and Clifford is that they were books first--so it is easy to turn off the TV and still have that satisfaction for them. Even though some of the modern Curious George stories are beyond inane, they are much shorter than any of the original 7.

I'm sure that once you are feeling better and the temperature outside returns to something livable, you'll all be spending more time running around. (That's certainly the plan here!) Balance in all things.
What a great exploration of the tv watching, unlike my own simple venting that I use it and don't like it.

But if we are being very serious my thoughts on 'educational tv' are this: it can expose them to things they might not other wise get exposed to. Musical styles, animals, the world ect. I don't think it can teach interpersonal skills (seriously noggin HOW can you claim that?) because that is learned through being um interpersonal :)

I also am looking into spanish DVD's or Tv because I don't speak much and we really want him to bilingual. If he is going to watch TV it might as well be in Spanish right?

I think what really bothers me is how much he is into it. Turning on the tv whenever he can, crying if we wont put it on or turn it off. I really don't think we have it on enough to warrant that kind of obsession.

Now to go read yesterdays comments that I missed out on :)
Anonymous said…
The biggest thing I have gotten from Dora is that Mimi needs to wear a seatbelt in the car, which is something she hates. But the argument that she needs to wear it "so we can be safe" seems to work.
zaimee said…
I has to comment because I have been struggling with the TV is evil is issue for a year now. I was pregnant last winter and between SAD and really bad back pain I was using the TV- daily for my then 15-18Month old. He would only watch ELMO but those 20 minutes saved my life, sometimes twice a day. Later on when his brother arrived TV was used occasionally then too.
But i have to say for the last 3-4 months there has been a lot more TV watching in our house. It started off with 1 hour of Sesame street and now if I had DORA on every waking moment he would be the happiest kid in the world. I have finally started to accept that TV is like everything else and I have to figure out what my battle is. I try to limit him to 1 hour of TV a day (he's 2yr4months) and it's usually when I am cooking dinner but yes there are days that he watches 30minutes in the morning too.
We keep it to Sesame Street, Dora, Thomas. He has watched Mickey Mouse cartoons on the computer and likes those. But outside of the 3 I have mentioned nothing else really catches his attention.
I must add that in the last 3-4 months his language also has gone through a huge explosion which is mostly him catching up with his peers but he has gotten a lot of concepts and words from Sesame Street. And like MOmmyEM said we have seen the benefits of it too like knowing and counting up to 20 and knowing the alphabet (even when they aren't in order- so it's actually knowing them).

So basically my long comment is that the TV has won a place in our house. I just have to make sure now it doesn't rule the house.
Cara said…
Sadly, we watch alot of tv, but I have rules about when and where (not during meals, or before breakfast, only on out-of town road trips in the van, and instead of nap-time we have a 4 hour tv-free play time), but mostly we watch Noggin. I love Little Bear and Franklin and Toot & Puddle, and we do talk about things we see on tv, and relate it to life experiences. The best thing about Noggin is that the kids aren't watching a constant bombardment of Bratz-Cookie Cereal-Etc ads.

A friend said she thinks the only thing wrong with Dora is that no one has told her to use her indoor voice.
Charisse said…
As someone who was raised TV-free until the age of 13, I really can't recommend it. Whatever you think about TV, it's part of our culture and having zero knowledge of it makes it really tough to interact with your peers.

So given that, Mouse watches some. Most days it's a 1/2 hour while her bath runs--Curious George, Super Why, Sid the Science Kid, or one of her movies. She's got some Disney, some Pixar, some Miyazaki, some weird William Wegman alphabet thing, some old Muppet Show episodes on DVD. She's also allowed to watch sports with us sometimes (we Tivo it and skip the commercials), and the odd episode of Iron Chef or So You Think You Can Dance...and important political events, figuring that she's old enough now to remember (she'll be 5 in April). That generates fun questions, hee! Great talk about Hillary Clinton having to be a good loser and how hard that was for her. Generally I'd prefer she watch something that's semi-adult or at least that has an artistic rather than educational purpose (I'm a Dora hater, sorry) rather than children's television, but obviously it doesn't always happen that way.

I also play hidden object and puzzle computer games with her--haven't graduated to letting her do Penguin Club or that sort of thing by herself. And if you're sick or on a plane, that is a time when all restrictions are off. That's when TV is really awesome. Last winter there was a very nasty but luckily short-lived stomach virus, and Mouse was just starting to feel better and have a little energy right when I was unable to lift my head and Mr. C was still in the dry heaving stage. Welcome to the Simpsons library sweetie, and here is how to work a remote! It also helped a ton the one time she was in the hospital.

So...I'm in favor of some but almost always as family viewing, and with (some) care about the content. Friends' houses, she's going to see what she sees and we'll talk about it later.
Trannyhead said…
Little Bill is my favorite on Noggin. LOVE that show. I also love Fireman Sam on Sprout.

Sumo doesn't watch a lot of TV. We don't have Sprout or Noggin, here. But we do watch Sesame Street every day and I totally credit Elmo with my kid's first word. All of a sudden, he was eating breakfast and watching Elmo and it was an "Elmo's World" about balls. And he just blurted out, "BALL!" and suddenly he understood. And he hasn't shut up, since. ;-)
I'm Not Skippy said…
Most of the time, if we have the TV on, we leave it on non-kid shows. Our son LOVES wheel of fortune, it comes on after the local news and we just use it for background noise.

If he's cranky, and to make it through weekends, we TiVO Sesame Street and Sid the Science kid. Sesame Street is almost as good as I remember for the first half hour, then you get the suckage that is Elmo's world. Sid has lots of songs he likes and is a Jim Henson Co. digital puppetry thing which is a neat style (I'm a design and animation geek. More importantly Sid taught our little guy to dance.

We're less of a Noggin or Playhouse Disney family and more a PBS family.

TV isn't bad, sitting your kid in front of the TV for hours to ignore them is. We watch the shows with him, we ask him questions and sing along with the show.

One last note, the couple times I watched Blue's Clues I noticed the guy doing sign language along with the clues.
electriclady said…
BG is passionate about Little Bear. She gets to watch one episode right when she gets up (so Mommy can snooze on the couch for 20 more minutes) and one in the afternoon--we always have 2 or 3 on the DVR. I doubt it has "enhanced her social and interpersonal skills" like Noggin claims, but it definitely has contributed to her language growth. And she's learned all sorts of songs and children's rhymes from it too.
ImpostorMom said…
As an avid TV lover myself I scoffed when my hubs declared that boog would be TV-free until the age of two. Yeah right, that didn't happen.

I actually don't think there is anything wrong with watching a little TV here and there and it's more about what we are letting him watch than the time spent doing it.

Sure there are days when he watches way more than he should but those are few and far between and typically involve a rainy day or a sickness.

Overall though I think he watches a reasonable amount of television and I feel pretty good about the majority of what he does watch. He loves Blue's Clues but lately he is totally addicted to Word World on PBS.

He went through an Oswald phase which I must admit I couldn't stand, don't know why. And a Jack's Big Music Show phase. But sometimes we all sit down as a family and watch something like Planet Earth and talk about all the animals and different things we see together.

I don't see the TV as the devil or as something that is going to harm his development but I also don't use it ALL THE TIME either. I will admit that in the mornings when I'm getting ready, if he's up, he's watching TV. And in the evenings when I'm cooking dinner he's usually watching a show.

But these are times when I'm solo parenting and there are other things that have to be done to get us through our day. I'm at least thankful that I have quality programing options at these times. Things I can feel good about him watching.

I mean how bad could sesame street really be for a kid whose favorite shape is an octagon?
Crystal said…
I have plenty of my own tv guilt...and it has also gotten so much worse since I got pregnant again (it's been a rough one with morning sickness, migraines, and kidney stones). We don't actually have television/cable, but Melia watches plenty of movies. Little Bear is my favorite because it is so calming and doesn't add to the chaos that already abounds.

I would also agree that it's hard to feel too guilty when she seems to pick up so much information and language from the show. I think the only advice I would give to others is to create as much of an established routine with it as possible. We haven't and now that she's in the terrible twos stage, she can get mighty crazy when she doesn't get a movie when she wants it.
- Dana said…
Aria is all about Caillou. She hasn't really been interested in the other shows. We found it on On-Demand so can turn it on anytime. It's so cute when she recalls and talks about the episodes. She's learned about all sorts of things that we just don't come across in our daily routine. I think it's great for her.
paola said…
Zoe is not very interested in television, although she can't get enough of her Wiggles dvds(don't know if you have heard of them there, but they sing and dance and kids go nuts for them). Noah watches Thomas and Bob and girly dvds like Angelina, but no commercial tv as such. They usually get 40 minutes a day on a school day and might get an hour on the weekend. But I quite encourage it as it is the only exposure they get to English (other than from me, that is) and everyday I hear new vocabulary they have picked up from the songs and especially 'train talk' Noah gets from Thomas. I mean, who the hell knew what a 'coupling rod' or 'buffer' was before Thomas came into our homes?
Don Mills Diva said…
I don't think any of us are entirely comfortable with the amount of tv our kids watch - I wonder about it around here too but when it -20 celcius it's kina unavoidable - even if I did have the engery Graham's not THAT interested in playing with mommy for hours on end.

He LOVES Toot and Puddle and ofteb tries to eat with chop sticks because he saw it on the one where they went to China.

(as my husband says, how do those pigs get the $ to travel so much?)
Anonymous said…
I agree with becoming mommy. As long as there is enough interaction with parents and other human beings to counterbalance, then t.v. shouldn't be an issue.

Monkey has outgrown Baby Einstein but likes Caillou, the singing woman on Sprout named Elizabeth, plus Make way for Noddy and Bob the Builder.
Michelle G said…
BACKYARDIGANS!!!!! My little one (15 months old) isn't into TV (he's in this really busy mode right now)...but he'll look up and dance for a second to the music. My 4 year old loves the songs and fantasy-based plots. She gets about an hour of TV- less during the week, more on the weekend.

Honestly, I can't stand Dora. I feel like it is mind-numbingly stupid. Sort of like that show that might not even be on anymore, Higglytown Heros.
Karen said…
Micah watches very little TV because he doesn't understand commercials and it aggravates him. That, in turn, aggravates us. But the other kids? They'll watch anything that's on. Literally. All. Day. Long.

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