My kids watch Dora the Explorer every morning. I know, I know, but seriously, I need to make breakfast, and they need to not be in the kitchen when I do it.
Anyway, one of their favorite games is to pretend they are Boots and Dora (sidenote: Natalina chose to be the sidekick, Boots, before Dulce chose to be Dora. My husband and I are both Diego.) They go on adventures as the characters, making stuff up as they go along, putting toddler rules in place. It's really quite magical to watch.
The other day we were at Wendy's eating lunch. I know, I know, but seriously, it was a weekend and we had just been running around at the park. I stand by the decision - it was worth it.
Anyway, the babies were eating their burger when Natalina got a sly look in her eye. She eased down from her chair, stealthily made her way over to my husband and I, slid in between us, and grabbed his keys from the tabletop with a huge grin on her face.
She proudly carried her winnings back to her seat, and looked at us, beaming. I said offhandedly to her, "Oh, Boots...wait, that doesn't look like something Boots would do. That's something Swiper would do!"
The look of surprise and abject horror on her little face was priceless. Swiper? How could she be Swiper? Oh, no, oh, no, this wouldn't do at all.
In a flash, she jumped back off her chair and returned the keys to their rightful place on the table. She got back to her seat, very seriously. She sat and looked at me, then her father, then the keys. She stuck out her hand in a stop motion.
"No fiping! No fiping! Fiper, no fiping!"
I'm still laughing about this today.
But all laughing aside, this shows an important part to the television, if you use it right. Television can't be used to teach your kids for you, but it can help teach your kids in addition to you.
For instance, swiping things - taking them or stealing them - hasn't really come up yet, in the moral sense. Sure, I can tell one twin not to take the other one's toy, but my words don't really mean anything to them because they don't understand the effect their actions are having. My punishments don't really help them stop doing it because they don't understand how the two are connected. So that even if they did stop taking each other's things, they would be doing so only out of fear of punishment, and not because they understood how taking something from someone else made that person feel.
When a cartoon fox takes something from Dora or Boots (characters in whom my kids have invested their imagination) the characters get upset. They slowly and thoroughly explain the problem to the viewer, and then they take action to get their stuff back.
This teaches my kids that taking things is wrong because it makes people feel bad. It further teaches them that you can try to stop people from taking things from you by talking to them about it first. It further teaches them that if the person takes your stuff anyway, you need to figure out a way to get it back without exacting revenge upon the person who did the taking. It teaches correct protocol and reasoning, and shows the babies why you should or shouldn't do certain things.
Would I have eventually taught them this myself? Absolutely. Would my adult mind have been able to get all of those concepts through to them in one coherent repetitive message? No. At least not until they were older. Dora has expanded upon a lesson I've been trying to get through to them since they were infants. Dora has correctly instilled that message in them months before I would have been able to do it without the aid of the cartoon.
So, no, the TV does not teach kids everything they need to know, but I feel like if you use it correctly, it can enhance the lessons you may be trying (and failing) to instill in your kids at a young age.
Maybe Dora isn't so bad after all. Or maybe I'm just rationalizing my TV usage. Either way, I got a very cute moment out of it.
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