Who writes the helpful tips and friendly advice for keeping young children entertained for Babycenter.com? Clearly not a parent. Or else a totally hypocritical parent. Or an alien from a planet where what we like to imagine actually IS. I just received this in my email inbox; it’s a link for various articles on the babycenter.com site including one entitled “Nine alternatives to television sure to entertain the kids“. Well the only time I let my kids watch telly (and it’s not even telly, we don’t have telly out here in France because French telly is utter crap and I haven’t yet sorted my life out to get BBC stuff beamed in to my house, so we just have CDs of Madagascar, Toy Story, Dangermouse and Top Cat amongst other classics), is when I’m cooking their dinner. So I didn’t really need to click on the link, but I did and in fact the article is based on that exact period of time; ie. preparing dinner time, and as I read the article I discovered that putting cartoons on for kids while I’m busy in the kitchen is now NOT RIGHT. It can, and I quote, “restrict a child’s ability to think and imagine”. Yikes. Even forty minutes a day? Now, I’m sure too much screen watching is not a good thing for anyone, especially not kids, but we all know that when it comes to cooking dinner at the end of the day and simultaneously refereeing a small children’s wrestling match, the most sensible thing to do is to wham a bit of Hong Kong Phooey on while the fish is frying. Or the cheese is grating. Or whatever. But once I had read the first line of the “Nine Alternatives to TV” article, guilt crept into my bones and I had to read on.
It turns out all nine ideas are great ones. Get your child involved in helping make the dinner, make a mini-kitchen, pretend you’re at your child’s favourite restaurant and set a table up for all his/her stuffed animals, get your child pouring water and rice through a funnel, ask him/her to sort the cutlery, make some play dough, set up a crafts table and get your child to make a place mat with glue and pasta shapes… YEAH, RIGHT, AND THEN WEEP AS THE WATER AND THE RICE AND GLUE AND THE PASTA BITS AND THE STUFFED ANIMALS AND THE CUTLERY ALL END UP ON THE FLOOR AND YOU SLIP ON THE PASTA AND LAND ON A SMALL POINTY TRACTOR WHICH THEN REMAINS GLUED TO YOUR BOTTOM AND YOU SWEAR YOU WILL BURN BABYCENTER.COM DOWN TO THE GROUND IF IT’S THE LAST THING YOU DO.
Has the person writing the article ever had to look after a small child, or two, or three, or four, on a daily basis? Has this person ever made 365 dinners in a year? Not counting lunches and breakfasts of course? Does this person realise that ALL nine of the ideas involve triple the amount of energy and patience and then another 20 minutes of tidying up at the end, and that’s not counting cleaning up the plates and pots and pans after the meal. I’m all for creative activities and playing games but not at the end of the day thanks. Not while I’m cooking yet another meal and then doing the bath-brush-books countdown to bedtime. As I chop carrots and fight with the freezer drawer I thank the Gods of Light Entertainment for creating cartoons and bringing them to me, here in the nether regions of southern France, so that while I make dinner, Tommy and Léonie are momentarily transfixed, immobile and very VERY quiet. So there.
Long Live Pingu. All Hail Shreck. Wallace and Gromit for President. That’s what I say.