Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Who said tv isn't educational?

When I was pregnant with Cole and Bella and on bedrest, I read almost every book I could find on parenting. I wanted to be prepared for everything that could happen. Most of what I read discouraged parents from letting their kids watch too much tv. It hindered children's learning abilities, as well as encouraged inactivity, is what the books said. So I concluded that I would not let my kids watch too much tv.

Then reality hit....most of the time I was too sleep deprived to entertain them for hours on end so I was guilty of turning on the tv and letting them watch more than they should have. Nothing over the top or age-inappropriate of course...just shows like Sesame Street, Baby Einstein DVD's, that kind of stuff. They didn't seem to suffer from it at all. Not that I have ever had their intelligence levels tested or anything but they seemed to be hitting the educational milestones at the right time.

Along came Garrett and Landon....and my kids way more tv than I ever anticipated. Sure, I feel guilty but when I'm trying to get lunch ready for 4 hungry children (and they all want something different of course), I turn on the tv and say "here watch this fun show while I make lunch".

So here I am beating myself up over just how much tv they watch. But here's the kicker....they have learned so much from what they have watched. Here's a few examples:

The other day Cole was lining up his Hot Wheels cars and I noticed he was counting them IN SPANISH (thank you Dora the Explorer). I don't know Spanish, he doesn't learn Spanish in preschool but he loves watching Dora and obviously he has learned a thing or two. The fact that he can count to 10 in Spanish obviously has not compromised his intelligence. When I noticed he was counting in Spanish, I commented on it and he said "I also know this train is azul (blue) and this train is rojo (red)". Dora the Explorer rocks!
Both Cole and Bella have learned about various animals by watching Go Diego Go.

The show Hi-5 taught the kids a lot about shapes, colors and numbers. And they rediscovered their love for books once they were turned on to Super Why. In fact, when Bella's trying to decide on which book to read, she'll say, in the famous words of Princess Pea, "peas and carrots, carrots and peas, book come out, please, please, please". They've also learned a ton of fairytales by watching this show.

And it's not just educational stuff they're learning. They're also learning socialization skills and how to cooperate with others. Yesterday, I asked them to bring all the toys they had brought downstairs back upstairs again and Bella hemmed and hawed about it. Cole said "Bella, let's be like the Wonder Pets and do teamwork". And they totally worked together to clean up all the toys.

Last but not least, we have Yo Gabba Gabba. When I first saw this show, I have to admit I thought the people who created it were smoking crack. It's just such a far-out there show. Wierd characters with strange names...a skinny DJ who runs the show who seems unusually enthusiastic about everything...a huge guy named Biz who's missing a few front teeth who raps music (mainly he just spits into the microphone for a few minutes). My first gut reaction was "no way am I letting my kids watch this crap". But then our babysitter let them watch it one day and they were hooked. She said to me, "Okay, I know it's a really wierd show but you should have seen the kids...they loved it!" So that sold me right there.

The thing about Yo Gabba Gabba is it teaches the kids how to get along with others and stuff like that but they sing these fun little songs that are easy for kids to memorize. And it sticks with them, trust me on that. When I was trying to get Landon to try a bite of spinach, Cole started singing, "try it, you'll like it...try it, you'll like it". When Cole got frustrated one day trying to figure out how to use the hoola hoop, Bella started singing, "keep trying, don't give up, never give up". When Landon bit Garrett one day, Cole sang "don't, don't, don't bite your friends". Cole and Bella are both afraid of the dark and one night I was putting them to bed and Bella said "Hey Cole, what's that song that Foofa sings about not being afraid" and he started singing it..."don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid, it's okay". And of course there's the "I'm so Happy" song that Cole will break into at random times for absolutely no reason. We'll just be sitting there playing with a toy on the floor and he'll start singing "I'm so happy, happy to be free...I'm so happy, happy to be me..."

And I have Angelina Ballerina to thank for Bella's obsession with ballet. She saw the show one day and was hooked on ballet. She asked me to sign her up for classes, which she'll start in a few more weeks. Sesame Street taught them about feelings and how to treat our friends nicely. They've also learned about other cultures.

So yeah I don't want my kids watching hours and hours of tv but the shows they do see, in the little increments that they do watch, have all been positive learning experiences for them. And it really helps when I'm trying to explain something to them, like the importance of helping one another, and I can reflect back to a specific episode they might have watched of one of the above-mentioned shows and they totally get it.

But there is one drawback....I can't stop hearing the songs in my head when I'm trying to get to sleep at night. I know it's super bad when I'm in the car singing songs I heard earlier on Yo Gabba Gabba or the ever-so-annoying backpack song from Dora the Explorer. But maybe that's a small price to pay considering these shows have helped me get meals on the table on time, as well as teaching my kids really important lessons!


And then there was 4... said...

Hey helene,
what time do you go to the gym?

Kim said...

Wow! You're last 3 posts have really hit home for me.

If I didn't have 4 kids myself, with twin toddlers, I'd probably be saying things like, "This, too, shall pass" or "Enjoy your children while they're young" or "I don't know how you do it" (which is what most people tell me on an almost daily basis!)

Instead, I know exactly how you feel . . . a schizophrenic soup of emotions every day: guilt, joy, exhaustion, love, irritation, laughing, crying, etc. etc!

My twins are watching more TV than I ever allowed my older girls. It's inevitable, I guess, unless I got rid of the TV altogether, which AIN'T HAPPENING! So your post gives me hope that I'm not totally turning my babies into slackjawed idiots by letting them watch the first twenty minutes of Ratatouille EVERY SINGLE DAY while I get dinner started.

Hang in there! You're not alone, or unusual, or abnormal in what you're going through or feeling. At least, that's what I tell myself. And your writing confirms it.

Joy said...

Adrian has learned so much from TV. When he as almost totally non verbal I had him watching a video called Signing Time and he learned 10 sign language signs from that and I think it really jump started his vocabulary. It can be a good thing, that's for sure.

MamáChanga said...

You know Helene, Da'Gorgeouses watch too much TV also, but I agree with you, they've gleaned so much from each show they really like to watch. I once mentioned this to the PHN that came to visit them, she said it wasn't bad that they watched TV, what is bad are those parents that never interact with their kids and use the TV as an all day babysitter. It makes a difference when parents spend time with their kids and give them the skills necessary to learn from the show themselves. So, in essence, you've done such a great job setting that foundation for your kids, that they now have the ability to learn from those videos that save our sanity! LOL!!

Hugs & Blessings!

twinmama said...

{{Hugs}} You are like a kindred spirit, it is really astonishing to read your posts. I have been feeling so guilty about the TV lately. Unfortunately, it is a really nice to turn on the TV for Peanut & Jelly Bean while I am making dinner. They love to watch the shows on Noggin and I actually think they are pretty good. We talk about the stuff they are seeing and I encourage them to dance and sing along. I thought Yo Gabba Gabba was a modern day Teletubbies and was immediately put off at first. Now, I can't get some of those silly songs out of my head. My twin girls love Blue's Clues (Steve rocks), Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora, Diego and my personal favorite "Miss Spider's Sunny Patch Friends". I think I like that one more than the girls...

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on your blog and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I also have two sets of twins - ages 4 and 1 -- and could really relate to many things you've written!

With regard to the TV, my older twins learned SO much from Brainy Baby DVDs, Leap Frog DVDs, Dora, Diego, and Superwhy. Unfortunately, around 4 they completely stopped watching TV (their doing, not mine), so enjoy it while you can. What I would give some days to be able to pop in a DVD and have them settle down for 30 minutes!

Chacy said...

Like Kim said, this hits home for me too. I firmly believe that TV is bad for kids, and I try not to let my 18 month old lay eyes on it.

I watch the two neighbor's kids during the day until they start school, which makes a total of 4, including my other one (7 months.) It gets hectic. Even though they're not my kids, I still don't feel comfortable sitting them in front of the box, but I DO find myself doing just that - and sometimes for extended periods.

On top of that, my toddler will watch it sometimes while they're watching it. I turn to find her eyes glazed over and glued to the screen. The wave of guilt hits me, and most times I will pull her away and go read a book in her room or something.

Your post makes me feel better, though. Nice to know there's a mom out there with the same base thoughts about TV, who has some contrasting evidence to those thoughts and has seen some of its educational benefits!

I probably still won't feel comfortable with my toddler watching, since that's the "danger age" but I won't feel as bad about the neighbor's kids (who are 5 and 8.)

Anonymous said...
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I figure that if the children are alive when my husband gets home at the end of the day, I've done my job.

----Roseanne Barr

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