Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Turn off the TV, Mum!

Yesterday, after nursery school, Rosemary wanted to watch Willy Wonka (for like the gazillionth time in a week). So, on it went and I started pottering around getting a bit of washing-up done (dishwasher is on the blink, and we’re waiting until we get back from France before calling in an engineer), putting some washing on and so on and so forth. I came through to the living room :

Rosemary: I don’t want to watch this.
Mummy: OK, do you want me to fast-forward to where they go into the factory?
Rosemary: No, thank you. I don’t want to watch it.
Mummy: Oh, OK. [Takes DVD out and puts it back in case. Then picks up remote controls and starts to put Tiny Pop on.]
Rosemary: No! Turn it off, Mum! I don’t want to watch TV. I want to play.
Mummy: [Falls over backwards. Switches TV off and plays.]

I had conflicting feelings here. On the one hand I was proud and not a little pleased that Rosemary was willingly turning the TV off to do something more worthwhile. On the other hand I was concerned at how her vehemence suggested that I sit her in front of the TV far too much. And on someone else’s hand, I did kind of want to finish the chores.

We played for about an hour. Played catch with the (In The Night Garden!) beach ball. Played doctors and chemists with Tiger (just a plain old tiger, nothing to do with any TV show at all – as far as I know, anyway). Read an alphabet book with sliding doors where Rosemary told me all about the letter E, which is for Eva (my sister) and Ear and Elephant and did I know that they learnt about the letter E at nursery school today? Gosh. Telling me what she did at nursery school, instead of her usual response ‘Shh. It’s a secret. I might tell you later.’ Played some more catch.

When the hour was up, she asked if she could have a biscuit, a cup of milk and watch some TV. I was more than happy to oblige. And got the washing-up finished and the dinner on, while she did that.

Now I know lots and lots of you had the same idea as me when they were first pregnant. No TV ever. Or maybe half an hour, twice a week. And I know most of you, like us, gave in fairly quickly. We all turn our noses up at the parents who use the TV as a babysitter and wonder why they aren’t reading more books. Until we really, really need a break one day and discover the wonders of CBeebies. Which, you know, is really educational. Mr Tumble teaches you sign language. Big Cook and Little Cook teach you how to cook and, even more importantly, tidy up afterwards. Mama Mirabelle teaches you about animals all over the world. And Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy teach you to embrace the bizareness of your dreams. Or something.

Or was that just me?


  1. do you know what, i have never heard of any of those shows!! I need to get up to speed, or do i????

  2. Not just you know.

    My TV approach softened enormously. And I think it can stimulate children if you sit with them, and engage in conversation on what's in front of you.

    Not that I am always at my son's side as he watches all this crap you understand.

  3. OMG: I'm sure you will be an expert within a couple of years. Though who knows, maybe you'll be strong enough to keep away!

    SPD: Actually, now you mention it, we were at first determined to only watch with her and engage her in conversation. Which can absolutely be good. It's just so easy to slide down the slippery slope of disappearing off to do housework, or blog or something instead of sit down together. (And some of it is so horribly tedious!)

  4. Totally agree with you. I was going to be totally spartan on the tv approach...until I actually had kids and realised it was a major element of remaining sane. It's amazing how much I can get done in one episode of Noddy or Little Einsteins. And like you said...it's almost like free schooling. Isn't it?!

  5. We're all there. CBeebies isn't so bad - it is the Cartoon Network (the only childrens we can get here) which truely demonstrates how bad childrens tv can be. Mine watch CBeebies DVDs. I think the important thing is to set some kind of rules about when they can watch and not have it on all the time in the backgroud. Then they can do lots of playing as well.

    Occasionally we have a movie afternoon, with drinks and popcorn and everything settle in, all of us, to watch something. The kids love it and it is a bit of a treat.

  6. ‘Shh. It’s a secret. I might tell you later.’ Classic. That is so sweet.

    I do think TV is okay, we just had rules when we were younger - maximum of 2 hours a day I think.

    Scarily I know almost all of those shows. I am SO prepared for this being a Mum thing ;o) (or I just have a small nephew!)

  7. Absolutely not just you! I am a confessed reformed TV addict and I am not really good at stopping my boy watching TV himself. Like you say CBeebies is very educational, and they need a down time at some point during the day, and we are not machines or qualified childminders!! I am amazed by how much my little boy learned watching numberjacks or mister maker. He can count up to 12 and recognise most shapes and colors and he is only 2! We talk about things he watches on TV and even go further at times, but hey, I promise that you couldn't have been worse TV addict that I was, and some people say that I have turned out not too bad :)

  8. PS I have a new url www.perfectlyhappymum.com and you need to update your blogroll to get my new updates :) cheers lovey! hope all is well with bumpy x

  9. Yeah, I used to be one of those who said I'd never use the TV as a babysitter. Then I had children. How on earth do you get your jobs done otherwise?!
    Having said that my toddler quite often turns the TV off now, sometimes it's not on at all during the day.
    There are some great programmes on CBeebies (Something Special, BCLC, ITNG, Me Too!), but there are too many cartoons and a few things that don't appear to have any educational value so sometimes I just pull the plug out.
    Everything in moderation!
    How sweet that Rosemary wanted to play with you and tell you about nursery x

  10. Nicola: You can get an awful lot done in one episode of a children's show, indeed!

    BiB/FM: Your movie afternoons sound lovely! May have to try that out on a weekend when we're trying to fill the days up!

    Dancinfairy: Ah yes, small nephews and nieces will certainly introduce you to the wonders of kids' TV! We actually didn't have a TV for a fair bit of my childhood. Though when I was taught at home we got one and a video so that we could record the schools programmes for me. I do feel I miss out a bit when everyone is reminiscing about the shows they used to watch as children.

    Peggy: There is a lot of good stuff available, yes. I especially like the ones where they have to interact - Dora the Explorer and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in particular (they're on Nick Jr and Play Disney, not CBeebies). It's quite fun to hear Rosemary shouting out random Spanish words when she's watching Dora. What are French children's shows like? Didn't really get to experience them when I was there, not having any children then.

    I have finally managed to sort out your link on my blogroll. I thought I updated it when you changed the address, but it clearly didn't work. In the end, I had to go to your site, subscribe via google reader and then import from google reader onto the blogroll. Yeesh. Found another one that I'd missed, too, though, so that's good.

    Sandy: It's great when they turn the TV off themselves. We've got Rosemary in the habit of always turning it off before dinner, otherwise she's tempted to get down from the table if she here's the theme tune to something she likes! It is lovely when she asks to play, yes. And this morning she asked for cuddles and kisses, which is just too sweet for words - I actually teared up a bit (and it's not even that unusual). Pregnancy hormones might come into that, too, actually.

  11. If it wasn't for CBeebies, I don't know where I'd be but I'd be very, very tired. And it's so good you can show it with a clear conscience...

  12. do you mean to say I should've chosen Noddy and not The Terminator? Dash. I've been doing this child raising thing all wrong.

  13. The Dotterel: Actually, I think Rosemary would be, too. She tends to have a bit of quiet time in front of the TV mid-afternoon and seems to really rejuvenate her.

    Grit: Oh, that reminds me of a time my parents inadvertently (or perhaps just stupidly) got Alien out of the video shop and I sat and watched with a bunch of other 8-year-old friends who had come round to visit (well, I believe we actually spent much of the time hiding behind the sofa!). There were lots of parents phoning to complain that evening!

  14. Well, we don't have CBeebies (we're a stone age family) so our TV selection is limited to what I buy on DVD. That restricts things a bit. There's nothing more fun than dancing through the living room to In the Nightgarden (really!) and in general I think it can be educational. HOwever, because I know Cubling watches one hour a day at the childminder, I do limit the telly a bit. I'm quite easy though when it comes to the German language versions we've got, in the hope it'll make her associate the weaker language with fun TV or somehting like that.

    TV can be all good, I'm sure of it.

  15. I used to be so proud when Renée was little and she seemed not to like TV - and I only realised later on in life that she had been way too young. Towards the end of my pregnancy with Edie when I was too big to move, I finally switched it on, willing her to pay it some attention - and she finally did and now it's a total life saver. She does sometimes say I don't want to watch TV Mummy - I want play/learn (!) or play on the computer. But generally I have no problem with it - I find that she learns so much - from Spanish in Dora and Diego to all about animals in her new favourite - Bindi The Jungle Girl! I embrace TV - every single day!! x

  16. Wish we had CBEEBIES here in the USA. Npt a big fan of US kids TV, we rely on DVD's of accebtable offerings (Charlie and Lola, and Dora, and bob the builder with an odd american accent). How awesome that Rosemary wanted to turn it off! We restrict TV to weekends after breakfast only. Kids are in fulltime preschool all week so I try to spend time with them after work, but I'm thinking that I might be too restrictive. My daughter loves TV so much, she seems never to get enough.

  17. Cartside: No CBeebies! How do you cope?! It's good to use DVDs, though, as you can control it more, I think. And TV is great for picking up languages. When I lived in Spain, we didn't have a TV, but my best friend did and I know I picked up so much from watching Los Pitufulos (Smurfs, and I probably spelt it wrong) and something called El Dorado (not the dreadful BBC soap opera that dived) when I went round to her flat.

    Emily: Oh yes, I remember being very proud of Rosemary's inital lack of interest in TV. The baby forum I frequented did a monthly update thing and one of the things to report on, as well as weight, pooing, sleeping, eating habits, was 'favourite TV' and I was so happy to put 'None. She is not interested in TV at all' and even happier to add 'Favourite books' to the list, because she loved reading books. Hah! She was, as you say, just too young and was very happy to get into it when she was ready. We shall have to check out Bindi the Jungle Girl - sounds interesting.

    Geekymummy: Well, with you having to get out the door so early, you hardly have time to watch any TV! Rosemary usually watches a little bit in the morning and maybe half an hour while waiting for dinner. Some afternoons when she's not at pre-school, we might watch a film. Weekends, though, she watches way too much, I'm sure. No wonder she frequently asks if she can go to Granny's at the weekend! Rosemary is a big Charlie and Lola fan. I quite like it, too, though I did worry for a while about the incorrect grammatical structures that she was copying from it (as you do!), but it doesn't seem to have affected her at all in the end and she talks very well.

  18. Oh I swore blind i would never let mine watch tv but I soon succombed!! I do turn it off though quite lot more than I used to and it doesn't bother them too much. Cbeebies is the best invention ever!!

  19. Don't worry! IJ is exactly the same and in fact she loves Charlie and the Chocolate Factory too - I have to skip to the bit when they go into the factory as well!
    She's rather play with me, just like Rosemary, but after a while she starts to get bored and probably sees that I'm getting a little fed-up as well, then we need some time apart and I don't mind the TV going on if she's tired.
    She's nearly 6 now and actually enjoys the TV less. Thankfully, she prefers to play with dolls now or outside. The TV seems to have lost its attraction.

  20. I said I would let my children watch television, but would sit with them, so it was a shared experience, and so that I could always chat about the programmes with them as they were on, or just after.

    Yeah, right.

  21. No not just you - i have a friend who doesn't own a tv and has two small children, and i often wonder how on earth she copes!

  22. Hope you've had a fab holiday honey - award for you at mine x

  23. Another one here who said I wouldn't let mine watch TV. She is now a big fan of In The Night Garden - in fact it is part of her bedtime routine and she knows when Iggle Piggle waves goodnight it's bath time.

    H has got her into DVDs but she is quite a discerning 15 month old and insists only on Pixar(Kung Fu Panda and Shrek). They do start to grate after the thousandth time though don't they? :-)

  24. Clareybabble: I remember wondering about how much my friends with children knew about CBeebies and how much their children must watch it. You just don't realise until you're in the position to try that little bit of goggle box time and find out how much you can do!

    Rosiescribble: It's good to know that they will self-ration the TV somewhat as they get older. We've just got back off holiday, where Rosemary hardly watched any TV at all. We did take some DVDs with us, but she didn't get them out until at least the third day, and it was mostly so she could watch a film with her Grandpa that she got them out. But she did have grandparents to run around keeping her amused and lots of trips out and a swimming pool to splash about in. She probably wouldn't need so much TV at home given so much amusement!

    Iota: Oh yes, we were going to do that. We do actually do that a bit - especially with the films. But sometimes you all just need a break!

    Elsie Button: I don't know how people manage without a TV, though I suppose if you've always managed to avoid it, you'll have created other strategies. We didn't have a TV when I was little, actually. But we did live on a cul-de-sac council estate, where there were lots of other children to play with, so I think my mum got her breaks then.

    MT: Thank you!

    Platespinner: Ooh, Kung Fu Panda. Have a feeling Rosemary would like that. Will see if they have it in the library. Yes, a lot of the films Rosemary watches were ones we already owned before she was born and would enjoy watching now and again. These days, we can usually only stick around for 10 minutes before having to escape and do some housework (or blogging)!