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Why Can't My Toddler Like TV?

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Guest blogger Margie: My youngest -- Liv, aged 16 months -- doesn't like television. She prefers roaming, running and exploring the nooks, drawers and cabinets of the house over Elmo or "Baby Einstein." I know, I know: This is supposed to be a good thing. But Mommy needs a break!

Toddler girl
I've tried, hoping and praying that some show would hold her attention for a measly half an hour. I'd even take ten minutes! That's not asking too much, I don't think. Mommies have rights, too, don't they? Despite living for our precious little ones, we do like to take showers once in a while. And pee alone, without someone unraveling and shredding the toilet paper or emptying the trash can.

I've seen the grass on the other side. Some say it's not greener, but I disagree. My first two kids liked television. And the bonus was, they learned from it: By age 18 months, they knew their letters, shapes and colors. "Baby Einstein" was the best babysitter in town! I could put them in their playpen in front of the TV, and I had time to brush my teeth! I could make a call, return some e-mail. I sure smelled a lot better in those days, and I didn't look the part of the harried stay-at-home mom -- all thanks to television. 

But when I put Liv in front of the TV, that's her cue to lose it. My mother says that I should let her cry it out. "Crying never hurt a baby," she says. True, but this one's stubborn: She'll cry for an hour. Loudly. I thought maybe it was that she didn't like being alone in the playpen, but no, even when I sit her on my lap and turn on the tube, she has no interest in it. TV is not her thing, dammit. 

I have a girlfriend who is raising her kids without TV. They may be ignorant about pop culture, but those kids can make museum-worthy art with a couple of sticks and some cotton balls. It's pretty amazing. They are creative and imaginative and really smart. But then, so are my kids, and they have been raised with Elmo and "The Wiggles."   

Don't get me wrong: I've never used TV as a full-time nanny or anything. But the thing did come in handy. Why, WHHHHHHHY can't my last child cooperate and get in a little TV time?!

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12 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous September 15, 2010, 3:31 AM

TV gets a bad rap sometimes. It definitely has it’s good points too. Sorry mama. Give her an ipod with a non-breakable case, some child safety headphones (do they exist?) and let her dance around the room with them. Or she may chew on the wires, nevermind, scratch that.

Fern September 15, 2010, 6:12 AM

LOL, Anon.
When my oldest was that age, he, too, refused to watched TV. However, he LOVED commercials. A few years later I tried short youtube clips and it had the same effect. He didn’t want to sit and watch the same thing for half an hour, but 10 two-minute youtube clips held his attention long enough for me to do the dishes! They have everything from single sesame street songs to classic tv theme songs to old toy commercials (one of my son’s absolute favorites!)

Anonymous September 15, 2010, 10:06 AM

Why not just put her in the playpen and have the TV off while you go and do your thing? I know it’s important for children to be stimulated but if, as you say, you only want ten or fifteen minutes, then leave her be for that time. Toss in toys, soft cubes or whatever and give her a bit of quiet time. After all, millions of generations of human beings have managed to raise their children without the help of the TV and they had their things to do too.

Spottedfeather September 21, 2010, 2:05 PM

You’re supposedly the parent. MAKE them watch tv.

Calebsmum September 30, 2010, 12:59 AM

First, SpottedFather: WHAT? MAKE them watch tv? The child is smart enough to stay away from it and seek education and stimulation from her environnment, as is best for a child of 16 months, or 27 months for that matter, and you’re suggesting the parent force the child to do otherwise? Hmmm…questionable parenting at best in my opinion.
Next, experts suggest a child not be given any tv until they reach at least the age of 2 years. I agree with anonymous, it would be better to put her in the playpen/crib with some soft toys/books and let her play. The experts also say a child doesn’t need constant stimulation and entertainment, that in fact it is good for them to be bored for short stretches of time so that they can develop their imagination and be comfortable playing alone.
I strongly disagree with your mom. Research has shown that the cry-it-out method DOES hurt a baby. Babies cry for a reason, and it’s a parent’s job to determine that reason and help, not ignore, which can cause them to feel abandoned and unloved. Also, there’s the added danger that if you make it a habit to ignore a baby’s pleas for help, you could end up ignoring them at a time when there is something seriously wrong.
I have a 4 year old boy and believe me when I say that I understand your need for breaks. It’s not always easy I know. Take a shower, brush your teeth, do your hair…it can all be done while she rests/plays in her crib and she probably won’t even mind.:)

Amy October 4, 2010, 12:42 PM

Spottedfeather - LMAO!!! (you were being sarcastic, weren’t you?)!*? : )

Amanda October 22, 2010, 10:00 PM

Maybe you just don’t have the right program. Is there something she’s really enthusiastic about? She might go for a video on that subject. My son (28 mos) is not fond of television either (despite the fact that it is constantly on… my husband DOES like television, a lot) and, until recently, refused to watch it at all. Which is nice, in some respects, as I grew up without TV and don’t really find it to be very worthwhile. But, like your daughter, he was into everything ALL THE TIME, from 5 AM until 11 PM, nonstop. He’s thrilled with construction equipment and heavy machinery, so I finally tried borrowing a DVD from the library. I ended up buying a copy because it worked wonders: he will happily watch for 10 minutes or so at a time, and it has dramatically improved naptime/bedtime (no more three-hour howling festivals— he will settle down nicely to watch his heavy equipment and be asleep in minutes!). I feel guilty every time I put in the video, but he clearly enjoys it and has learned an amazing amount about machinery and construction in general. And I get a few minutes to myself, and we’re both getting a lot more sleep—so I’d say it’s a pretty good deal overall.

Selmada November 4, 2010, 4:04 PM

I hear you. I have twins, one will watch some tv, one couldnt care less (unless there are trucks)
They have limited exposure to TV and free roam of the apartment. I wish one would watch, for even 5 minutes, while I go open the hot oven instead of having to keep him pushed away (open floor plan, no way to keep him out).
Generally though, the TV is only on if I’m in the room, sitting with them and talking about anything they see (particularly if they show interest).
Overall, I dont see it as good or bad that one doesnt like TV (and the other does). Its just reality and I need to work around it.

Krystal  December 7, 2010, 3:35 PM

I have a 4 year old and a 16 month old. My 4 year old LOVES T.V, i only ever put it on the educational preschooler channels, she’s learned alot through it, on the other hand, my 16 month old, would rather run about and do whatever she wants to do.

Being in your situation, i would say, if you need or just WANT to have a shower etc, grab a baby gate, put the little one in their room, put the baby gate up and let them amuse themselves with toys, baby books etc… All us mommies need “ME” time, face it. If you can’t show your little one who’s “Boss” now…..what are you going to do when they turn 15?

Good Luck

JESSYKA December 9, 2010, 12:57 PM


Mommy December 26, 2010, 9:55 AM

My daughter loves TV and is very smart. I love getting breaks to go online and pee by myself. But I can also just leave her with her playing with her toys while I go pee, my daughter is pretty well behaved.

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