Angry Birds

So lately, we’ve been doing a lot better about watching less tv at our house.  February was one big, long, tv-watching fest here — we were all taking turns being sick, and nothing keeps the kids quieter (so that they can rest, or so I can) than a few hours of Bubble Guppies, Team Umizoomi or Olivia.  But, since we’ve all been feeling better, the days have been getting longer and the weather is warmer, I’m trying to cut back.

I wish I could say that we were filling that time entirely with trips to the park or the zoo, art projects or story time.  We do all those things, certainly, and they’ve all taken some of the space in our day that was recently occupied with tv.  But we’ve also been filling some of that time with video games — and I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than tv.

Some of it has been Wii games, which I don’t feel too bad about.  We can play together (Liam holds a controller and waves it enthusiastically at the screen, like a magic wand — he also likes to tell us when to “Go!” and to clap when we’re finished) and we’re up and moving around (at least a little).  I could also make a semi-plausible argument that it could help with coordination and/or motor control.  Maybe.  But, it’s fun, and B’s attention span for it is short, so we spend a couple of hours on it per week, max.  No big deal.

There’s another game, though, that I’m less certain is a good idea.  Angry Birds have roosted in our house.  Benjamin loves it.

Hmm.  I don’t know if this is a good thing.  Granted, it’s more interactive than watching tv, but it also appears to be more addictive.  He LOVES it.  It’s one of the first things he asks for when he gets up in the morning, when we get on the train on the way to school or when he gets up from his nap.  We’ve already put some pretty strict limitations on it (in part for his well-being, but also for practical reasons:  he plays on *my* phone and I occasionally may need it for something more constructive than Angry Birds).

I don’t know.  At the moment, we’re using it as a teaching tool for sharing (with mommy), being patient (it’s not always available to him), asking nicely (“Mommy-may-I-please-play-a-game-on-your-phone” is one word now) and spending money (he gets stickers on a chart for skills he’s working on, like putting on his own clothes, and after 10 stickers he gets a reward — he’s started buying games or additions to the games as his rewards).  But I do worry.  He’s not truly hooked yet, but I see the groundwork being laid.  It’s not the only game he plays — he also has several educational, age-appropriate games on my phone that he plays — but I want to be mindful of the fact that this is how it begins, and then one day, I’ll turn around and have an 8 year old that doesn’t want to play outside, ever.

Having games for him to play on the phone is wonderful – for train trips, long waits at the doctor’s office, that interminable time between placing your order at a restaurant and when the food comes.  But it’s just supposed to be fun, and something you do when you don’t have anything else to be doing.  I have to keep an eye on him, because I don’t want it to get in the way of more important things — and everything is more important.

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