Life without TV

I’ve learned, over the years, to attempt to live each day without regrets.  Of course, that is easier said than done.  Just as making mistakes is a way to learn, regret can be a great learning tool as well.

One thing I am able to do with this mentality is to look back on my life as a child and recall any regret that I might have.  One that is re-occurring and, seems to bug me more than any other, is the fact that I watched TV.  Not only did I watch TV, I watched entirely too much TV!!  And while these programs were funny, educational or just plain entertaining, I now wish I would not have watched any of them.

“What would life without TV be like?” I thought.  No more sports, game shows and dramas.  No news or weather updates.  Nothing to stare at while attempting to unwind after a busy day.  Two years ago I bit the bullet.  Unhappy with my provider, a new little girl crawling around and two seemingly full-time jobs coaching basketball and running the SDHSA prompted me to call it quits on TV.

But my decision was more than just the reasons mentioned above.  After thinking so much about all the time that was, and is, wasted in front of a television screen, I thought about all that I was missing as a result.  I eventually asked myself…”If I were to do it all again, would I do it differently?”  Of course.  So why would I allow my daughters to make that same mistake?  It had to be done.  And I couldn’t be happier!

The benefits so far have been unmeasurable.  I’ve saved money (a lot of money), had more time to enjoy the outdoors, played with my daughters more, gone on more walks with my dog, and made more time for friends and family.  Now, considering this is a blog about early childhood, what are the benefits for young children?  What are the downfalls? I’ve made a list below.  This is not a revolutionary thought, but I believe it is bucking the current trends.  I’d be interested to hear what others think of my list below and if they have any additions to either side.

Benefits: 

  • More Play – Play is a powerful thing for young children.  The longer they sit in front of a TV, the less time they have for Play.
  • More Parents – According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 88% of parents with children 2 years or younger watch TV daily.  Children will typically not need much motivation to get up and play, but sometimes it’s the responsibility of the parents to get them up and out of the house.  How are they going to do that if they’re on the couch beside them?
  • More Imagination –  This is specific to my situation, and I have nothing to base it against, but my daughter’s creativity amazes me!  The dialog and situations she creates when we play is a spectacular display of her brain hard at work.  Yes, she could have been like that with TV, but at least I’m not wondering why she is with limited imagination.
  • More Motor Skills – Fine motor skills are so important for young children as they develop, especially when moving toward school readiness.  It’s difficult to draw and write when you are staring up at a television screen.  I’m just saying…
  • Quicker Development – While some studies have shown that high quality programing can be effective in teaching language and some create valuable learning opportunities, the majority of research suggests that children under 22 months will learn fewer words from interactions with television as opposed to interactions with actual people.  Recent research even suggests babies’ ability to read lips in order to learn.  Better get the 50 inch in HD if you want TV to help with that.
  • One Less Media Channel – It’s difficult to comprehend some of the programs showing on TV today.  Children are curious and (in many cases) able to turn on a TV by themselves before the age of 6 (77%).  I would not want my 4-year-old to have access to cable television if even for a short time.  Who knows what she would see.  Snooki and the Bachelor can keep their antics.  We’ll have none thanks.
  • Research is Rarely Wrong –  This from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.”

Follow-up article in the NY Times

  • Develop Positive Habits – Watching TV can become habit-forming.  With a TV not in the way, there is more time to develop healthy habits that will last a lot longer than an impression of Dancing with the Stars.
  • The Other Options – The vastness of the internet provides numerous outlets for research, education and, of course, entertainment.  There are a number of television shows online that are free to watch and easy to access.  This also allows you to pick and choose the programming your child watches.  More options also means…well…MORE OPTIONS!  Nature, sports, cleaning, reading, writing, letters, social interactions, swimming…you get the picture.

Downfalls of No TV (and yes, there are a few):

  • No TV, no Message – At some point a child is going to have access to television.  Related to one of the benefits above, it will be difficult to help the child develop healthy television habits and teach them about the importance of moderation if there is no TV to be watched.
  • More Work – It is very easy, as a parent, to turn on the TV just to get a little free time. Sad but true.  Next time you’re feeling frustrated or worn down, try pulling out a book or game to enjoy with the kids before pushing the power button.  You might find that more relaxing than listening to the TV in the background.
  • Educational Programming – Yes, there are educational programs that are age specific and beneficial to the development of a young child.  I will admit that even without television, my daughter and I have sat down on the computer to watch an episode of Micky Mouse Clubhouse or Curious George.
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Baby Brains: Importance of Early Attachment

The first workshop I had attended at the Region VIII conference was led by Sandi Christofferson and focused primarily on the brain research that is having such an impact on the social and emotional aspects of infant development. She provides us with some ways to positively encourage  the infant’s early attachment experiences that are the building blocks for the mental health and wellness of the child.
Sandi began her workshop by mentioning that it is never to late to have a happy child. It’s important to be aware of the process of attachment, what happens when things go right, when things go wrong (effects of early trauma) and the positive models of care for young children.

What people need to know

 • Brain Stem is apparent from very beginning ( 3 weeks) and is the first part of the brain to function
• Early childhood experience help make the connections between the stem and the other parts of the brain
• At birth, the brain has 100 billion neuron (potential for connections)
• At 2 years old, there are 1,000 trillion connections
• The brain gets heavier as cells connect and has great potential to develop as the baby grows
                 o The weight of the brain increases more in the first 27 months of life than it ever will.
                 o The brain is more malleable in the first 3 years than any other time during  its development. The experiences provided by Head Start are very important at this state of the development process.

What regulates the brain is the Quality and Quantity of relationship. This means balance between social, emotional and mental experiences. Attunement of the caregiver or parent is so important. They must have the ability to read and interpret cues/signs given by the child and respond to them in a timely manner. This allows trust to develop between the child and the caregiver. Some parents may not be experienced in recognizing these sometimes subtle cues and will need the caregiver to provide some assistance in recognition of these subtle cues.

Emotional Development
Edward Tronick, director of the Child Development Unit at Harvard University, studied interplay between infants inner world and outside world. He found that young children develop emotions before they begin learning, so managing their emotions becomes necessary. Infants are less able to learn if they are not able to control their emotions. Properly regulating a child’s emotions requires dedicated/informed individuals.

Some things that may interrupt attachment:
• Trauma of the infant brain
• Environmental safety
• Medical/birth defects
• Parental and/or caregiver mental health (depression, anxiety, etc.)
• Family support
• Loss of caregiver
One of the most interesting experiments relating to this process was done by Dr. Tronick. The still faced experiment shows a mother interacting with her child, and shows what happens when she “interrupts” interaction. Take a look.

Mrs. Christofferson continued on the topic of infant trauma.  Any, or all, of the following may be considered trauma:

  • Interruption in care-giving of some kind
  • Loud noises (yelling, throwing things, crying, etc)
  • Being unattended for a long period of time to cry
  • medical procedures
  • physical or sexual abuse

Some myths about infants related to trauma include:

  • They’re too young to understand
  • They don’t take it in
  • They don’t feel
  • They won’t remember

We are emotional creatures that think!  All experiences must pass through the brain stem and up through the various parts of the brain.  There are ways we can enhance this experience for our children, models of care we may all participate in.  They include:

  • Enhancing the attachment experience (modeling for parents as early learning specialists)
  • Holding and containing
  • Being a secure and predictable base for both parents and infants
  • Watch, Wait, Wonder – a form of child/infant and parent interaction
  • Attending to adult mental health (yours and the parents)

Thanks to Sandi Christofferson for the educational workshop.  Here are some links she provided that may be of some use:

Sustainability takes more than just money

I watched a video recently from the Community Driven Institute regarding sustainability.  It made me think of Head Start and the services we provide to families with children pre-natal to age five.  I believe the presenter said it best when she mentioned that sustainability takes much more than just money.   She discusses the need for a strong foundation, individual support and, eventually, monetary support.  Head Start providers are a great example of this phenomenon. 

Head Start families are all capable of becoming sustainable and breaking the cycle of poverty.  The almighty dollar is viewed as a key variable in the breaking poverty equation.  Many families (young and old) are unaware that, even with money, lacking a foundation and strong support group makes the road to sustainability very rugged.  Head Start programs provide the support these families need to take a step toward sustainability.  Head Start services help build the foundation for these families, teaching them fundamental concepts needed to live comfortably in today’s society.  They provide the parents with knowledge that they can then pass to their children when they are at an age of understanding and rational.  Without Head Start services, many families would not have the support or fundamental knowledge necessary to take that next step toward sustainability.

“When we change the way we see things, things change.”  Take a look at the video and let me know what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/v/iEl96uoM0Jw?version=3

Importance of Activity Based Learning

story recently released in the New York Times features a study published by University of Illinois researchers confirming that active children may, in fact, be smarter than inactive children.  This is great news for Head Start and a large reason for its success over the year. 

As early childhood educators, parents or education professionals, we are all aware of the benefits activity based learning can have on a young child.  If you are unaware of the benefits, this study may help shed some light on the situation.  In Head Start, activity based learning and providing valuable early childhood experiences is an essential part of the social, emotional, mental and physical development of our young children.  This study further emphasises the importance that play and activity based learning can have on our young children. 

While the study focused on 9 and 10-year-old children, it is difficult to imagine these findings not relating to younger, or even older children in similar situations.  The main point of the New York Times article?  GET KIDS MOVING!!  They showed active children, with similar backgrounds, will have high IQ’s and will perform better on tests than their inactive counterparts.  This evidence further emphasises the need for early childhood education and the role it plays in the development of the future leaders of our country.  I hope Washington D.C. and the leaders therein are listening.