Tag Archive | children

“Lose the ‘Boob Tube:’ Alternative Activities to Engage Your Children”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Photo Credit: Chris Stein, Getty Images

Photo Credit: Chris Stein, Getty Images

When it comes to television, I’ve gotten the ‘eye rolls,’ the “Oh, come on’s,” and just about every comment in the ‘pro-television’ corner … yet not from my son. Rather, these comments have come from other parents I know. Most people find a hard time believing that my son will be 4 years old soon and he still has not watched a television program or a DVD, nor seen a movie. That’s why, while discussing this with a mother at church this Sunday, I was shocked when she responded, “Good for you! I wish I’d done it.”

Although I have run into some like-minded moms, in general most parents I know have set their children in front of the television before the age of 2 – some as early as 1 year old or younger. Some have rationalized their decision with, “But it’s Sesame Street!” Others with, “Yes, but my baby is learning so much from those Baby Einstein DVDs!”

Now don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite Sesame Street character, and I think that the developers of Baby Einstein had a great concept. However, when interviewed about why they are making DVDs for such young children, even though developmentally it has been proven to be inappropriate before the age of 2, the creators of Baby Einstein had a ready response. Since they know parents are going to let their children watch anyway, they wanted to create something that (and this is a real big paraphrase here) wouldn’t be too bad. Huh…

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children under 2 years old not be exposed to media of any kind, and screen time for children older than that should be limited – kids 2 and older should watch no more than one to two hours daily. Despite that recommendation, the average American child watches three to four hours a day.

Very few children’s television programs are interactive. In fact, they can actually delay a child’s development in some areas. Think about it: most television programs flash rapid-fire images and concepts at a child to the point where their mind has no time to process what is happening – let alone respond appropriately.

I subscribe to Baby Center and in their “TV-watching guidelines” web article, they state: “The best way to approach television is to think of it as refined sugar. You want your kids to enjoy the seductive stuff without consuming it to excess.” This makes sense, and my little boy will certainly soon get to enjoy TV time. However, as I think about how much time he will spend watching television, and how I will keep his viewing time and content under control, I believe it is best to start out “tough” from day one. It will be much easier to relax my standards later on than to tighten the reins.

Baby Center has several excellent ideas for monitoring your child’s TV viewing, including choosing what to watch and your role.  They also have two other articles I highly recommend reading: TV for Kids Filled with Social Bullying, Study Finds” and “What to Watch: The Best Children’s Television.”

Here are several alternative activities you can use to engage your children and keep them busy in another way – even if you really just ‘need a moment!’

1)      Put the focus on reading ~ Most little ones I know enjoy story time. You can read to them, together, or have them read to you. Even if they are too young to be reading other than from memory, change the words around, or vary the story line – remember this is creating a strong foundation and enjoyment for reading. The myth that you must be sitting next to your child listening and watching as he or she experiences a book is not true! It is perfectly fine for you to ask your child to read to you while you are preparing dinner. No direct eye contact necessary!

Little Drummer Boy

Little Drummer Boy

2)      Invest in upbeat, interactive children’s music or story CDs ~ This develops their auditory learning, and gives them freedom to create images in their mind. Some come with a book and your child gets to hear someone else read to them besides you. These also tend to be slower paced, allowing more response time for your child.

3)      Invest in a child-friendly musical instrument kit (Target has some good ones) ~ Even if you have to “grin and bear” the noise for a bit, your child will love ‘playing along’ to a favorite CD or just making up their own tunes. Add a ‘marching band’ stroll around the house!

4)      Lay out miscellaneous craft supplies ~ Construction paper; small pieces of thin cardboard; fun little bits and pieces for gluing (buttons, felt pieces, googly eyes, stickers); scissors; glue and paste – let your child have an unbridled craft fest (parental involvement not necessary)! It doesn’t matter what they create, just that they are being creative!

Making Christmas Cookies

Making Christmas Cookies

5)      Venture into the great outdoors ~ Your backyard is fine and if you don’t have one, the nearest local park is great too. Children need to expend (lots of) energy and what better place to do that than outside. I have to force myself to do this on days when I am not up for a trek in a light drizzle, getting bundled up against the cold air, or am just plain tired. Yet when I see the joy all over my son’s face once we’ve stepped outside (in all kinds of weather), I remember what it was like to be a kid again.

6)      Cook or bake something together ~ Believe me, this is certainly my greatest weakness, yet I have found that simply letting my little guy stir up some powdered muffin mix in a bowl, and help me add a splash of milk and crack an egg is all he needs (besides to taste one when it’s finished) to feel like a real chef!

7)      Play a game, put a puzzle together, or build something ~ There is so much your child (and you!) will learn – about social skills and about each other, when you take time to play together.

Helping Mommy Houseclean

Helping Mommy Houseclean

These are just a few ideas, and of course you likely have many more to add. Let us know what you do when it is time to turn off the ‘boob tube’ – we would love to hear your activity suggestions!

And – for another perspective, check out fellow blogger Jen’s post: Setting Limits on TV and Video Games (or How NOT to Win Mother of the Year).

Lessons We Learn from Our Children

By Jen Ashenfelter

Our children are amazing. Their accomplishments are inspiring. Their achievements in the classroom, on the playing field, in a performance, or out in the community make us proud parents.

These days—compared to when I think back to my years in school—the parenting trend is to involve our children in a multitude of sports and activities as well as nurture a well-rounded honor student. Whether you subscribe to the tiger-parenting philosophy or your approach is less hands-on, as parents it’s our responsibility to prepare our children for the future.

Sometimes our children’s efforts are self-driven because they are naturally competitive, thrive on the positive feedback, or simply enjoy what they are doing.

Sometimes it’s not that easy. As parents, we cheer them on, share our wisdom gained from years of experience, dish out advice—wanted or not—or basically lay down the law to motivate and challenge them to do better.

My youngest and I had a nice conversation recently which made me smile and got me thinking. To set the background, students can choose a musical instrument in fifth grade; he decided to play the trumpet. Having never expressed an interest in playing an instrument before, we had many in-depth discussions about his decision and the resulting commitment. He didn’t waiver in his decision. The trumpet was rented and the lessons began.

If we quit too soon, we may never know our potential.

If we quit too soon, we may never know our potential.

Many times I could be heard saying, “I want to hear you practicing that trumpet.” By the time Christmas break was over, he got off the bus one afternoon and announced he wanted to quit playing the trumpet because “everyone” was allowed to quit, and he felt it was taking up too much time.

(What? The kid has nothing but time. And who is everyone? Wait, I don’t care about everyone; they are not my responsibility. Would you jump off a bridge if everyone was doing it? You gotta love the everyone argument; I’ve used it myself back in the day. And then it bubbled up and spilled out of my mouth, that voice of a mother…)

My response was a firm “No” with a reminder about the commitment he agreed to for the school year, and I expected him to do the work as required by the teacher to earn a good grade. I knew he was frustrated over the time and practice it took to sound good. Who wants to sound like a dying cow in public? The fear of failure and public humiliation can be paralyzing—just quit before it reaches that point. But that was the end of the conversation and we began to hear him practice more often during the last month.

Our recent chat:

C: I’m going to work on getting 140 minutes of trumpet practice this week. If I practice for 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, that’s 60 plus 80 minutes during the week…that’s 80 + 60 = 140. (Students are expected to practice 80 to 100 minutes a week.)

Me: Ok, that’s great! Do you think you are getting better with all this practice?

C: I think so, but I still have trouble with the high notes.

Me: Maybe you should devote a few minutes of each practice to just the high notes?

C: Yes. On the weekends, I could do 15 minutes on the high notes and 15 minutes on the songs.

Me: Sounds like a good plan to me. See how it works out. (huge smile, fist pump when he left the room)

By simply not letting him quit and challenging him to honor his commitment and push through the frustration, something grabbed hold. It was his decision how to handle the situation. I’m proud of him.

At that moment I realized a few things. As adults, who challenges us? How many times do we give up on something new because there’s no one above our authority to encourage us to push on? What can we learn from the accomplishments of our children when we challenge them to do better?

Sometimes it’s what we teach our children and what they teach us in return!

  • To challenge ourselves as much as we challenge them
  • To choose how we will handle a challenge and create a plan to rise above it
  • To put our best effort into everything we do
  • To manage our time wisely
  • To push through the difficult moments—we are stronger than we think
  • To learn from failures and try again
  • To practice, practice…and practice some more—success takes patience and hard work; striving for perfection shouldn’t be the goal
  • To determine when it is the right time to change direction
  • To take pride in a job well done and celebrate success

Do you set the same expectations for yourself as you do for your children? Do you feel you set expectations for your children higher than you do for yourself? What can you learn from their efforts and accomplishments? Next time you are struggling with a challenge, listen to your own advice—or call your mother—and see what happens next!