Raising Good Listeners

My baby is 7 month old.

When my 3 year old was 7 months, here are all of the toys he had:

organic baby toys

I made sure he was not overstimulated,  wouldn’t let him touch anything plastic, and battery operated was totally out of the question. We spent countless hours on his play mat singing songs, reading books, and playing with his few toys.

Time with my current 7 month old is much different. He spends most of his time exploring  anything and everything he can, testing his limits, crawling around, pulling up, cruising, eating paper, chewing on books, and chasing his older brother.

And really, he would be happiest if he could jump on one of these and ride off into the sunset:

organic baby toys

There is no way I could photograph all the toys he has access to- not a big enough camera lens exists.We are overflowing with books, cars, puzzles, games, blocks, legos, paints, coloring books, playdough, bubbles, crafts, trains, traintracks, racetracks and balls.

So I spend much if my day pondering how this difference in their early playtime experiences will affect each of them individually.

Then there is the issue of the tube. Even with all of the toys at my 3 year old’s fingertips, if given the choice all day, everyday would be a tv watching marathon.

Some days I just decide to give up and stop trying to swim upstream by limiting television and computer games and I’ve even considered putting a Classical Baby DVD on to see if it interests my baby.  It’s usually during the hour before dinner when I have already dosed myself with guilt, feeling as if I have neglected one child, or both. (Do I make dinner, or play with my kids?)

But something always catches my eye at just the right moment and I am reminded of why we have chosen to parent the way we have.

This week it was a list written by Janet Lansbury called 10 Secrets To Raising Good Listeners. I appreciated all of the tips, but the one that resonated with me the most was #10:

“Be aware that screens are a listening turn-off.

I list this last, but it’s definitely not least. In fact, if the inability to listen well is an increasing concern, my hunch is that the increased use of screens is to blame. The visuals in movies, TV and video games are overwhelmingly engaging. Our child doesn’t really listen because he doesn’t need to, and the inferior language models usually offered aren’t worth hearing anyway. Screen time, even if it’s “educational,” can train children not to listen.

In a section about phonics in her fascinating book, Endangered Minds – Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It, brain researcher Dr Jane Healy notes, ‘These auditory systems are in a period of critical development during the very preschool years when so many youngsters are watching the tube. Researchers agree that when given both visual displays and dialogue, children attend to and remember the visual, not the “talk.” (Even for most adults, listening can’t compete with looking if the brain is given the chance to do both at the same time.) Yet, if auditory processing skills aren’t embedded in the brain during the critical early years, it is much harder, if it is even possible to insert them later.'”

So we press on-  course correcting a little each day, and continually reminding ourselves that it’s all about balance.

PS- Mom, I know, I know. (My mom loves to remind me how much Sesame Street I watched when I was little. But it was Sesame Street and it was 30+ years ago. That was TV actually worth watching!)



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