Entertain me!

Saw an article the other day about shopping carts equipped with TV’s. It seems some grocery stores (Publix, among others) are charging frazzled folks a buck to steer these, with their children happily ensconced in the front vegging on a 45 minute TV show.

Now, I can totally understand the attraction of this offer.

I rarely shop with fewer than three children, and usually I have more like 5 with me, 4 of which are 8 and under. I regularly break up scuffles as I shop. I often have to coax boxes of junky cereal out of little hands. And my hot dogs and my cheese logs often arrive home pre-chewed, compliments of my one year old.

However my kids are not watching TV in the grocery store.

Here’s why. It’s not the 45 minute show I object to. Heck, my kids are watching Curious George this very moment as I type. What I object to is the culture that thinks kids must be entertained every second of every day, moving seamlessly from home TV to car TV to grocery store TV.

These kids are going to reach adulthood with the attention span of a Chihuahua.

Sure, bored kids get into trouble. But they also make puppets of cheese sticks and imagine elaborate scenarioes, complete with dialogue. They pick up a nearby book and become immersed in -gasp- reading. They notice the scenery as they are driving places and begin to make a mental map of their town. They dig to Ethiopia in the sandbox.

When we constantly strive to entertain them, we short circuit a valuable mental process, one of self-amusement. I can always tell when I have let my kids watch too much TV in a day. Mine seem to be able to handle an hour a day without trouble. But if it creeps up to the 2-hour-in-a-day range, they aimlessly walk around, discarding toys helter-skelter and asking repeatedly if they can turn on the TV.

It’s like their imagination is lying on the ground stunned, and it needs a few hours away from the boob tube to revive. During the ‘stunned’ time, the kids gripe, sigh, and pick fights more often. It is so tempting to just turn on the anesthesia again. But instead I try to say things like:

-Let’s get out the UNO.
-Go draw a picture for Grandma.
-Why don’t you go read a book in the treehouse?
-How about racing your bike around the house and timing yourself?

Once they get a little air and a little space away from the screen, that poor stunned imagination begins to blink and move and inspire them. The whining quits and the quiet engrossment in normal childhood play begins.

Pretty soon I’m wishing I didn’t have to call them in for dinner because they’re playing so happily.

Nope. TV’s in shopping carts. Not for me.

(Now DVD’s on 12 hour car rides, that’s another story.)


  1. Oh, good for you. I feel exactly the same way… I heartily endorse pretending, dressing up in costumes, dragging the Lego table into the living room for a change of scenery, getting every single action figure out and having a mighty battle… (I have boys) Allowing watercolors and play-dough (even though the dog eats it – non toxic). However, we do have a TV in the car for long road trips. Never just around town errand running. But that isn’t for the kiddos. That is for my husband and for me, so that we can have a pleasant trip. But the Grocery Store? Come on!

  2. Wow! I was sure they would not be able to find anywhere else to put TV’s but sadly they proved me wrong. No we will not be using the TV carts either.

  3. I could not agree more. Every word. And we’re definitely over our threshold here today…

  4. Bravo, bravo!

  5. Us too, us too! We may watch 30 minutes to an hour a day here in our house–the rest of the time the kiddos are on their own with their imagination. We reserve watching TV in the car for LONG trips…there are TV’s everywhere now–even at the gas pump! CRAZY.

  6. I totaly agree with you. I realized this weekend that we should have more no tv time. We were forced into one due to the main tv in the house breaking. Then the portable dvd player broke. Then our small tv/vcr combo is not working with out major jumping of the picture. So, while i took a nap yesterday the kids made up a game that entertained them for almost 2hours! A good day!!

  7. I agree, pretty soon kids are going to start coming with their own AC adaptors so we can plug them directly into the wall and forget about them altogether. I’ve resisted the DVD in our car but who knows how much longer I can hold out.

  8. Amen.

    Now, if only I could figure out a way to break Bub out of his one-DVD-per-diaper-change habit. (Does this mean I have to toilet train?)

  9. No kidding. How about just plain learning to behave themselves in public? It’s more hassle to take kids to the store or out to restaurants but it’s also the only way they learn appropriate behavior in those places.

  10. I just came across your blog and I really appreciated this post. The world has become overun with tv and I support your position about not allowing kids to watch it wherever they go.

    I loved how you used the word “anesthesia” because it’s true. When kids are in front of the tv, they become numb to everything else around them.

    Like you, I want my kids to experience the world around me. I want them to think and pretend and play. Thanks! 🙂

  11. I AGREE! that is ridiculous…..my kids (5 and 3) help me shop- no, it isn’t always fun or pretty – often times it is loud and crazy but if they want to eat the food they can help me get it off of the shelves and put it in the cart! They can also help me put the grocery’s away when we get home! we too bring books or journals and sometimes they want their own list and try to match up items at the grocery store with items on their list…….but you are right……12 hr. car rides and I’m all about a little entertainment!

  12. i so agree. The brain drain totally does that to our kids as well. They are less content, less kind, less patient and begin to feel entitled. It’s ugly! We tell them their brains have turned to mush!

  13. I agree wholeheartedly! I agreed so much last summer that I thought it was outrageous to buy portable DVD players for our car trip from Maryland to Florida and back. Ha. Ha. Ha. Now I agree about the grocery carts and the 10 minute drive to stores, the library, etc. but for the long hauls, Mama needs a little outrageousness in the form of DVD players for every seat!

    It’s easy to get caught up in the convenience factor of ready entertainment, I admit. I think it’s our challenge as moms (in so many respects, not just this one) to discern what is and isn’t essential to make these little ones into adults who inherit the world.

    BTW – you’re welcome for the recommend at Finslippy. I LOVE this blog.

  14. Oh yeah, I’m with you. I weaned my children off of one loong show a day at the start of school this year, and since the Boy is just in kindergarten sometimes we don’t do “School” and just hang out, and build stuff, and sing songs and read books and stuff, but there are still no shows in our house now except on the weekend. (He doesn’t think that’s school.) On Mondays my two year old mopes around the house flopping on things and begging for her favorite shows by name. We just finished up a show free weekend, and they didn’t even notice between the birthday party and the afternoon at the playground and church, etc. And they have not asked, they have happily entertained each other all morning PLAYING together. (Peeing together on the patio and then having way more fun than I wanted them to have scrubbing it all off with a scrub brush.) I don’t miss shows at all, life is good when my children learn to entertain themselves, though there will be consequences if a repeat episode of the peeing occurs.

  15. Give me a break! TV in the supermarket?!? At the fabric store I could understand. When I was a kid there was nothing more boring than a trip to the fabric store with my mother. Once I flipped through the costume section of the patter book, I slowly started to lose my mind to the bordom of it all. That hasn’t stopped me from torturing my own kids in the same way. It made me a stronger person and it shall do the same for them. All with out television.

  16. Couldn’t have been said better by anyone and I’m totally with you.

    I remember my Dad saying to me when my son was little(er) that no one ever said parenting was going to be easy, fun and totally fullfilling but easy, rarely.

    Is it really that important for people to save the 5 or 15 minutes getting through the grocery store?? I guess for some but at what cost. Our kids are not in control of every situation even though our culture seems to be making it easier to make them think so!!

    Lately it seems like when we are in line I’m learning how to make up a fun game or encourage good behavior in some way. It’s challenging fo me and more rewarding for both of us! Ok, I’m done ranting now!!!

  17. My hubby and I were just talking about cutting back the tube time in the house. God gave them immaginations for a purpose – they need to excercise it more often. I wonder if immaginations are like muscles… if you don’t use them they atrophy… (Use it or loose it)

    I don’t think the TV is in the cart for the kids sake but the parents who don’t want to deal with the kids whom they haven’t spent the time with educating them properly. What’s easier for whom??

    Good post!!

  18. I notice the same when I allow too much electronic entertainment (TV, computer, Game Boy). We have to limit it to one hour a day or we can quickly see the difference in our bickering, bored kids.

    TV in the carts seems to me another example of people who don’t know how to control their kids, who are not teaching their children self-control, but instead anethesizing them with constant entertainment. Honestly it doesn’t bode well for the future of our country.

  19. I agree completely. What makes it so hard as a parent is when my kids get it into their little brains that “all the other kids” are doing it, or have it (the coolest toy), etc. My kids go with me everywhere, and it’s not unusual to have a couple of extras with us too! They’re really rather well behaved in a grocery store, or at least I think they are. I figure “noise happens” and don’t get frazzled by it (mostly). Now, I do bribe them with candy in exchange for good behavior, but TV????? I just can’t do that. TV in a car though when driving 500 miles to visit family- that’s another story all together. TV time for the kids means quiet time for the grown ups!

  20. Amen Amen and Amen.
    Kids can learn so much in a grocery store. Colors, numbers, weights, measurements, etc. Plus, it is a perfect time for interaction with adults.

    No more TV. If a child and/or parent can’t survive a 30 minute trip without a TV — there is a problem.

  21. Amen sister! So well put. This should win some sort of perfect post award.

  22. Wow! I AGREE. What a great post. And what a good reminder for me.

  23. You are perfectly right, Mary! Very good post!

  24. Amen! I agree with you completely! I heard on the radio yesterday that watching TV actually lowers your IQ — and for every hour of TV kids watch, their chance of becoming obese goes up 30%.

    My husband teaches college, and he’s seen such a change in the newer students. They expect professors to teach with a song and dance — or they’re bored. Probably because their lower IQs can’t handle anything intellectual.