Texas Parenting News
What’s wrong with TV and video for babies?
“Our baby loves watching television. She learns so much, especially from the educational programs.”
“We live in a technological age. Children need to get used to electronic media from day one.”
“I set up the iPad for Jonah on his highchair to keep him occupied while I cook.”
Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard another parent or a caregiver express similar sentiments. Maybe you’re hearing comments like these more than ever before. Maybe you’re wondering what could be wrong with using electronic media with infants.
As you may know, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the nation’s largest organization of children’s physicians, discourages the use of electronic media with children younger than 2. The group issued a policy statement to that effect in 1999 and reaffirmed the policy, with updated research findings from the past 10 years, last fall.
What the findings show
The updated policy statement addresses three points:
1. There is no evidence of educational benefit of media use for children younger than 2.
According to the AAP, “the educational merit of media for children younger than 2 years remains unproven despite the fact that three-quarters of the top-selling infant videos make explicit or implicit educational claims.”
Studies show, among other things, that media use with children younger than 2 does not improve cognitive development or language skills.
2. Media use has potentially harmful health and developmental effects on infants.
Although research on the health effects of media use on infants is lacking, the AAP sees ample reason for concern.
“In the short-term, children younger than 2 years who watched more television or videos have expressive language delays,” the AAP says. The long-term effects are not known.
In addition, television use as a bedtime routine “is associated with irregular sleep schedules” in children younger than 3 years. “Poor sleep habits have adverse effects on mood, behavior, and learning.”
3. Having television on all the time decreases adult-child interaction.
“Infant vocabulary growth is directly related to the amount of ‘talk time’ or the amount of time parents spend speaking to them,” the AAP says. “Heavy television use in a household can interfere with a child’s language development simply because parents likely spend less time talking to the child.”
What to do?
The AAP offers a number of recommendations to pediatricians, parents, the media industry, and researchers. The recommendations to parents include the following:
Avoid using television, videos, and other electronic media with children younger than 2 years.
Sit down and read to children to foster their cognitive and language development.
Sit down and play with infants as a way for them to learn problem-solving, develop reasoning skills, and think innovatively.
At times when you cannot read to children or engage them in play, provide supervised independent play. Simply having a baby play with pots and pans on the kitchen floor while you cook is useful play time.
Don’t place a television set in your children’s bedrooms.
If you choose to use media, review the content first. Watch the program or video with your child and talk about it.
Recognize that your own use of media can have a negative effect on children. When the TV is on and children are in the room, you are likely to be distracted by what’s on the screen and thus less likely to interact with your child.
Remember that unstructured play time is more valuable for an infant’s developing brain than any electronic media exposure, despite the claims of media companies.
American Academy of Pediatrics. November 2011. Policy Statement: Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years. Pediatrics, Vol. 128 (5). Available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/10/12/peds.2011-1753.full.pdf+html.
Baby and toddler games
Playing with your baby often takes nothing more than your time and imagination and a few household items. Although the games below may seem simplistic to you, they can help your baby develop critical skills and lay down circuits in the brain that are essential for learning.
The key in each game is the interaction, the give-and-take between you and baby. Engage in loving, respectful conversation. Name objects, express feelings, and explain what you are doing. Show delight when your baby responds.
Remember that every individual is unique. If your baby does not seem interested in an activity, wait a few weeks and try it again later. When your baby responds enthusiastically to a game, expect to repeat it over and over again.
Touch and talk
Talk softly as you nurse, change diapers, and rock to sleep. Sing simple songs, cuddle, and stroke the baby’s cheeks, tummy, and feet.
Hold your baby in your arms, rock back and forth, and say, “Snuggle buggle, I love you.” On the word “you,” kiss the baby’s forehead. Repeat several times, kissing a different part of the baby’s body, such as nose, fingers, or toes.
Ride a bike
Place your baby with back down on a flat surface such as a bed or rug on the floor. Grasp the baby’s feet and move them in a circling motion, like riding a bicycle. Talk about the motions. Occasionally speed up and slow down.
What do you see?
Gather a few objects such as a metal pot, an oatmeal box, a milk carton, a book, and a brightly colored scarf. Hold each object, one at a time, in front of your baby. Say the name of each, and let the baby touch it. Move each object, one at a time, from left to right and back again to let the baby’s eyes follow the movement.
What do you hear?
Gather a few objects such as a rattle, spoons, and paper. Shake the rattle and let the baby listen to it. Clap the spoons together, crumple the paper, and make other noises. As you go about your daily routines, identify noises around you, such as a dog’s bark, siren, vacuum cleaner, or motorcycle.
Row your boat
Prop your baby against pillows on the floor. Sit facing your baby with your legs outstretched in a “V.” Grasp the baby’s hands and pull the arms gently forward and back. As you move, sing:
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.
Holding your baby in your lap, grasp your baby’s hands in yours and pat them together, chanting:
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man
Make me a cake as fast as you can.
Roll it and pat it and mark it with “B”
Put it in the oven for baby and me.
See the baby
Hold a hand mirror in front of your baby’s face, or hold your baby up to a wall mirror. Say your baby’s name, and point out facial features. Gently move the baby’s head side to side and up and down. Show your own face in the mirror and point out features.
Open and shut
Holding your baby, walk around your home. Open a cabinet door to let the baby see inside, and then close it. Turn on the light switch in a darkened room or closet, and turn it off. Turn on the cold water faucet, and turn it off. Open a curtain, and close it. Talk about what you’re doing the whole time. The point is to introduce your baby to cause and effect.
6 months and older
Play Humpty Dumpty
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your baby on your stomach facing you and leaning back against your legs. Hold the baby’s hands and recite the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme. At the word “fall,” gently let your baby slip to one side. At the phrase “together again,” pull your baby up to start again.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Navigate an obstacle course
Set up an obstacle course in a room where you and your baby can crawl around. Obstacles might include a cardboard box to crawl around, a pillow to crawl over, and the legs of a chair or table to crawl through, for example. Lead the way on all fours and invite your baby to follow you.
Face your baby and slowly cover your face with a towel. Then peek out from behind the towel and say, “Peekaboo! I see you.” Repeat as long as the baby shows interest. Vary this game by hiding an object under a towel and pulling the towel away to reveal the object.
Where is Thumbkin?
Make fists with both hands and hold them in front of your baby. Sing the words below to the tune of “Frere Jacques.” Repeat the verse four times, substituting a different name for each finger: Pointer, Tallman, Ringman, and Pinky.
Where is Thumbkin, where is Thumbkin? (Hold fists.)
Here I am, here I am. (Bring out thumbs.)
How are you today, sir?
Very well, I thank you. (Make thumbs bow to each other.)
Run away. Run away. (Pull both hands behind your back.)
Read the pictures
Make a picture book by inserting photos into a small plastic photo album. Use photos of real people and things (not cartoons) such as grandparents, house, car, and pets. Talk about each photo, and show your baby how to turn the pages.
9 months and older
Sit facing your baby and roll a ball back and forth. You can make balls by wadding up paper or aluminum foil and by winding yarn or cloth strips into a ball. As your child gains skill, vary this game by letting your baby throw the ball to you or toss it into a basket. Offer a variety of balls and make up a game for each. Your child might try sitting and balancing on a beach ball, kicking a soccer ball, and bouncing a tennis ball on a hard surface, for example.
Put a doll or teddy bear into a large cardboard box and encourage your child to give the doll or bear a ride by pushing it around the room. Your child may also want to climb into the box to hide or play inside it like a house.
Fill and dump
Give your child a container such as a basket or box and objects to drop into it, such as clothespins, sponges, crumpled up paper balls, jar lids, or knotted socks. Show your toddler how to drop the objects into the container and dump them out. Let your toddler practice.
Sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” several times to acquaint your child with the tune and words and have fun making the sounds of the farm animals. Later sing the song again but substitute your baby’s name for “Old MacDonald.” Substitute the names of familiar people or objects for the animals, each with a distinctive sound.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Ee I ee I oh.
And on the farm he had a cow
Ee I eeI oh.
With a moo-moo here, and a moo-moo there
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo-moo
Old MacDonald had a farm
Ee I ee I oh.
12 months and older
Twist and shout
Your child is learning to pull up and stand, hold on to a couch or chair, and then take steps to walk. Stand behind your child and, holding the child’s hands, take small steps together. Sing a song, such as “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles, and move to the music.
Well, shake it up, baby, now
Twist and shout.
C’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, baby, now
C’mon and work it on out.
Fresh air and sunshine are essential to good health. When the weather permits, take your child outside. Walk along a garden path, pull a wagon, or just let your toddler run with the wind. Provide a dishpan of sand, dirt, or water along with spoons, plastic cups, plastic pitchers, strainer, funnel, muffin tins, and other household implements. Show your child how to pour and empty, measure and mix, and make sand cakes and mud pies.
Play with blocks
Provide DUPLO® blocks, wooden or sponge blocks, or small cardboard boxes of various sizes. Talk with your child about the blocks: shape, size, color, texture. Show your child how to place the blocks in a line or circle and stack them. Let the child handle the blocks, play with them, and knock them down. Building skyscrapers will come later.
Paint en plein air
Take a hint from French artists and create art in the open air. Give your child a small paintbrush and plastic bowl of water and suggest painting a lawn chair, sidewalk, or fence. Find a sturdy twig and suggest using it to make marks in dirt or sand. Draw with chalk on a sidewalk. Choose a picnic table, provide crayons or washable markers, and suggest scribbling on paper.
Which jar lid?
Give your child plastic jars of different sizes, each with a screw-on lid. You might choose a mayonnaise jar, a peanut butter jar, and a cold cream jar, for example. The lids should be at least 1 ½ inches in diameter and too large for the child to choke on. Show your child how to put on the lids and take them off. Let your child experiment with different size lids and twisting the lid to fit.
Match the socks
Give your child four or five pairs of socks, each a different color or design. Show your child how to match them: red to red and blue to blue, for example. Invite your child to practice. Vary this game by asking your child to sort matching pairs of different objects: gloves, cereal boxes, postcards, jar lids, and fabric or paper squares, for example.
Provide ball caps, shoes, shirts, handbags, necklaces, scarves, and other old or used clothing. Invite your child to dress up, being careful to avoid dangling shoelaces and other trip hazards. Provide props, such as plastic containers to use as dishes, a shoebox and towel for a doll bed, an old telephone, and paper and pencil for writing.
Drape an old sheet over two rows of chairs, with backs facing, to serve as a tent. Provide a blanket for a bedroll, sticks for a campfire, a broom handle with string for a fishing pole, binoculars, sunglasses, and a camera. Invite your child to have a pretend campout.
How to handle toddler hitting
My child hates me,” says Marianne, a young mother. “Lately, she has been hitting me. If she does this at 18 months, what will she do when she’s older?”
Getting hit by your toddler can be unnerving. As parents, we may feel shocked and angry. We may worry about what we could possibly have done to make our child hate us. We may be afraid that our child will grow up to be a mean, hateful kid who’s always getting into trouble.
Actually, it’s not all that unusual for a child this age to hit, kick, bite, or display other upsetting behaviors. Recognize that toddlers are testing their independence and trying to express feelings the only way they know how—with their bodies. They don’t know the rules of civilized behavior and have no idea of the impact their behavior can have on others.
Still, you don’t want your child hitting you, and you want your time together to be enjoyable. What to do?
The next time it happens, remember QTIP. That stands for Quit Taking It Personally. You’re probably not doing anything wrong, and your child’s hitting is typical of many toddlers.
Most important: Don’t spank. By hitting or slapping your child back, you are reinforcing the very behavior you want to stop. Spanking can confuse children, leading them to think it’s OK for adults to do, but not the other way around. Spanking more often reflects adult anger than teaching children appropriate behavior.
Anticipate. Notice when your child may be getting ready to hit. Is she simply trying to get your attention? Does she see too much aggression and violence on TV? Maybe she’s angry or frustrated because she can’t make the toy truck do what she wants. Is it past her regular meal time, or does she need a snack? Maybe she’s bored or tired. Could she be getting sick?
By anticipating and preventing situations that can frustrate your child, you can reduce the frequency of hitting and other negative behaviors.
Catch and teach. Catch the child’s hand in the act of hitting and hold it. Look the child in the eye and say firmly: “I won’t let you hit. Hitting can hurt.” Label feelings. “You seem really angry. Can you show me what’s bothering you?” State the household rule: “We don’t hit. We use words to say how we feel.”
Substitute. Show your child a different way to get your attention or express feelings. Take the child’s hand and pat it gently on your face or arm. “Here’s the way to tell me what you need.” You can also offer a distraction: “What’s that in the window?” or “Want to play with the ball?”
Stay calm. Don’t act hurt or angry. Remember you’re the adult. You might turn your back or leave the room. If the child follows, keep walking. By completely ignoring the child, you deprive her of the goal of hitting to get your attention. Re-think your daily habits and see if you can find times to provide thoughtful, loving attention, perhaps playing a game while riding in the car, engaging in conversation during meals, and reading a bedtime story.
Reward desirable behavior. Acknowledge what your child does right. “That’s the way to use a spoon for cereal.” “You patted the dog gently. I think he liked it.” “Thank you for asking me in a nice way.”
Talk with the child’s caregiver. Has there been an upsetting change, either in the child care facility or at home? Is hitting something your child might be learning from other children or adults? How does the caregiver respond to hitting? Agree on ways to cooperatively teach your child appropriate behavior.
Regardless of what you’re trying to teach your children, remember that children learn best from example. Be a good role model in showing kindness and affection. Respond promptly to misbehavior, and be consistent in the way you react. Remember that your child doesn’t have a behavior manual to follow and that learning takes time.
Plan summer reading activities
Learning to read is a critical skill that children need to do well in school and later life. As your child’s first teacher, you can help your child learn pre-reading skills—and equally important—develop a love of reading.
Start reading to your child every day beginning when your child is about 6 months old or even younger. Use picture books at first. Point to the pictures and talk about them. Let your child hold the book and turn pages.
Read at naptime, bedtime, or any time when you can give your full attention to the child. Your baby will probably have a short attention span at first, so stop when the baby loses interest. A few minutes is enough.
With preschoolers, show the cover, read the title, and suggest what the book may be about. Run your fingers along the words as you read them. Give different voices to the characters, and match your expression to what the character is saying or doing. Your children will catch your enthusiasm.
Pause occasionally and ask questions: What is this? What sound does a cat make? Have you ever seen a flower like that?
After finishing a story, talk about it. What did you like best about this story? How did you feel when the wolf came? Say: “Now you tell me the story again but in your own words.”
Expect to read favorite books over and over again. Point out words and letters. “Here’s the letter B. It makes the same sound that starts your name: Brandon.” Point out words that rhyme and how they are spelled. Encourage your child to repeat words after you say them.
How to find books
Check out books from a library or borrow them from your school or child care facility. Offer to exchange books with other parents. Buy books at garage sales and thrift shops. Give books as gifts.
Download free books online from sites such as http://freekidsbooks.org/blog/about/.
Don’t know what to read? Ask your child’s teacher or caregiver for suggestions. Ask the children’s librarian in your local library. Stop by the information desk in the local bookstore. Find recommended reading lists online at such sites as Reach Out and Read, www.reachoutandread.org/parents/booksforchildren/.