Television and Play

I admit that I spent a huge amount of time in front of the TV as a kid. A cringe-inducing amount of time, really.

As a young child, I loved Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and possessed a great fear of The Incredible Hulk. Saturday morning cartoons weren't often worth the battle since my brother staked out the TV well in advance of my rising from bed. Cable television hadn't found it's way to rural Vermont yet so the few channels we got were very often of little interest to me.

Around middle school, it all changed. We got more channels and I had a television in my room. I would come home from school, grab a snack, and turn on the television. I probably spent more time watching such quality programming as Melrose Place than I did doing homework. And there was the little matter of my crush (obsession?!) with Fred Savage that caused me never to miss a single episode of The Wonder Years. I'm sure by the time I graduated high school, I was watching 3-4 hours of television a day. I feel gross just thinking about it.

College and Peace Corps pretty much cured me of my habitual TV viewing and I am grateful for that. I think television has it's place and I certainly appreciate it for the half hour of mindlessness it provides me after particularly rough days. And, to be honest, I don't think I was adversely affected by it. BUT (and isn't there always a but?) I don't like that it has become the de facto entertainment source/non-stop ad machine. When I was a kid, there were no Mr. Roger's figurines or special Wonder Years Happy Meals.

Now that Vivi is over two, I don't worry so much about the neurological and cognitive implications of TV time. What scares me is the advertising: the sexy images that are aimed at young girls, the message that to consume is to live a fuller life, and the inevitable complications that will arise on a trip to Target when my daughter spots a toy or character that looked so appealing on TV. That is what I am afraid she will get from TV.

As my pregnancy progresses, I've been thinking about what role television might play in Vivi's life. Every parent with more than one child has told me that I'll relax my TV stance out of necessity. Maybe that's the case but I hope that I'll be able to reach a thoughtful compromise- choosing a pre-screened video that I am comfortable with as a special treat versus plopping her down in front of Sponge Bob because I can't take it anymore.

In the next couple of days or so, I'll share the activities and resources I have discovered that keep Vivi occupied for 15+ minutes. So far, they have served as good alternatives to TV. I'd love to hear other ideas from my fair readers as well!


  1. Sam- remember all the times we played office or school or "catalog ordering center"? I remember watching more TV as i got older, like you...thought not because we got more channels (my parents just got cable a year ago!!). When i was little we were always outside or playing in the basement (making forts were our favorite thing to do). I can remember many times my mom even locked us outside and told us that we could not come in! I remember when Gilly was little (3-4) and she would love to play house and dress-up with her babies. One of our favorite thing to do was dress up. WE had a TON of dress-up clothes and we would do fashion shoes and concerts (as we sung to The Pointer Sisters and Cindi Lauper!)


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