How Much DVD-Time is Too Much DVD-Time?


As I type this, my 4-year-old is enthralled by a Thomas the Train DVD. In an ideal world, I would only let my kids watch DVDs when I am 1. sick in bed or 2. desperately needing that extra hour of sleep in the morning. Wait, in an ideal world, I wouldn’t even need DVDs. My kids would be busy constructing breathtakingly educational products, cleaning the house, and making my coffee while letting me sleep in.

But, my friends, in case you haven’t noticed, this is hardly an ideal world.

Today, after a playdate fell through, his brother going down for a nap, and me needing to pack for an impending move (which I am expertly procrastinating by writing this post, I should note), my 4-year-old proclaimed, “I’m bored.”

If I were on top of things, I would call around for another playdate, find some sort of activity to occupy him, read him a book, or play with him (gasp!). But no. I said, “Do you want to watch a video?” 

I held out on the DVDs until I was expecting my third child (in four years). At that point, with two active little boys, I caved. We got a couple of Blues Clues DVDs and I was able to get some much-needed rest. After the birth of my daughter, I praised the inventor of DVDs to anyone who would listen.

However, once the DVD crack was unleashed, it was a challenge to reign it in. Yes, I understand the need for boundaries and consistency, but in the first trimester of pregnancy and immediately postpartum, I am not excellent at executing either of these. So we created a bit of a monster. You know, the kind of monster where when we *did* say no, tantrums ensued. Often and loudly.

Eventually, after much parental effort, we found a healthy balance where I didn’t feel like I was abdicating all my parenting to the DVD, and my kids were able to cope with me saying “No, we’re not watching anything right now.”

Honestly, I would rather be the type of mother who is able to say, “Oh, you’re bored? Here, let’s go bake some whole wheat cookies together, and I’ll teach you how to say each ingredient in Hebrew!” But I am not that mother, at least not most of the time (all of the time, if you want to know the ingredients in Hebrew). And while I certainly appreciate the breathing room DVDs can give me, I accept that they are not the ideal for us.

Some things I do appreciate: 

1. When they actually learn something, like rhyming with Blues Clues, or when they watch Thomas in Spanish.

2. The down time I get

3. The down time they get

Some things I don’t: 

1. The screen time factor

2. The previews (oy, marketing)

3. The zoned out expression on my kids’ faces

So, until I’ve attained maternal nirvana, DVDs will be my go-to occupier of my kids’ boredom. When I feel like I’m exploiting it, I will probably still feel guilty, but all we can do is the best we can do.

As I finish this post, I’m sitting next to my son with my laptop on my lap (imagine that). He had sweetly asked me, “Mommy, come sit over here by me and watch the DVD with me, because I love you so much.”

Some things will never be able to be replaced by a video, thankfully.

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Rivki Silver

Rivki Silver is a musician, composer, teacher and writer. When she’s not teaching music lessons or trying to practice, she likes to make stop-motion videos starring produce, and was a fellow in the 2016 Cleveland Arts and Culture Lab. She also likes to write, and her work can be found on Hevria.com, where she is a regular contributor, and also on other sites around the web, including her blog,  which she named before branding was a thing. She lives in Cleveland with her husband and four children.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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