Have you ever noticed how television is one of those parenting taboos, a subject on which most of us have an opinion? Well in our house, we’re pro-TV, which feels a little bit like I’m telling you all a dirty little secret, given the way parents are divided on the issue. However, it wasn’t always this way.
When I was pregnant, we were adamant that television would have no part in our child’s life. We thought that it would suck any intelligence and individuality out of our child and turn her into a cartoon-obsessed automaton. Then we discovered Baby Einstein and everything changed. In case you aren’t familiar, Baby Einstein is a branch of Disney, suitable for babies from newborn, and incorporate classical music with bright colours and shapes, and also begin a gentle education in artwork, poetry and classic literature. This sounded exactly like the sort of thing that we wanted to expose our child to, so we got them and she loved them. Actually, we were amazed at how well these seemingly simple videos could hold the attention of a baby.
Then came Sausage’s first christmas, and the introduction of In the Night Garden. We’d never heard of this show, made by the same people who made Teletubbies, until one of my aunts bought her an Iggle Piggle toy, and the floodgates opened. But, in introducing Sausage to this show, my aunt unwittingly (or maybe she was well aware of how great the programme is) helped to improve our little girls language skills, teach her the first songs she ever sang by herself, as well as providing hours and hours of joy and laughter. How can that be bad?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t advocate television in every way. We’re picky with which shows Sausage watches, we don’t allow it to be on all day, every day, and we try to avoid too many adverts by V+ing a lot of the programmes she likes, or buying her the DVDs, to remove the advertising element at all (the merchandise companies must’ve seen us coming, eh?). I also think that some parents try to use the TV as a baby sitter, and though it can be a handy distraction at times, we definitely don’t let it raise Sausage for us.
We did consider banning the telly at one point, after we noticed that Sausage would take four times as long to respond if we called her and the TV set was on, or she would come up for a cuddle but watch over our shoulders. But, to be honest, we talked it over, and the benefits outweighed the negatives, we just adjusted the length of time that we allowed the TV to be on for, which seemed to help.
I think the key is balance. Yes, we let our daughter watch telly. But we also read with her, play games with her (she’s really into hide and seek and den-building at the moment!), take her to Caterpillar Music and the soft play centre, along with a multitude of other activities. Which means that if she wants to watch half an hour of Peppa Pig when she eats her lunch, I have no objections. In fact, I encourage it. She’s one of the only two-year-olds I know who can recite the alphabet, name the colours of the rainbow and make just about any animal noise you can think of!
Oh, and if I may be so bold as to make a recommendation? Anyone who has a child under the age of ten should let their kids watch Octonauts. I have learned more about sea creatures since watching that show than I did whilst watching the whole series of Blue Planet on DVD!