My daughter’s teacher handed me a copy of Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer (SteinerBooks, 2006) several months ago. I began reading it earlier this month (I have several books going). Oppenheimer is a brilliant guide since she is not only the parent of three grown boys, but she was a teacher of young children for over 30 years. The book is providing me with tips for strengthening the rhythm in our home’s daily routine and ideas for more outdoor activities to do with my daughter.
Oppenheimer devotes several pages to the influence media has on children. She shares her own findings (24) of what she’s noticed in children who consume too much media:
- They have difficulty playing collaboratively.
- Their imagination is dulled by the need to repeatedly “play through” confusing media scenarios.
- They have a hard time with creativity’s golden rule: “Anything can be anything.”
- Their natural capacity to imitate is stifled. It is more difficult for them to “feel their way” into life.
- Their movement lacks purpose and grace. They tend to move in an angular, jerky fashion.
Scary, isn’t it? It is a good reminder that children need to interact with other people, not screens!
Several months ago, my daughter’s teacher engaged parents in a conversation about the detriments of media consumption, which my husband had been talking to me about since the time she was born. As a result of the information my daughter’s teacher provided and the scientific research my husband showed me from the AAP, we drastically reduced the amount of television our daughter watched. No longer was “Sesame Street” the go-to activity while I was making dinner. Instead, I tried to engage her in the meal preparation by encouraging her to cook in her kid-size kitchen. Additionally, I turned off the morning news and my husband turned off sports when he was playing inside with Isabelle on the weekends. At first, the reduction in television was maddening for me. However, we made these changes because we knew it would benefit our daughter’s development and play skills in the long run.