My little son is a three-foot ball of energy. If he isn’t racing through the house, he’s jumping on a bed, or stomp-stomp-stomping in the halls. “Constant” is the best word to describe him – non-stop motion and movement and noise from the moment he wakes until it’s time for bed. It can be very tempting to plop him in front of a noisy flashing screen for just a few brief minutes of calm. He loves cartoons, begs for them. And he’s so quiet and still as he watches!
But I know from experience that those blissful moments of quiet come at a cost, once the TV is off and the computer closed. Rather than dissipated, that toddler energy seems to have bottled up until bursting.
When the playing turns rowdy and we do need quiet time, I try to opt instead for a book. He has plenty, and will eagerly drag a giant stack to my chair. Reading offers the same few moments of quiet, of closeness and snuggling as those glowing screens, only with the added benefit of interaction and imagination. Where television leaves him with more energy to burn, the quiet focus necessary to hear and understand a story, the intent study of each bright illustration, the comforting cadence of words read aloud, all channel that energy and calm him in ways that passively watching a television never could.
Admittedly, making reading a regular part of our routine requires some effort. The reason the TV and computer are so tempting is that they’re right there, at our fingertips, requiring just the flick of an “ON,” switch. When we plop in front of the TV, I’m able to multitask. I’m readily distracted by screens of my own, with a quick glance at my email, or checking through one feed or another on my phone. Until he’s older, this isn’t possible when reading. It requires me, my time, my focus. While that makes it frustrating in the immediate, I know it’s just one more reason that these moments shared over a book are even more valuable.