Momservation: Give a toddler a phone and they will be distracted for an hour. Put away your phone and interact with your child and they will be better people for a lifetime.
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Why would someone do that to a child?
It makes me sad every time I see it. I saw it again today and I had to keep myself from saying something—but really, should I have stopped myself? Because someone needs to give these people a clue that they are missing an opportunity for greatness…
I’m talking about parents/caregivers walking children in strollers yakking on their phones like multi-tasking maniacs or worse, with their earbuds in—choosing to tune out instead of tune in to a child’s basic developmental needs.
It is the equivalent of someone walking up to you and saying, “Hi, what’s your name?” and instead of interacting you pull out your phone and pop in your earbuds, staring past them as if they are invisible. An artificial digital life more important than human interaction.
So gather round people because I’m standing tall on this soap box and grabbing the microphone to tell you something that grown adults should know better:
Put down the god-damn phone and be present!
And if you are the caregiver of a child and you are taking them on a walk—for whatever reason: change of scenery, gotta get out of the house before you’ll go mad, calming down a fussy child, routine, sense of duty—interact with the child for the love of creating a well-adjusted, intelligent, emotionally stable individual!
My kids are 15 and 16. And from the MOMENT THEY WERE BORN I never stopped talking to them. People in Target probably thought I was a crazy, sleep deprived weirdo as I walked down the aisles having a full conversation with my infant, “Should we get some formula today? Do you think it’s on sale this week? Oh look! Oreos! If Momma is going to survive this infancy stage that is like the Groundhog Day movie she’s gonna need a lot of Oreos…”
When I drove my son to daycare on the way to work, his car seat facing the rear, I would sing songs to him the entire half-hour commute. And when I ran out of material, I made up new material:
♪♫ Mommy loves Logan, Mommy loves Logan, yes she does, yes she does!
Mommy loves Logan, Mommy loves Logan, just because, just because! ♪♫
When my son was at preschool and it was just me and my toddler daughter, did I want to plunk her down in front of a taped from PBS loop of Elmo’s World to complete the break I desperately needed from raising kids 17-months apart? Hell, yes.
But instead, aware being blessed with the most important job on earth—the nurturing and developing of a quality human being—I put Whitney in a stroller and we sang songs together as we walked. We talked about where to collect acorns that we would throw in the creek (over and over and over again). I would sing “Five Little Pumpkins” in June for the millionth time every time Whitney said, “Punkins again!”
Now this is where I get to brag:
- My kids walked early (8 months and 10 months)
- My kids talked early (full sentences by 18 months, first words included perfectly pronounced “helicopter” and “Afghanistan”)
- My kids potty trained early (both completely before 2 years old)
- My kids rode a bike early (3 years old both)
- My son only mispronounced 2 words during language development (hopgrasser for grasshopper and blacky webbo for black widow)
- My kids could tell you at 3 years old the names of the entire Executive branch of office
- My kids are honor roll students
- My kids are talented
- My kids are happy
It is not a coincidence.
I wasn’t some tiger-mother pushing them for greatness. I simply interacted with them. I didn’t stick them in front of a TV. I read to them every night even when I wanted to cry with exhaustion. I played with them when they wanted to play (and caught a few winks during Hide n Go Seek). And I NEVER, EVER put on earbuds or chose my phone over an opportunity to engage with them.
The early development years are just too important to not be present in your children’s lives.
Research supports this! From the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families on why early experiences matter: “Cognitive learning begins at birth. During the early years, children develop competency in language and literacy not through a set curriculum, but through interactions and experiences with the adults around them.”
Research also shows fine motor skills are connected to language development. Scientist Karen Adolph (2005, 2008; Adolph & Berger, 2006) suggested that a complex relationship exists between cognitive and motor skills development in infants. To cut through all the scientific mumbo-jumbo she basically concluded motor skills and cognitive skills are connected because, infants spend the vast majority of their existence, when they are not sleeping, learning how to learn.
So, trust me. If you put in excellence, you will get excellence in return. And if there are developmental hurdles keeping this from happening, you can still create amazing people from these little sponges just by engaging them.
Because interacting with children shows you love them. And besides food, water, and shelter—this is all any person needs.
If you just read this article, you are of the species Homo sapiens and your kin have been evolving for 200,000 years. The first iPhone appeared on the planet 8 years, 9 months and 24 days ago. It would seem survival of the species was not and is not dependent on a digital connection.