I thought it was time for an update from the home front. I’ve written before here about when my first daughter hit the Walkie-Talkie stage. My little Walkie-Talkie spends her playtime immersed in imaginative fairyland, complete with characters and drama. Most naptimes have turned to “quiet time” at our house, and while she is in her room the stories really run wild. She sings songs to her animals, talks to her dolls, creates elaborate stories to tell herself, and in general has a fine time high in her tower waiting for her prince (or mommy to come and tell her quiet time is over). I keep meaning to put a tape recorder in her room to hear exactly what she is saying, but what I can glean from my eavesdropping makes me laugh, and amazes me. Kids say the darndest things! This imaginative play has done wonders for my sanity, as I get a few moments every day to sit back and let her daydreams run wild. I’ve written before about the power of free play, and I am even more of a believer as I raise my own kids.
Our newest addition, the “Roly-Poly”, is already five-months-old! Her coos and gurgles have turned to bird-of-prey-style squawks, followed by big smiles and sparkling eyes to get our attention. From my “speechie” lens I’m always amazed by how quickly babies can change from day-to-day. I’ve written before about baby signing here, and my husband and I are starting to use signs with our Roly-Poly, especially when she fusses, in an effort to show her that she can communicate a specific need or want. The circles of communication come so naturally to many babies – it makes me appreciate even more the parents who have to work extra hard for their child’s attention. Communication is such a vital part of our lives, even from this age humans seek out and reinforce those interactions. The Roly-Poly also likes to make those flirty eyes at 2:30am when I finally drag myself out of dreamland and stumble into her room. That little girl know how to get her need met and keep everyone loving her to bunches.
Some of you may remember our family’s big experiment where we cancelled cable for 8 months. It actually was a pretty easy switch, since we didn’t spend much time watching it normally. I wanted to see if, as a family, we could stomach what I try to encourage many of my clients to do: significantly reduce our screen time. I have seen children for therapy who spend 3-4 hours every day in front of the t.v., and another couple of hours on the computer. Seven hours in front of a screen is no good. When we are focusing on self-soothing, increasing social communication, and exploring pretend play, screen time runs counter to what we are trying to accomplish.
I check my computer or iPad several times a day, and the iPhone has been my sanity while spending countless hours breastfeeding, so I didn’t focus on our overall “screen time”. I’ll be the first to admit, that “window” to the outside world would be very difficult for me to totally eliminate. Our Walkie-Talkie only uses the iPad on rare occasions, so our focus turned to the television. We canceled the cable, caught a few shows on basic cable, but didn’t really miss the tube during our busy days.
But then the Oregon Duck football season started. Needless to say, in order to get his sports fix, my husband asked for the cable back. We’d already gotten in a nice rhythm of not watching television, and our oldest daughter didn’t expect it as part of her day, so we turned the cable back on. Realistically, I’d say we currently catch about 3-4 hours of grownup shows a week (mostly On-Demand, I hate commercials!), a couple of hours of sports, and my daughter watches about 1 hour per week. Her favorite shows (again, On-Demand usually) are the Super Why! super reader shows, and Angelina Ballerina. We’ve established that it is a special, irregular treat, so she doesn’t expect it every day. Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand that as parents we are often on our last strands of patience, and the television can be a sanity saver. Some children are very high-energy and need some forced down time. In my opinion, however, what is important is to continue to practice having your child entertain themselves, because it’s the only way they will learn to regulate their behavior, play through boredom, and explore some of their deeper cognitive capacities.
With that, I’ll leave you with this little tidbit from the Walkie-Talkie tonight: “When you go to bed, you rest your body and your hair… AND your brain!”