Birthday Girl

Today was my little girl’s first birthday! I truly can’t believe how big she’s gotten already. She’s climbing all over the furniture and can even say “mama”! I really couldn’t be any prouder. Ok, ok, so my “little girl” is a cat, but at least I get to keep my figure this way. All joking aside, she really does meow “mama” to her actual mother, Karen, and usually has to be lured off the furniture with the temptation of a treat. I guess it just feels like yesterday that she was litter-training herself and hiding under the bed from my mother. (Ok, so she still does this. Sorry Mom!)

When Grace was little and first moved in with me, she had one emotion: fear.

To celebrate her big day, Alex and I will be enjoying a Jersey Subs dinner tonight while Grace opens her present and enjoys her special dinner. She and her mother would be wearing birthday hats if I didn’t think they’d slice me open while I sleep. (If any of you are surprised I’d go this far for a birthday, just wait until Christmas.) Even though I don’t have a “human” child, I’ll keep the kid theme going in today’s post.

About a week ago, I was speaking with a coworker about his daughter. He said that she was always very responsible when it came to watching television and even asked him to change the channel (when she was too young to do it herself) when she saw something she knew she shouldn’t be watching. When I asked for an example, I was surprised to hear “Spongebob Squarepants” was off-limits. I asked him what the problem with that show was and he replied, “Have you ever met a child who watches that show and isn’t completely annoying?” I laughed, but had to admit, a part of that statement was true. Having watched it a few times, I did pick up on some of the more annoying habits the show promotes. (Truth be told, I couldn’t get past the starfish’s laugh.) Apparently, my coworker was right to keep his daughter away from shows like Spongebob, as recent studies have shown that some fast-paced cartoons can actually harm your child’s ability to concentrate.

According to a recent post on the CNN blog The Chart, Researchers from the University of Virginia showed 60 4-year olds a 9-minute chunk of what they call an “animated kitchen sponge” cartoon. The experts then tested the children’s memory and thinking skills and compared their scores to other youngsters, who had watched a slow-paced educational cartoon or drew pictures with crayons and markers.

But what this means for children long term is still an open question. Several other studies have found a link between heavy television viewing and problems with children’s attention spans, especially in young children, while others have not. Some researchers are concerned, however, because the ability to concentrate and not get distracted often shapes how well children do in school.

In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends parents “limit children’s total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day” and “discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years” entirely.

“The important take home message here is that the content of viewing actually matters. Many, many parents have rules about the quantity of programming their children watch but far fewer have restrictions on what they watch,” says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of an editorial in Pediatrics.

So before you plop your kid in front of the television just so you can get some housework done, think about what this could mean for the brain development of your child. Instead of an hour of television, try 30 minutes of television followed by some other brain-stimulating activity or for the older kids, encourage reading. You’ll be glad you did in the long run!

Happy Birthday Grace! You’re such a good kitty!

Grace, the Gray Beast

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