Note: This post has appeared as a blog post in the author’s personal blog, which is now longer being used.
In this post, I will be sharing some tips and strategies that I personally use to occupy my child’s time without using the TV as a part-time babysitter. As many are already aware, excessive TV is bad for the growing brain and some people would even go so far as to say that any TV at all is bad for EVERYONE, including adults. We’ll leave that for another discussion, hehe.
I am blessed enough to have been able to experience life as a full-time working mom (FTWM) up til my child turned 2 and now, a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I say ‘blessed’ because when you get to experience both sides of the coin, you get to be more thankful for all the things you have AND had. In both cases, I have been able to ensure that TV does not feature at all in my child’s daily activities, with God’s grace.
Anyway in this post, I shall share tips for the FTWM. Tips for SAHM will be in another post, insyaAllah.
For the Full-Time Working Mom.
I know, I know, it’s hard! How can you ensure that the caregivers respect your wishes, especially if they happen to be your own mom or mom-in-law? And once you have the baby back at home, you need to cook, do housework, prepare for the next day – can’t I just use the TV to occupy my child for a short while while I do the necessary stuff? It won’t take more than half an hour, promise! But before you know it, the task at hand seems to take longer than planned and oh, that show is going to end in another 15 minutes so I’ll just let the baby enjoy that for a while… and then you end up with the TV being switched on for the entire night before baby eventually goes to sleep.
How can you ensure that the caregivers respect your wishes, especially if they happen to be your own mom or mom-in-law? When I was pregnant, I started reading up a lot on successful parenting. And one thing that I noticed was that it requires a lot of communication between both parents and caregivers. Whoever is going to take care of your child needs to be on the same page as you. Some people would say it’s hard if the caregiver’s your own mom cos then she might go all “oh last time you used to watch Tv and you turned out OK what?” but to me, you have to turn this into a positive thing because if the caregiver is the child’s grandparent, then all the more reasons they have to want the best for their grandchild too. My child’s main caregiver happens to be my mom-in-law and alhamdulillah, I’ve always enjoyed a very good relationship with her so it was easy to communicate our goals and wishes in the way my child is brought up with her.
So what did I do? While I was pregnant, I started sharing with her stories on kids who could memorise the Qur’an at an early age, and how lack of exposure to TV helped them to do so. I also shared my readings on how TV affects the concentration span and how this in turn affects them in school. It also helped that I was a teacher, so I would also draw on my own experiences.
And then after I popped, a few weeks before I was to resume work, I would drop by my mom-in-law’s house with my child and play with her there. And bless her heart, my mom-in-law really didn’t switch on the TV the whole time my child was there. Even my own parents, who like to use the TV as background noise, would switch it off whevener we came over. The moment my parents see us, they would say “M dah datang! Tutup TV” (M is here, switch off the TV). heehee. But doesn’t that sound cruel? Hehe, I beg to differ. When the adults are not distracted by the TV, they get to interact more with their grandchildren, which is what they really want right? Yes, even adults get distracted by TV ok!
If you are really worried about your child not having enough things to occupy him or her, such that the caregiver will eventually resort to switching on the TV, I would suggest coming up with a simple schedule for the child to follow. My mom-in-law believes in setting routines for my child – like what time to sleep, go out for a walk – so good for me, I didn’t have to come up with one, but for those who are worried, do up a simple one and give it to the caregiver. A simple one would be something like:
8am – wake up, milk time
8.30 – bathe
9am – tummy time / jungle gym / play-at-home time (you can provide some toys)
9.30 – short walk to the playground
10.15 – caregiver can do some chores, child to watch and observe
11 – milk and nap time
and so on. See how you can also include time for the caregiver to do chores? If she needs to be in the kitchen, just bring the rocker to the kitchen and let the child observe her. I really believe that children learn best when they observe adults doing daily chores in front of them, because really, before the age of 2, they cannot relate to what’s being shown on TV, even if it’s ‘catered’ for kids.
Once I have the baby back at home, I need to cook, do housework, prepare for the next day – can’t I just use the TV to occupy my child for a short while while I do the necessary stuff?
Again, I use the same philosophy – let the child observe you do the household chores! My child is used to playing with Tupperware containers, spoons, pots and pans in the kitchen while I cook. When she was a bit older and could stand on a chair, I let her observe me cut, stir, cook. I even toss her a piece of carrot or broccoli while I cook so that she could explore the textures. Now she enjoys helping me whisk the eggs and adding pepper to the dishes as they cook. She learnt more from watching me than she could watching those creepy cartoon characters speaking in childish voices for half an hour (btw, did you know that TV programmes ‘catered’ to kids have been linked to delayed speech? There’s no active interaction between child and TV, the character’s voices are sometimes unclear, etc)
How about laundry? I hang my laundry outside the house at the corridor, so when my child was still a baby, I would put her in a sling as I hang the clothes out. When she could walk, I would get her to help me by passing the clothes to me while I hang them on the bamboo poles. And it’s the same for all other types of household chores – I let her observe while she’s still young and once she’s old enough, she gets to help me. If the father is at home, even better! You have two extra sets of hands to help you!
So those are some of the things that I did while I was a FTWM. Hope they will help you slowly eliminate TV from your child’s life, and if you have any other suggestions, do contribute in the comment below to benefit us all! 🙂
Wassalaam, til next time insyaAllah!