Batteries Not Included

Technology is a magical thing for a mom.  I’m very grateful that when I have to work on a show away from home, technology can bring my daughter’s sweet face right onto my cell phone, for a virtual kiss goodnight.  I can run my online children’s boutique, ROMP, from my home office while watching my daughter play in the backyard.  I tweet, I FaceBook, I recharge, I download and I text.  You might say that technology is my friend, but when it comes to technology and my kid, I have major issues.

When I was pregnant I read every parenting book I could get my hands on and fired endless questions at my new mommy friends.  I’m a type A person, and I thought I wanted to have a type A baby who would crawl early, form sentences by 10 months and learn 3 languages (not including English).  Technology seemed to be the key that would unlock this accelerated world.  For my baby shower, I registered for a bunch of plastic, battery-operated, techie toys. Isn’t that what every post-millennium, cutting-edge, über-baby needs?  Things like their very own iPad that can operate animated yet educational games.  Talking board books and blinking, bouncy exersaucers.  Otherwise how will my kid keep up in this electronic, digital, battery-operated world?  I learned quickly that I was asking the wrong questions and reading the wrong books.

Over the last six years of my daughter, Maggie’s, life I’ve learned that my child can be über without any of that cutting-edge stuff.  And, I didn’t read it in a book, I got to know my kid and observe what makes her tick.  As it turns out, children have been hard-wired with something more amazing than a hard drive:  an imagination.

Maggie, spends much of her day as something other than a 6 year-old girl.  She’s frequently a dog, a dragonfly or an astronaut.  When you’re a kid, nothing is impossible, and everything is interesting.  The best way I’ve found to support her natural creativity and curiosity is to leave her alone.  Dare I say it:  I let her get a little bored.  If she doesn’t have me or a computerized device entertaining her she comes up with fantastic ideas on her own.  Maggie recently built a “snowman” inside our house using her old highchair and my Ugg boots. She used her jacket and hat to “keep him warm” and spoons for the eyes “to help the snowman see his wife.”  I didn’t help her do any of it.  It was her own project—her idea, her creation—and she was pretty proud of it.  Kids will naturally turn ordinary objects into playthings if you give them the space.

I decided to get rid of the flashy, tricked-out toys and instead have stocked our playroom with things like wooden blocks, a dollhouse and a play doctor’s kit.  I went through my closet to find some dress-up clothes, jewelry and hats.  Crayons and paper are always available, and Maggie’s shelves are stocked with great books (some she can read herself and some I read to her).  Doing this made it easy to clear away all the techie distractions like the television, computer, and cell-phone.  I don’t miss for a second any of the blinking, bouncy post-millennium noise.

My daughter has taught me never to underestimate the power of play.  I mean good, old-fashioned play where a kid makes a fort or digs up worms.  On the surface those activities may not look as educational as a computer math game, but they are teaching a child countless vital developmental skills.  You never know what part of your house can magically morph into a classroom.  For Maggie, her classroom is our backyard.  It’s where she becomes a scientist and formulates questions like: “Why do pill bugs roll up?”, “Do stink bugs really stink?”, or “How long does it take for an apple tree to grow?”  When she stumps me, we do occasionally grab the computer to research an answer.  Just a little sprinkle of technology every once in awhile can go a long way.

As Maggie grows and the world becomes even more technology-driven, she’ll have to learn to punch away at an iPad screen and eventually enter the computer age.  There’s time for that.  For now, my hope is that she gets to live the carefree, blissful life of a kid who’s biggest job in a day is to discover shapes in the clouds—real clouds.

This blog was posted on People.com Celebrity Babies.

 

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