Oh, sweet child! My oldest daughter, my little Blueberry, is very "plugged in." She loves to listen to music on "her" iPod, watch television and movies, play on the computer, play games on the Wii and The Man's smartphone. Without understanding or even realizing the impact this might have on her, I/we encouraged this for a while. Ever since she was 18 months or so, we had her watching "Baby Einstein" videos, baby sign language videos, anything that was touted to promote "brain development" or "early literacy," blah blah blah. Yes. Sense the tone. In the past year I've come to realize how unnecessary and even unhealthy all this media is. She had watched a couple of old Disney movies, and The Wizard of Oz and seemed to love them. In fact, she would act out scenes from the movies and repeat the lines much to our amusement. Then she started having nightmares. Acting out. Nothing dramatic, stuff we thought was normal 3-4 year old behavior. It took me a little while to put two and two together. When I was growing up, as a homeschooler, there was a time, a good long stretch, when we had no television in the house. I don't remember suffering from the lack of it, either. In fact, I remember playing outside with my animals, running in the woods, playing dress up, reading long novels, helping my mother bake and clean the house, playing with my younger siblings, riding my bike, hiking... and going to bed and sleeping, deep and long. The sleep of sunshine on my face, bug bites, scratches and poison ivy on my legs, calluses on my bare feet and good, wholesome food in my belly. This is not to say that my Blueberry doesn't have all these things. She loves the outdoors, loves flowers and plants and animals and the beach and has the insatiable four year old curiosity about the world outside our door.
(Blueberry in the wilds of our front yard)
She adores her new sister too. Little Buttercup has opened up a whole new world to Blueberry - she now sees what it is to love something smaller and more helpless than she is. She helps me take care of her and I can't wait to see them really play together. She also craves fresh vegetables and whole foods (pretty proud of how much she loves chard), loves trying new things, loves drawing, painting, being read to, playing music, dancing. But, back to my original point. I see a definite change in her behavior when she's had too much "screen time." She seems more fidgety, restless, even hyper. She will repeat silly lines and songs from shows that have no usefulness or rhythmic quality - she is regurgitating drivel. Is that what we want for our children? I am unsurprised by the study that came out last week, tying fast-paced cartoons to impaired attention spans in children.
I know from experience how easy it is to unintentionally bombard children with media. There is so much out there that is marketed to them. But it's all noise, really. Blueberry actually asked me this week what the difference between music and noise was and I had to look it up. (Ok, I had to Google it. Yes, here The Man would say, "See? Technology is essential and useful!") The difference is harmony, according to what I've read, (ok, skimmed.) "Real music is polytonic; a mixture of different frequencies played together in a manner that sounds harmonious." (Thank you to The Physics Hypertextbook - I feel smarter.) Harmony. I like that. That's what I want to promote in my home. Part of the whole reason I'm planning to homeschool is to hold the noise and espouse the harmony. There's so much noisy garbage out there - why let it into my home? Why let it into my child's psyche? Reading this eye-opening blog post on Moon Child by Sarah Baldwin of Bella Luna Toys, really helped solidify my decision to turn it off. Baldwin, a Waldorf educator and former homeschooling mom, does not recommend children under the age of nine go see Toy Story 3. Yup, nine years old. Read it to find out why. I was really enlightened and inspired by this post. It "clicked" with me and I can see a lot of what Baldwin describes played out in front of my eyes by my sweet four year old.
I now have a great desire to sweep my home of toys or books that have a media tie-in (do I really want my child marketed to?), anything plastic, anything cheap. It's not from snobbishness or a sense that my children are entitled to something "better," it's that learning to live with less garbage, less noise, just less is something that I want my children to learn. I'd rather then have one good quality, hand crafted toy than a thousand different plastic ones made overseas. I want my children surrounded by objects that promote their imagination to fill in the gaps. How many times have we as parents watched our children play with a stick or a cardboard box or keep a rock as a pet? I have had a "d'oh!" moment about excessive toys, media, "stuff" in general. It adds to the "noise." It detracts from peace, I'd go so far to say. But, Mama E, won't your kids be bored out of their minds without TV to watch, computer games to play, loads of Disney-Pixar-tie-in toys to play with? No, trust me. Boredom shall have no place in our home because my children won't be sitting around waiting to be entertained. Instead of watching a show, let's draw. Let's read a story. Let's go for a walk. Instead of five million plastic tub toys, how about one wooden boat? Blueberry has an imagination that is extensive enough to fill her bathtub with pirates, mermaids, fairies that swim (yes, really!), fish that fly and sailors who catch fish big enough to feed a whole village. She doesn't need to watch The Little Mermaid. She doesn't need an "Ariel" toy. She makes her own music.
(Blueberry designed and made this skirt. Sweetie.)
For those of you who are interested, David Elkind's book, The Hurried Child is an amazing read. It describes the influence of media (as well as well-meaning parents and teachers) over children and how it leads to children being "hurried" through their childhood. I highly highly recommend it. In fact, I'll definitely ponder blogging about it.