A few texts during dinner time, a few emails while doing crafts...it's a slippery slope.

Engaged parents, engaged children

How very different it is to sit on the floor and play with kids as opposed to sitting on a chair. How different it is to go down the slides with kids as opposed to staying out of the game and being a spectator. Kids thrive on interaction, they want their hands held, they want to cuddle, they want to be close and they want to play with their parents all the time. Older kids can and want to play alone and will demand space and ask for attention and input as they need it.

I see parents at play centers sitting on benches and texting. Play centers actually have comfy leather sofas for parents. Their kids are doing...whatever it is they do. Then the parent all of a sudden looks up and yells "Bobby, come here. Come here! Come here now! Come on! Over here!". Bobby shows up finally and then the parent says "Finally, where have you been? Anyway, how is your play? Are you having a good time? Yes? OK, go play now but don't go too far." Back to texting. Similar scenario, same concept, at grocery stores, at home, in the mall, etc. Parents reading the newspaper, watching TV, talking to other adults while their kids play away. Sure, kids will play away, they will invent ways to play and the more they are ignored the more they will play on their own. And the fact that they will play on their own makes some people think that it's OK to just leave them alone.

Independence is good of course, it is actually great. But there is a huge difference between independence due to lack of attention and independence by choice.

The above examples are extreme, although not unusual or rare. My point is that kids, young and old, need frequent interaction and attention from their parents.

TV watching

TV is passive, it's one-way, lacks detail and it's too quick. Everybody knows it's bad for you yet so many people aren't willing to give it up. Compare reading a story vs. watching it. We tried to make Emma watch so-called educational videos because we didn't know any better and thought that at least some of the great benefits listed on the back cover may be true. Nope. Tried Elmo on TV as a desperate attempt to make her understand TV. Nope. This actually made me quite happy! My gut feeling told me to not even try to make her watch TV but having had no previous experience with children I wanted to give a try. Conclusion: 2 hours of TV was enough for this year and the next. Had we seen great benefits that TV provides to our daughter, we would have researched and found appropriate videos for her but nope, I can safely conclude with relief that a one year old doesn't care about or needs TV.

Update at 34 months: no change. TV brings out the absolute worst from Emma. If we put on something to watch she just wants more, can't turn if off without a fit and I haven't come across any TV program marketed for children in this country that offers much value at all. We spent a few days at a cottage recently where the TV was the central ornament in the living room and we let Emma watch it a bit...well...I start to twich after 15 minutes of Treehouse, she starts to fidget after 20 minutes and after 30 minutes everything falls apart. The great thing about the layout of our house is that the TV is in the basement and we spend very little time there so it's altogether out of sight and out of mind every day.

Update at five years: A curated selection of YouTube videos and some kids movies work well now. TV is still in the basement but Emma can now be there on her own and we now have an iPad. Still, watching stuff is a treat altough she watches more TV/iPad shows now than ever. (up to 30 mins per day on average)

There are (were?), of course, good TV programs. But they are rare, so very rare. And they are hidden among so much junk that it's better to miss these good shows just so we can avoid seeing the surrounding junk.