More babysitting this weekend... Last night for a three-year-old girl, and the night before for a 6.5-yr-old boy and an 8.5-yr-old girl whom I have sat for before, about 14 months ago. The latter are the kids whose trampoline I jumped on with them last year. The trampoline is temporarily out of commission so we didn't repeat that experience, but we played games for awhile (each of which sparked its own unique spat between brother and sister) and then we came across a book of string games (Cat's Cradle, etc.) and I found out they had not learned any of this yet, so I taught them (or attempted to, anyway) how to do Cat's Cradle and the Cup and Saucer, which were the only ones I could recall in the short time we had before their bedtime. They were fascinated. I wish I'd had J, F, and E there to do the teaching -- all were much more accomplished at this than I. :-)
Last night's job was really different... The little girl was very sweet; she is going through an extended princess phase and wears her Cinderella [princess] costume (complete with "glass" slippers) all the time, her parents tell me. And of course it was endearing that she appreciated my rendition of "I See the Moon and the Moon sees me..." and the Milne poem that begins "John had Great big waterproof boots on...." (I'm going to have to relearn more stuff by heart for these occasions! I ran out of material pretty fast.) It was a relatively uneventful sit (except for the 2-yr-old cocker spaniel who tried to eat my spaghetti) but it made me feel all the more sympathetic for today's parents and the unique challenges they face. I talked with the parents a little after they got home about some of the issues. Mostly our talk centered around two issues: the difficulty in learning how to manage children's exposure to various electronic media in our high-tech society -- there being not much precedent in past generations; and the isolation of children from other children in the after-school hours, unless they are in day care, due to the small numbers of children (and parents) who are at home during in the day now. We were reminiscing about how in our youth, and in my kids' growing up years, children played outside so much. (In another conversation earlier this week the same topic came up, and people reminisced about what games they played outside. One remembered "Sling the Biscuit", which apparently was like a game I played with my friends, "Statues". Others remembered "Capture the Flag" and "Red Rover".)
I talked some in a former post about the media issue... Judging from my limited experience with child care kids the past 15 months or so, children of all ages are not just watching more tv than a couple of generations ago, but allowed to choose more for themselves when and how long to watch, even though parents do seem to be limiting their choices somewhat of what to watch. I don't know if parents now are unaware of the well-documented negative effects on children of watching tv or if they know of this but find it too difficult to regulate this. It is a complicated issue, for sure, and something each family must figure out for themselves. Parents don't want their children to grow up ignorant about media, but how to help children learn what it is and how to use it judiciously without them getting hooked on it? Our family's solution was to not allow the children to watch tv except very occasionally and under very specific circumstances, and for my part I decided to wean myself off tv, and didn't watch except on rare occasions for many years (and this is still pretty much the case.) I don't know if this was the best solution, it just seemed like it would be easier than allowing tv, having it readily available (ours was tucked into a corner of the basement play area), and then having to constantly monitor and regulate the activity.
I'll post some links to resources about the media issue (websites and books) in my lists on this site.