Screen Time and Two Reviews

First, let me say that I generally don’t like too much screen time for kids.  In the last year, we have watched more; but it is not my intention to sit my kids in front of the tv watching DVDs.  At the same time, like most mamas, I have a need for kids to be “put away” a short time each week (just to be honest).  If they are going to be in front of the television for 10, 20, 30 minutes, I would prefer it be educational.

Now, we all know that not all things claiming to be educational is all that much so.  Kids watch tv and they take very little from the passive learning.  I’ve known kids who watch hours of Dora and various other programs yet can’t tell you anything about them an hour later, much less a week later.  These kids are often lacking basic kid knowledge even.  They simply aren’t getting all that much from sitting in front of educational tv.

Okay, but we do use it for some things; so I want to share two programs.

First is The Letter Factory. Had I not seen this program work so incredibly well, I never would have believed it.  In several weeks, children can know all their letter sounds!  I had heard of it on a homeschooling message board.  I got it as a gift for an almost 3 year old a few years ago.  He loved it.  In three weeks time, he knew all his letters and sounds.  We did lots of activities about the videos.  We’d act out parts.  We’d sing the sound sounds.  We would make playdough letters.  45 minutes three times per week and the child learned the letter sounds quickly.  It was impressive.

Well, so when we started fostering, I knew I had to have this video.  Our first two boys were bright kids, ages 5 and 16months.  M, the toddler, loved The Letter Factory.  He would watch, play, wander off, watch some more.  His favorite toy was the magnadoodle mini we had.  He would beg, over and over again, for us to write letters for him.  We did.  We taught his brother to also (btw, big brother told us that only his father could teach him anything so we never directly taught him things.  We taught Little Brother.  We taught the dog.  We got him to help us teach his brother.  Whatever it took.).  Now both boys learned their letters and sounds.  It was gentle, fun, non-pushy.  It was great.  M and his brother went home five months later.  Yes, M knew all his letters and sounds.  So the next kids came 10 days later.  Again, a 16month old toddler (this time, the toddler had an infant sister).  R also learned.  Here was a child who has speech therapy at 18months (for two months) who managed to learn most of his letters and sounds in the five months he was here.  Impressive.

The second program is SparkabilitiesWe own the Toddler 1 and 2 videos.  M, our foster daughter, is 20 months old.  We started using Sparkabilities with her immediately after learning how well the YouTube previews worked to settle down R’s little sister.  We played it for R also; but mostly, I was intrigued how it caught the attention of an infant!  So M is known for being high strung and very very very loud.  Sparkabilities got her quiet!  We ordered the videos.  They were miracles!  So M watches the videos, small pieces at a time.  In the last few months, she’s learned her letters and sounds, most colors, most shapes (though the other day she was arguing with me about hexagons vs octogons), counting forward and backward, etc.  I think it is helping her speech (she did have a few months of speech therapy).  I think it is also allowing her to learn other things more easily (for example, she can tell you Texas when you point to it on the map and point out Canada when you ask her).

Recently, we were sick (Influenza B and she had an ear infection too!).  We watched a lot more tv during that time.

  • Several days later, M came up to me and said, “Mama! Tv off.”
  • “Yes, TV is off sweetie.”
  • “Mama, turn tv on ‘bilities!”
  • “Sparkabilities?”
  • “Yes ‘bilities.”
  • I was getting a kick out of this.  “Right now?”
  • “bilities on tv now?”
  • “What do you say?”
  • “Please bilities?”

I think that is probably the sum of my review.  The child has learned TONS from it and wants it.

BTW, thankfully the children are all feeling better (adults are taking a little longer).  No one is watching tv all day anymore 🙂


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