As an executive in the financial industry, sometimes it’s hard not to approach fatherhood with the same analytical thought processes I use all day long. There are times when those around me at home might wish I would (or could) turn off that trait. But when I look at my two youngest daughters who are still developing their basic educational skills, I can’t help but want to use every skill set I have — whether it be nerdy or nurturing — to deliver them the best road to adulthood possible.
So when I think about the movies and television they watch — what might otherwise be considered a passive, purely entertaining distraction tactic — my analytical mind tells me that what goes in has an impact, and I look for the cause and effect and the various factors that will educate them, stimulate them, or get them thinking. Something both my wife and I do with our four year old is ask her questions while she is watching television. What was the shape on the TV during Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? What was wrong with the character on Doc McStuffins? These are examples of ways to use the programming to push her little mind.
On a cold afternoon right before the holidays this year, my four year old daughter was bored and her toys just wouldn’t satisfy her unquenchable thirst for something new. So I checked the guide on our TV and came across a less mainstream Disney Classic, Meet the Robinsons. Truthfully, I had not seen the movie, but I knew that she hadn’t either so I tuned in hoping it would hold her attention. We caught it about 1/3 of the way through and the family in the movie was talking about their latest invention. Within minutes, my daughter was running around with her own robot friend talking about her inventions. She only watched a few minutes of the movie, and her mind opened up to explore the possibilities. Later, she flocked to her building blocks and crated her own inventions. For those that haven’t seen Meet the Robinsons, I urge you to check out the DVD. It’s worth the watch and will offer your kids some adventure beyond the normal show with some truly great lessons, like that failure, is not only necessary, but it’s a good thing. Without failure, you may never create that next great invention.
However, every once in a while, watching a movie or television show transcends all nerdy analysis. It delivers things to a child emotionally — spiritually even — that nobody could possibly predict or quantify analytically. Frozen was one of those movies.
We saw Frozen more than once in the theater, and have seen web clips of Elsa’s song Let It Go countless times. What makes the introduction of Let It Go really special for our family is that my youngest daughter, almost 2, is speech delayed. She is extremely smart, and she has a few words here and there — and sometimes we are sure she said something that she’s never said before — but most of the time she points, motions and uses some baby sign language to communicate. To watch her light up when the song comes on and sing along in her way, matching the notes as it plays on is truly amazing. My wife is trained as a singer, and she’s blown away that our daughter can match the exact tones of the notes. While not necessarily working on verbal skills, the song is allowing my daughter to be expressive. She uses her baby sign language to let us know she wants to hear the song over again and it registers with her when she’s successful, giving her that sense of accomplishment and helping to further her communication skills.