By Christina VanGinkel
I am a big fan of reading to infants and young children. I also feel that videos, if they are of high quality, and not randomly viewed for hours on end, can play a very important part in teaching children. Besides books, videos can engage a young child, keeping his or her interest long enough to allow learning to take place. Sure, once our kids get to school they will have teachers to keep their attention span lasting longer than two minutes, or at least we hope they will. In addition, while some parents may have the time to be amusing their children from sun up to sun down, a fact of today's modern world is that many of us are just too busy to be able to give our kids the undivided attention, twenty-four hours a day, which they would like to have.
So what is a parent to do? Find a happy medium of activities to keep their young minds and bodies going and learning through their day. Part of their routine will most likely include videos or television, so take a few minutes, and research what is available. Look for video characters that are age appropriate, and as busy as you are, watch the shows with them at least once, so you know what their little minds are viewing. Look for videos that engage the viewer, not those that just overload them with mindless buzz. If you have a DVD player, consider those that also offer additional features such as DVD Rom activities. A recent Blue's Clues DVD that my daughter purchased for my grandson included four separate episodes, a matching game to be played on their computer, music videos featuring Blue that they can dance too, and a segment geared specifically for parents. She allows him to watch one episode and then they will play the matching game together. She said that she also would jump to the music and let all the videos play while he either plays with something else, or dances along. At two years old, he loves to dance, and she only wishes that more of the videos came with this feature, so she did not have to keep listening to the same few songs that they have discovered on a couple of their DVD's.
An educational rating on a video use to be associated with boring, but this is no longer true. Education is often hand in hand with engaging. Search out those that are given this distinction. Baby Einstein videos, and those that feature characters many kids are already familiar with, such as Bear from Bear in the Big Blue House, JoJo, from JoJo's Circus, and the Arthur characters, can all be good choices. Kids and family, and Sesame Street are two other breakdowns for videos where you may find suitable shows. Just remember to use the shows wisely. Do not become dependant on them as babysitters for your kids. Too often, parents can lose track of the time their kids are stationed in front of the television, because the kids literally zone out as they watch some shows. Watch with them if you can, and ask the kids afterwards what it was they watched. Did they learn anything, would they like to tell you. By asking them questions about the shows, you are enforcing the fact that they can learn from these shows. And once in a while, when you have had a long day, and a half hour of peace and quiet is all you really want, you won't feel so bad about popping in that DVD for them to watch, because you will be fully aware of what it is they are absorbing.