Entertaining and Teaching a Child

Our son is 15 months old and is really starting to understand what we’re saying. He doesn’t use too many words yet (other than “on”, which he uses about a billion times a day as he demands we turn on all the lights in our house), but he surely understands dozens of words and sentences. This is great because he can respond to our requests to put things back, not throw food and such, but it’s not great because we have to be extremely careful what kinds of words we’re exposing him to. My wife and I aren’t ones to use profanity, but the music and film we bring into our home often features some words that we’d rather not have our son hear. So what are we to do? Go buy a bunch of music by The Wiggles and some Barney DVDs? No thanks, not for us. Here are some ways that we bring kid-friendly entertainment into our home during these cold winter months of confinement.

Music

A few years ago my dad bought me a Bose Sound Dock for my iPod. A couple years later, my in-laws bought us our first iPod Touch. Those two things combined make an amazing music set up for our living room. Thanks to the Pandora app and our WiFi, we can stream all kinds of kid-focused music for free and not have to purchase a bunch of CDs that our son will probably not care about in another year or two. I’ve been generally pleased with the music that comes on most of the stations we’ve set up. Music from older Disney movies and the Muppets are favorites, however, I tried to set up a station to play some old Alvin and the Chipmunks music and got the new reboot Chipmunks tunes instead. Wow, some of those songs could kill a houseplant. Nevertheless, we use the Pandora app on a daily basis and our son definitely enjoys the music we hear. Every time a new song starts, he glances over to the speakers and will often start to dance (while sitting down, that is). I also use the Audiogalaxy app to stream music from our large music collection stored on our desktop upstairs since the iPod Touch isn’t big enough to hold it all. Besides Disney fare, he enjoys classics like the Beatles, Beach Boys and Monkees – readily available on Pandora.

Since our son has really turned into a fan of music (much to my delight), we also try to encourage him to play music himself. We’ve got a few toy instruments that we keep around and we also place him on our piano stool often to pound away on the keys. Early in his life, he showed an excitement for drumming, so we encourage him to drum on anything that’s near by: the floor, an overturned pot, the couch, his crib, etc. He also likes to pluck and strum the strings on my electric guitar, so we keep that out for him to play on too. Hopefully the music in our house will always be more than just recordings.

Film

Now, we don’t make a habit of plopping our 15 month old down in front of the TV, but there are times that we hang out in the basement and want to watch something while he plays. He’s started to take more notice of the TV now, so we wanted to find some good kid shows for him to see. The “Pandora of TV” for us has been Netflix coupled with our Roku player to bring the streaming shows to our television. Netflix has a fairly good selection of kid’s shows to choose from, mostly from the PBS family. They also have Spongebob (which is a little too out there for us) and even old episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Speaking of PBS, their lineup of kids shows is surprisingly good these days, and it’s free in HD over the air. Our son enjoys watching Dinosaur Train in particular, but a number of shows are on the air that are short, colorful and full of educational information.

Books

Of course, we also do a lot of reading in our house. Our son is very into books and pages through them on his own occasionally, but much more often he hands us a book and climbs into our laps for a reading. We have a large collection of kids books already and we read a few before naps and bed, but also throughout the day if he asks to read. I’m extremely excited for the day that he’s old enough for us to read chapter books to him.

The World Around Us

Our son has always been a very observant kid and he loves pointing out the interesting things he sees. From a very early age he would point out the airplanes that flew over our house going to and from the nearby airport. I often take him to a window and look out asking him “What do you see?” We then name some things that we see outside. Nowadays his favorite thing is looking for the moon. We taught him to say “moon” a few months ago and now he will point and name the moon with glee each time it appears. I’m exciting to help him find other things in the night sky like constellations and planets. Being so observant, I think that’s something he will really enjoy.

Now, as the weather is finally shows signs of turning warmer, we’re looking forward to getting outside for entertainment. Our son absolutely loves the outdoors. Even in the dead of winter, he will wiggle with joy when we start putting his hat and mittens on for a trip outside. Last summer and fall he was a big fan of walks. We live near two parks that we would frequently walk to and around. Now that he’s more mobile, he will no doubt love playing at these parks and not just walking around them.

So those are a few ways that we keep our kid entertained and help him to learn about music and the rest of the world around him in (hopefully) healthy ways. As he grows up and becomes more independent, this will definitely get harder, but hopefully we’re laying a good foundation for him now to make wise choices about how he uses his time and what kinds of entertainment he takes in.

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