As you may recall, a little over a year ago, my parents generously paid for us to finish part of our basement as a playroom for the girls. It is an awesome space, with plenty of toys, two desks, a CD player and a little nook with a cut-out window, suitable for playing store or putting on puppet shows. It’s cool in the summer, too — another big plus in our non-AC’ed home. Only problem: the girls almost never play there.
It’s still great to have as a storage space for toys. But on the rare occasions that the girls *do* play there — it tends to happen more often when friends are over — it’s really nice to have a little more physical and mental space upstairs, knowing that they’re happily, safely, self-sufficiently playing on their own.
The reason they don’t like to play downstairs, they say, is that they’re lonely there. Even though they’ve got each other. So, sometimes we’ll go down and play with them a little, get them started on something, then pull the old “I’ll be right back…I just have to, um, check on something…” trick and sneak away (tiptoeing like cartoon characters, hunched over, with staccato violin accompaniment) hoping they won’t notice. But they usually do.
But now we have a new strategy. And I am somewhat conflicted over this. I really am. But when we were up at my parents’ house last weekend, my dad had set up a TV/VCR combo in the little basement playroom area at *their* house, along with a huge set of VHS tapes salvaged from their town dump swap shop. And in the mornings, when I was trying to catch a little extra shut eye, I let the girls go downstairs and watch an hour of Mary Poppins or a Winnie The Pooh cartoon. And when my dad offered to let me take the VCR player and some tapes back home with us, well, I waffled for a few minutes, but landed on the side of yes.
So, yes, bad parent, using videos to get extra sleep / a little reprieve / space / etc. But here’s the more PC fringe benefit: the girls will stay in the basement when the tape is over and play. And overall, they seem to be more inclined to play in the basement now that their buddy the TV is there, even if they’re not watching it.
We try not to let the girls have more than an hour of “screen time” per day. And when they do ask to watch something, we’re more likely than not to suggest and encourage another non-plugged in activity first. But I gotta say. I’m really kind of digging our new buddy in the basement. (Is that wrong?)
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