Children do learn from shows—but reading, playing, and imagining is definitely better

My children have been really into Dr. Seuss lately. It’s fun reading longer books to them with real stories and lessons. They love The Grinch who Stole Christmas. And Grinch’s lesson that  “Christmas doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more” is especially timely.

We were looking for special show for after Thanksgiving dinner—I was trying to decide on one of the classic Christmas shows from when we were younger.

I know they would have enjoyed the Daniel Tiger or Curious George holiday specials but nostalgia kicked in and I considered Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph Red Nosed Reindeer, Charlie Brown Christmas, and Grinch. I eventually decided on Grinch because they have loved the book so much and I thought they would enjoy seeing it as a movie.

Watching the Grinch movie did not have the same effect as reading the book.

Lucy lost interest and started doing something else. Calvin watched it but didn’t really enjoy it. He said the Grinch was scary and that we should “throw it in the garbage.” I realized as we read the book, Calvin created the Grinch in his head. He imagined him and interacted with him in his own way. In a movie, he just sat and watched as someone else created him. And in this case, they created him in a much scarier way than Calvin ever did in his head.

The creative processes in reading a book verses watching a show were never so vivid to me.

When we read the book, Calvin was the co-creator of the story, imagining the characters as they came to life in his head. It is a creative process, just like reading, playing, and imagining. But when he watches a show, someone did that for him. I’m not completely signing off Grinch but it was eye opening for me.

So the Grinch’s  lesson become and even greater lesson for me.

I have to make sure shows should be age-appropriate—maybe there were too young for this one. And I confirmed my thought that shows should be limited to just one or two a day. We all need the down time but the more we are playing and imagining instead of sitting and watching is definitely better for them.

Now I try to redirect them from the scariness of the Grinch whenever we hear his song or read his book.

Let’s remember that Grinch started out sad and scary, but what happened at the end… “Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day.” He realized Christmas is about so much more than presents—it’s about giving and spending time with the people we care most about, our family and our friends. I ask them “what else can the Grinch do now with the Whos down in whoville that his heart is bigger? And their imaginations run wild with ideas. Thinking of things I never thought of.

There are lessons everyday in parenting—for the children and for me. We are evolving together as long as I’m present and seeing the joy in it.


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