HOT OR NOT? Screentime for babies and children

Last week I attended a screening of Play Again, a documentary investigating the (possible) consequences of a childhood removed from nature.

This generation of children is one which is likely to spend more time indoors than outdoors, playing and connecting via screens as opposed to getting out and having real experiences in the real world.

The documentary raised some hair-raising points. US teenagers spend from 6-15 hours in front of screen – their phone, their computer, the TV.  They average 3.5 minutes a day of meaningful conversation with their family. Kids who play a lot of computer games have trouble distinguishing the facial expressions of real human beings. Watching TV exposes children to advertising and the cult of acquisition and materialism, and really the only way to fulfil those needs is to use the planet’s resources, often thoughtlessly.

Tim ‘Mr Where’s-the-Data?’ would likely rip these ‘statistics’ and ‘research’ to shreds but I think it still raises some interesting points for us as parents as to how we manage screen time. We are her primary models for behaviour but I own an online store and I blog – I’m in front of a computer a lot. As well as being Mr Where’s-the-data Tim is Mr Gadget – he spends the majority of his days on the computer, his mobile phone and in front of the TV, for work and leisure. Most nights we watch some TV or read news on in the iPad or tweet from our smartphones. We don’t hang out outside very much and we certainly don’t meditate in nature.

I think the key is balance. As this Slate article suggests, there’s little to support a zero-tolerance policy on screen time (for under 2s, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics). The concern should be about excessive screen time (for instance, more than 5 hours a day) the quality of the programming and whether screen time is replacing other activites like reading or being read to.

Toddlers who watched entertainment shows saw an increased risk of developing attention-related problems five years later (and an even greater risk if those shows were violent). Kids who watched “educational” TV shows exhibited no greater risk.

…Barney, Sesame Street, Winnie the Pooh and Blue’s Clues…. all of these programshave a single thing in common—they’re all (agonizingly) slow. They feature long scenes, they often deliberately pause the action to let kids catch up, and they shy away from wild camera movements and garish colors. Christakis says that fast-paced television shows trip your child’s “orienting response,” which is a reflex triggered by novel stimuli. That’s why your kid can’t resist watching cartoons: Every millisecond, there’s something new and colorful on the screen. Not only could this overstimulation cause attention-deficit problems over time, but there’s pretty good evidence that such shows immediately change kids’ behavior.

Christakis points out that while educational TV isn’t detrimental, there’s no evidence that it’s beneficial for your child. The more time your baby spends watching Sesame Street, the less time he has to do other things that we know are good for him, like looking at picture books or playing with three-dimensional objects.

NKOTB barely has any screentime at the moment but already I’ve noticed that she’s fascinated by the iPhone, the iPad and the flat screen TV. Right now her days are mostly spent sleeping, eating, playing on her mat or getting out and about. However, when she’s a bit older I won’t have any qualms about putting her in front of a screen for a short period to amuse herself while I get some stuff done. Hopefully I’ll be able to balance her screen time with reading, board games, music, sport and outdoor play so that she is able to appreciate that what happens on the screen can’t replace real life experiences and real life people.

Week 35: Teeth, turning, heat and Grandma

This week has been marked by the gradual emergence of NKOTB’s first razor tooth, her growing propensity to turn over and around in her sleep, dealing with the warming up of the weather and a visit from Tim’s mum.

So far NKOTB’s teething process hasn’t been too bad. There’s not been any obvious irritability or pain, though it’s hard to tell whether her new found unsettledness in the early evening has anything to do with her teeth. Just in case,  I have been more liberal with my use of the Baby Panadol and I’m hoping that her teeth come quickly and painlessly (for her and our sakes).

What is more troublesome is that NKOTB has started moving around a lot in her sleep. Apparently the risk of SIDS is much lower now that she’s able to turn over on her own. If her airways are blocked she should now be able to turn back or move her head to breathe.

If she was merely flipping over to be a stomach sleeper I wouldn’t be concerned. However, her wriggling, sometimes onto her stomach, sometimes a whole 180 degrees in her cot, means that I’ve had a couple of nights in a row where I’ve had to go to her because she’s got herself wedged in an awkward position – head knocking against the wood of the cot or legs jammed up in the air. She’s in a sleeping bag which is tucked under the end of the mattress, and she still manages to twist away and around. I’m not sure what to do – a few nights of incomprehensible mid-evening grumbling, an interrupted sleep and middle-of-the-night breastfeeding (as she’s so wide awake that I have to feed her to get her drowsy again) and I’m a mumbling wreck.

Looking to Google for answers it seems the options are (a) just deal with the broken sleep again (b) buy some sleep positioning wedges which some people say are a suffocation risk. Any ideas welcome!

The wriggling in bed issue is linked to the warmer weather as well. All through winter we used the heaviest 2.5 tog Grobag plus blankets and she slept like a mummy. Now that it’s hotter, we’ve transitioned her to the lightest 0.5 tog Grobag and fewer blankets. I don’t really fancy turning the airconditioning on all night to replicate a wintery temperature so she can stay with the heavy sleeping bag and blankets, but it may be a last resort option if I have to keep getting up through the night to resettle her. I’m too used to a proper sleep these days!

In more positive news, this week we had a visit from Grandma. She started off wary and unsmiling as usual, but then quickly warmed up and gave HUGE smiles in thanks for all the loving attention she was receiving. NKOTB also received two lovely books from Grandma – childrens classics Dear Zoo, complete with interactive flaps, and The Owl and the Pussycat. They’ve been included in the daily morning story time ritual already!

NOT: Piccante Caffe, 216 St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy


  • pram access
  • high chairs
  • toys and books
  • standard menu suitable for kids – half portions of everything!

Am I naive to want it all?

I want to eat out. I want to eat good food. I am a mum. I have a baby who needs a high chair. Are all those concepts so incompatible in one place?

Such is the conundrum with Piccante Cafe. On the one hand, they have a dedicated kids room at the back of the cafe which means kids can eat and play as wildly and noisily as they like. It’s possibly the only cafe where kids are encouraged to draw on the walls! In addition there are a box of toys, magazines and books to read, a comfy couch to loll in and they provide high chairs. The menu allows you to order half-serves of anything for half the price + $1 – a great idea for small appetites and to encourage kids to eat adult food.

Staff were very accommodating, cleaning the high chair before use and bringing me newspapers to read when asked.

However, the kids area had a grungy feel to it which was on the point of being dirty – the kind of place where I’d wrinkle my nose at the stains. Plus the food that I had was really average and didn’t encourage me to return. My scrambled tofu with spinach and mushroom was too wet and sloppy for my liking and the rye bread that accompanied it was tasteless ($11.50).

So despite the great facilities for little people I think I’d prefer to go somewhere else with better food and BYO high chair and toys.

Piccante Caffe, 216 St Georges Rd, North Fitzroy + 61 3 9489 7459

HOT: This [Baby] Life, ArtPlay, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne

I’ve mentioned the great programs at ArtPlay before and today we attended a lovely concert called This [Baby] Life.

It’s Australia’s first performance work for 4 to 18 month old children and has been developed by a group of Adelaide artists headed by Sally Chance.

What made this concert unusual was that for certain segments the performers replicated the gestures and expressions of the babies. One by one they made eye contact with the baby, then copied what they were doing, from sitting to smiling to crawling to batting their arms to chewing their hand. It was really delightful watching the babies react to this mimicry, watching and smiling. One of the artists told me later that it was the group’s philosophy to let babies participate in the performance, as often we don’t offer consider babies an as audience member. The performance had been workshopped for years with various babies and groups to find the most effective segments.

As you can see from these pictures, NKOTB was delighted by the whole performance. Every moment was ‘wow! look at that! that’s great! wow!’ to the extent that one of the performers came up to me afterwards and told me what a beautiful big smile NKOTB had on her face the whole time. It was really special to experience it with her.

This [Baby] Life is showing at ArtPlay on Friday 14 October: 10am to 10.45am & 11.30am to 12.15pm, Saturday 15 October and Sunday 16 October: 11am to 11.45am & 1pm to 1.45pm. It costs $15 per child and bookings are bookings are essential. Even better, Rushcrowds currently have a 2 for 1 ticket offer.
This [Baby] Life will also be visiting Sydney and various parts of South Australia next year so keep a look out for it. They’ll also be appearing at Out of the Box, Australia’s premier early childhood education festival held in Brisbane in June 2012.

HOT: Aunty Rozzy + Giveaway!

NKOTB isn’t old enough to start rejecting her greens yet (see her list of favourite foods)…but I’ll be armed when she does.

Rosy Tesoriero is an Australian musician and music educator who has devised Aunty Rozzy range of books and CDs that put the fun back into healthy eating. At the Bloggers Brunch I was given two books and CD sets “Nanna’s Carrots” and “The Incredible Edible Alphabet“.

The books contain brightly coloured illustrations with appealing characters and positive messages about eating well.

They’ve been created for children two to eight years of age, though the bright colours quite enraptured NKOTB and I figure it’s never too early to start teaching her good food habits.

The books and CDS are available from Aunty Rozzy. The website also contains supporting activities and easy recipes that can be made by kids.

Giveaway! Thanks to Aunty Rozzy we have a prize pack to give away containing a copy of Nanna’s Carrots Soft Cover together with two Reciplease, bookmarks and balloons. All you have to do is leave a comment below and a winner will be drawn randomly on Wednesday 19 October. Good luck!

HOT: DryCleaning@Work

I think Spring has finally arrived in Melbourne, which means that I can start cleaning and packing away our winter coats.

However, dry cleaning is one of those chores that always ends up in my ‘I’ll get to it someday’ pile. When I was working nothing was more tedious that dropping off and picking up dry cleaning in my lunch hour or on a weekend. Now with a baby in tow it’s even more cumbersome to drag heavy coats and suits and dresses to the dry cleaners.

Are you like me? If so, I might just have the answer for you.

(Note that this is not a sponsored post (if it was I would be very clear about it). I found out about DryCleaning@Work and I liked them so much I think it’s worth sharing.)

DryCleaning@Work picks up your items from your CBD or inner city location, cleans them in their Albert Park building, then drops them off to your work the next business day. Given I live in the inner city and used their services when I was working, I just told them that I was on maternity leave and could they please come pick up from my home. They were happy to do so because I leave my dry cleaning on my doorstep – they don’t normally deliver/pickup from residential addresses because there’s no ‘reception’ and someone would otherwise need to be home.

The service is easy – all you have to do is set up an account to book your pickup via email or phone – you don’t even have to spend time listing the items (although it probably doesn’t hurt for your own records in case there’s a dispute).

Best of all, the prices are very reasonable (charged to your credit card) and from what I can tell the quality is good – no shrinking, shiny bits or melted trims. My recent dry cleaning list included:

  • 1 x delicate silk top = $8
  • 1 x silk skirt = $6.50
  • 3 x Wool pashmina scarves  = $6.50 each
  • 2 x silk and tulle evening dresse = $15 each
  • 2 x silk delicate dresses = $12 each
  • 1 x delicate dress = $10
  • 1 x knee-length overcoat = $10
  • 1 x suit = $13

Pickup + Delivery = Free!

I’ve also had some zips repaired and hems taken up by their alterations service, which is not next-day delivery but still within a reasonable timeframe. To mend an invisible zip was $15, to patch a pair of trousers $25.

DryCleaning@Work is on my speed-dial now as they’re a cheap and convenient dry cleaning and alterations service and their free pickup and delivery leaves me time to do more fun things!

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