the battle for young hearts and minds
Breast milk vs formula. Sleep training. When and how to introduce solid foods. Having navigated these parental debates and successfully shepherded Munchkin into toddlerhood, we have arrived at the next big parenting controversy, which is somewhat peculiar to our generation: screen time.
How long should we fight what is ultimately a losing battle to keep electronics out of the hands of our growing, curious little man? We have many friends who extol the educational value of the iPad, and though our parenting style currently does not align with that view, we are far from being purists on this issue. We may not have a TV, but we spend a lot of time in front of our laptops. Also, given our lifestyle, some screen time is inevitable if we want Munchkin to interact with his grandparents, aunts, and other relatives.
Pediatricians generally recommend avoiding television and entertainment media until age two, and doctors in the United States have recently started giving out books during early childhood check-up visits. Children’s brains develop rapidly during their early years, and young children learn much better by interacting with people than with screens. Being book lovers ourselves, we have endeavored to surround Munchkin with books and, for now at least, we seem to be winning the battle of print vs electronic media.
Munchkin has always enjoyed spending time with his board books, though until recently he seemed more interested in gnawing on them than in exploring their contents. This has changed dramatically in the last month or so. Not only does he really enjoy listening while we read his stories, but he even has a few clear favorites he prefers to all others. He has a basket of Russian books that we keep on the floor near his toys, and he reliably picks the same two books out of the twenty or so that are inside the basket. Of his English language books, there are also several standouts that S reads multiple times every day. Sometimes he simply wanders around the living room clutching his books, but just as often he walks directly towards one of us after picking up a book and hands it to us so that we can read to him.
Far and away his favorite is the Russian story of a farmer and his giant turnip. In this classic tale of collectivist action, a farmer plants a turnip that grows so big that he cannot pull it out. Eventually, it takes his entire household, pets and all, pulling together to dislodge the turnip from the ground. Munchkin listens attentively, cocking his head to see which character will enter the fray with each turn of the page, his face visibly showing his growing excitement. By the time the dog joins in to help its owners midway through the story, Munchkin is usually so overcome with excitement that he starts flapping his arms wildly.
We are fully aware that the cross-Atlantic flights that await us in the not-too-distant future will likely test our resolve to keep Munchkin’s life iPad-free, so this is a topic we are sure to revisit.