Did you know that nearly half of America’s three month old babies are regular television viewers? Yes, that’s three MONTHS old, according to researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Ninety percent of two year olds get to know Blue, Barney, Dora, her devil-may-care cousin Diego and that sippy-cup-set superstar Elmo intimately through daily television viewing.
How ’bout those insanely trippy DVDs we rush to the store to buy so we can make our children the next Bill Gates, or those space gobbling contraptions we buy that zing and whir and light up? How about those developmental video games targetted at two year olds?
American parents (including me) have poured — and continue to pour — gazillions of dollars into the educational television and toy industry…but are all these entrancing trinkets making a difference?
Well, maybe…and maybe not in a good way….
Dr. Sarah Rizvi is a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine, and she says kids need to play the old fashioned way. They need to pretend. They need to imagine.
They need to “make believe”…
Hear What Dr. Rizvi Has To Say About Children And Play:
So if you have an infant, I’m not gonna say it’s wrong to get an infant DVD. I had one, thank goodness. It’s the only way I ever got to brush my teeth. I’m not going to say you should throw your exersaucer away. When my daughter had HFM it’s the only place I could get her to eat!
I am saying that what infants need are touch, eye contact and conversation. Lots of it. As they become toddlers, they need all of that plus they need their parents to play blocks with them, or dolls, or peek-a-boo.When they’re older, still, they need a stick and a box and a blanket and a couple of cans and string…whatever. No doubt, my daughter would find a way to make that haul into a crown, a wand and a batman cape (she’s confused).
Don’t feel guilty if your kid has a bunch of things, or watches some tv. I don’t. But they’re extras. They’re fillers. The real way to healthy development is through old fashioned play. The kind you did when you were a kid. The kind I did when I was a kid.
And remember, adults need to make time to play, too. We often forget that. So when the kids go to bed, why don’t you and your partner make a fort out of sofa cushions and blankets? I guarantee, you’ll thank me later.
For The Record
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges you to not let your child under two years old watch tv. At all. It’s in bold print and everything. This time is essential for brain development, and there is concern that even tv targetted at little ones can do more harm than good. The AAP suggests that even older children watch no more than two hours of quality programming a day. You can out more about their recommendations here, and some compelling reasons why you should limit your child’s tv viewing here.
According to a new study out of Dundee University’s School of Psychology, anyway. It suggests that if you put your baby in a stroller that is facing away from you, you are far less likely to talk to and interact with them. Developmental psychologist Suzanne Zeedyk led the study, and she says this can lead to developmental problems and anxiety in babies, meaning even bigger problems as they get older.
Wow. Hmmmm. That’s an awful lot to put on a mommy who is trying to decide what to put on her baby registry. Her stroller choice could ruin her baby’s life!
Well, not so fast. While I think there is something to this, it’s not as apocalyptic as the headline might imply.
We all know babies need interaction. They need to be touched and talked to and held and caressed. We may have lost just how important these things are to child development, or we wouldn’t be spending the amount of the most recent government bailout on infant DVDs and developmental toys when all your baby really needs is a good game of peek-a-boo, but I think we all know it’s important.
That’s where this study hangs its hat.
Zeedyk’s study included an experiment in which 20 babies were wheeled in strollers for a mile, spending half the trip facing their parents and the other half facing away. The research found that children not facing the person pushing them were significantly less likely to talk, laugh and interact with their parents (thank you, captain obvious). Those with their babies facing them talked to them much more. The study suggests those babies — in turn — were less likely to exhibit signs of stress.
I spoke with a developmental pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine about this. Dr. Lane Strathearn led the study that discovered that when a mommy sees her baby smile, the reward centers of her brain light up. He thinks the finding from Zeedyk’s study is an interesting reminder that we need to interact with our babies, but he doesn’t think forward facing strollers are the end of the world. He says what’s important is the quality of the time we spend with our babies when they’re not in their strollers.
Listen to what Dr. Lane Strathearn has to say about strollers and development
OK, so bottom line? As you’ll hear in the interview, I tried very hard to find a stroller for my baby in which she would face me, but they all cost eleventy billion dollars. I don’t even have eleventy dollars, so I got her the kind everyone else in the world who is not Gwyneth Paltrow has, the kind that faces forward. I’m not a runner, or anything, so she didn’t spend enough time in the stroller to really get “stressed”, I tried to sling her as much as possible, and her out-of-stroller-time was jam packed with hands-on interaction (Remember, you can’t spoil and infant! Hold them all you want!), so I don’t think her forward facing stroller did any permanent damage.
Yours won’t either.
PS…I also am not-a-hater of child development DVDs and toys. They have their place — like for the odd time when you remember you need to brush your teeth in the weeks after your baby comes, and you need them occupied — but they are not necessary for your baby to become the next Einstein. All your child needs for that is a lot of holding and talking and eye contact and a lot of off-key momma singing.
I think I hear the Nobel Prize Committee calling right now!
By the way, everything you need to know about baby gear can be found in this Pea in the Podcast.