Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TV shows for toddlers from a parent who doesn't like TV

I'm not a big fan of TV in general. It's fair to say I greatly dislike most television programs especially reality TV. I get frustrated with commercials, especially during children's shows, and I believe America watches too much TV (and video games), which contribues to our obese population among other things... In our house we watch 20-30 minutes of shows per day, TOPS and most days there is no TV. I do not have the TV on unless we are watching it. I seriously don't even know if Owen would watch any TV if it wasn't for having these two kids so close together.

Research shows that we shouldn't watch TV for the hour before bedtime because it makes it a lot harder for them to fall asleep. There is research to support that "screens" before bed stimulates our brains and make it harder to "shut down." Great series of articles here about unplugging and the importance of it from the New York Times.

In our house we don't have cable TV, we have streaming Netflix connected to our television set via a Roku box. Check Netflix site because you can find several ways to connect without equipment you might already have. I know that not everyone can "live" without TV but we can and we do happily, especially since the invetion of MLB-TV, which is a channel my husband can get on the Roku. Matt likes to keep up with his beloved Atlanta Braves and prior to this year, there was no way to do this without having an expensive monthly rate PLUS the MLB Extra Innings package. Yearly total on that was around $1,400. Ridiculous. So our compromise was to have them "put our account on hold" during non-baseball months saving us $500. However, it seemed ludicrous to pay that much money to watch a little baseball since we literally don't watch anything else.

Blah blah, back to the kids. So when we had Harper we were in a prediciment. We live in a two story house and I needed 10 minutes to put the baby down several times a day where my 20 month old, Owen, wouldn't interrupt. It seemed the baby didn't really care for her nap routine being punctuated with a loud toddler banging around in her room. I tried having him play quietly in his room or reading books on his own, but he was just too young to understand "stay here while Mommy goes here..." He wasn't that interested in TV until after 24 months, so it was a little hairy at our house for awhile. I just needed 10 minutes alone with the baby... He would watch garbage truck videos on You Tube on my laptop for 7-10 minutes but then one day he ripped off the function keys on my laptop so that failed.
When he did have more attention span, he would sit and watch a 20 minute video (often while peeing his pants, read previous post). Enter Roku's intervention. I could sit him in front of an appropriate show on Netflix with NO commercials and run upstairs to get the baby down and I didn't have to worry about him squirming around, going outside by himself, etc etc. NOt all kids would go for this. Honestly it's not as big of a deal anymore, Owen (40 months) will play by himself in his room or even play in our backyard safely while I put Harper down, it was just when she was tiny and he was still a baby too.

Recommended Shows:
Closer to 2 years old:

Kipper- This is my favorite show for parents who hate TV and don't really want their kids watching much of it. Brittish dog, Kipper, and his friends are so RIGHT on target for this age. Owen still loves it. The graphics are simple, the language clear and understandable, despite the accents and--Bonus--it's SUPER funny for kids. It's very simple and SHORT stories. One segment is about 10 minutes long. Pig, Arnold, Tiger and Kipper are very kind to one another and overall it is a huge hit. Owen watched the same episode a lot and I would hear him downstairs laughing hysterically. This show helped Owen to learn about irony, jokes, and humor in general. A+

Max & Ruby: Another simple show that features two sibling bunnies.. Ruby, the older bunny sister often "includess" her younger brother, Max, in games with her bunny friends. A lot of the plot surrounds Ruby's adventures while Max sabatoges her efforts in a way only a toddler brother can. We sometimes see Grandma bunny but strangely enough there are no parent bunnies around in any of the segments. It focus truly on Max & Ruby's relationship. Based on books by Rosemary Wells.

Closer to 3 years:

Busytown Mysteries:
This is based on Richard Scarry's books about an imaginary place, Busy Town. Huckly, Lowley, Pig Will and Pig Won't are the main animal characters. They solve mysteries during this show and it has prompted Owen to ask "what, when, where, why and how," as those words are part of the theme song. He now LOVES to discover a mystery and attempt to solve it. He adores these characters and it goes along with the four books we have with the same characters. You probably read these books as a kid, they've been around FOREVER!

Backyardigans: I'm lukewarm on this one but it's pretty cute. The animals sing and dance drawing from difference musical genres. Ex: One show will be set to all Tango music, the next all Country, etc etc. I really like the varous musical themes and the producers get clever with that. They also "imagine" things in their backyards and have multi-cultural animas and voices. Enough with the caucasian animated voices in other programs! It's a very PC from that standpoint. The animals have great pretend adventures and then at the end return to their backyard and have a snack at home.

Wonder Pets: Personally, Matt and I find the music annoying and the stories and characters sorta lame, but Owen likes it. Slightly more complex plot than the other shows. A few houspets team up: a guinea pig, a turtle and a duckling. They ride in their magical boat outside their home and "save the day" using "teamwork" and often rescue another pet or situation. The duck talks in baby talk, which I don't like. It's not bad, really, but not my favorite show.

Dora the Explorer: I'd say this is best suited for 4+ years. Latina Dora and her monkey friend, "Boots" go on adventures using a map and other magical elements to complete their journey. It incorporates minimal Spanish and requests the children to call out to help dora, paddle across the mighty river, sled down a mountain, etc. etc. Owen doesn't participate when Dora requests his help so I figure he's not that into it. There is one episode I stumbled upon that he and I both like, it has trucks, so he's in heaven. Diego is the same show with a male lead except they are rescuing rare or endangered animals in need across the globe and there might actually be some educational value to it.

Sesame Street: Oldie but gooide. Owen doesn't like it but I assume as he gets older he might. I'm not really keen on all the new animated parts of the show and it's LOOOOOONNNGGG so we've only watched it once or twice.

Shows I don't like:

Thomas the Train: I give this show a C-. Thomas the Train and friends are self-proclaimed "cheeky." I found out this means they are jerks. At first I thought their use of cheeky would mean mischievous like Curious George but some of the themes include, mean, unkind, vengeful and jealous behavior amougst all the trains. They usual resolve the plot at the end and Thomas is sorry that he was rude to Diesel 10, etc. but I still don't like it. I tried to be reasonable about this but the more I watched it with Owen the more I grew to hate it. We don't watch it anymore. Honestly the show could be so great but they based it too closely on a book written back when people didn't consider that children were as smart as they are. They didn't realize using terminology like "fat controller" or "stupid and hate" would be objectionable. I just want my children to have nice manners and the trains on this show absolutely DO NOT have good manners.

More book reviews to come and much much more. If you don't own any Richard Scarry books, time to get some!!

What shows do you like?

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Potty Training on the early side

Owen was gradually potty trained from 2-3 years old. He took early to pooping on the potty and so we just basically let him go all day with underpants. But oh boy did he pee in his pants--for 6 months. He finally initiated his own peeing on the potty around 30 months -- aka "I have to go pee" but I'd say it wasn't fully realized until 36 months. Meaning, we still had to ask and remind him a lot or spot the signs (shaking a leg) and he wasn't going by himself without our presence. Personally this was better for me than changing two sets of poopy diapers so I made the push for it. I hear if you wait longer you have faster results. I was just DONE with 2 year old diapers and baby diapers.

What we had going was
Mommy: "Do you have to pee, Owen?"
(repeat 1,000 times a day)
Owen: "No"
-- then he'd pee in his pants moments later. We wouldn't have a big reaction and just change the pants and remind him that he needed to pee in the potty and when he felt that funny feeling, run to the potty. Hubs was behind me on this one too. We never put him back in diapers or ever used pull-ups, even at night. At first I bought 2-3 cloth big kid pants but he seriously NEVER peed in them, so we left him in underwear pants at night and for naps.

We went everywhere in those undies pants we just peed before we left and when we got home and took preventative measures. Basically at home we had a good routine going. Pee after waking up, pee after breakfast, pee before going out for a walk, pee when we got back... you get the idea.

He only had around 2-3 pooping accidents in his pants over the 1 year timeframe and they were sorta "excusable," if you know what I mean. He also only ever peed in his bed at night in extreme conditions, either he was super exhausted or we forgot to have him go right before bed. I have heard of people having success overnight by waking their child around 11PM or whenever they go to bed and having them sleepwalk to the toilet , pee and put them smack back in bed. We never did that. Keep in mind that Owen doesn't drink a ton of water or liquids so I'm sure this helped the process...

One of our biggest challenges with this whole process was the fine motor skills it requires to unbutton and re-button pants. Most kids are great at this from an early age (I know Harper can do it and she's only 21 months) but Owen had absolutely zero interest in dressing or undressing (still would rather have us do it) himself so pulling up and down his pants was a HUGE HUGE deal for us. We were constantly doing it. This is a boy who didn't like to put on his shoes himself, dress himself, zip up his jacket, unbutton things. He's not interested in those skills. He did like to feed himself (wouldn't let me spoon feed him past 10 months).

On his third birthday we enrolled him at a Montessori school -- they had a mid-year opening so we took it and within a week he was self-actuating bathroom skills. He went to the bathroom all by himself and even washed his hands himself. He was still having trouble pulling up his pants in the back but he got the job done well enough. His favorite thing about pre-school was that the potties were his size. I still do the wiping we are currently working on that messy skill...

It's crazy to think that soon I will be diaper-free FOREVER! WHOO HaHaHaHaHaHaHaH (cue Dr. Evil-like laugh). I will make the push with Harper early too because Mommy is ready and dedicated. I think those are really the two most important ingredients anyway.

In terms of what we bought. We were given a One Step Ahead potty, which -- eh, didn't love it. The top of the seat flaps down all the time while they are trying to put it up. I might try the Baby Bjorn potties instead...they look comfy. Yes, you still have to then process the waste... a tad better than diapers, but still dealing with too much poop for me. If your child is game, do directly to the "on top" potty seat. We bought two sit on top seats from Diapers.com (one for upstairs and one for downstairs) and also the Kushie's big kid washable pants, a fold-able travel seat and a Baby Bjorn stool. We have a wooden stool upstairs but it slides around (added some tacky stuff to bottom) and I use the BB plastic one downstairs. If you are on vacation some kids won't go in just any potty... it's not as comfy and then they'll boycott pooping and poof, you've got constipated toddler. AVOID that like the plague, BTW.

If I had another child, I might go for the elimination communication method-- this requires EXTREME parental vigilance, which I was not ready for but in the long run, could be nice results.