Our policy for now is no unsupervised TV. It’s either a family thing (like watching the Rose Parade), or we’re snuggled on the couch with a sick/tired Little Boy.
That has since changed. Why? Sesame Street.
The kid lo-o-o-o-oves Sesame Street.
I have a feeling that I did too, back when I was small. I have no specific memories of watching it (just what my mom has told me), but I know we wore out the cassette with “The Rubber Ducky Song” because we played it so much, and I know that to this day I occasionally blurt out, “Cookie, cookie, cookie starts with C.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics, of course, recommends no screen time of any kind before age two. I can think of only one person I know in real life who actually followed that. It was certainly never going to be an option in our house. Mommy and Daddy sometimes watch TV, and sometimes we watch TV when Little Boy is awake. I’m also a big believer in the power of vegging out when you’re sick or tired. Little Boy works hard all day learning how to be a human; he deserves some time when he doesn’t have to think very hard, too.
Our goal was always that TV not be used as a babysitter, hence the “no unsupervised TV” mentioned above. I’ve also tried to keep TV time to limited chunks—we don’t leave it on all day. And it’s only for days when Little Boy doesn’t attend daycare. (By the way, the reason I’m only talking about TV and not any other screens is that we keep the laptops and iPads away from Little Boy. We’d rather they stay in one piece!)
Up until very recently, Little Boy didn’t show any particular interest in anything specific that came on the screen. Home renovation shows, superhero movies, Reading Rainbow—it was all pretty much the same to him. And then one day he recognized Cookie Monster and suddenly he was following us around the living room absolutely begging us to put on more Sesame Street clips. I’m 99% sure he thinks the word “please” means “that big blue monster who stuffs his face with cookies.” Not joking.
I know the experts say kids don’t get much out of TV at this age, but Little Boy heads over to his toy box and grabs his stuffed Big Bird when that character appears on-screen. He knows, at least a little bit, what he’s seeing. It’s not a completely passive experience any more. Given that, the rules have changed. Little Boy is now allowed to watch an episode as “babysitting,” i.e., while his parents keep an eye on him but do something else.
This new policy has brought its own challenges; namely, that Little Boy does not believe one episode of Cookie Monster per day is nearly enough and can become quite perturbed when we tell him it’s time to play blocks instead. Oh, well. I guess saying no is what parenting is all about.