Thursday, November 19, 2009

A new era of documentaries

We let River watch 30-60 minutes of programming per day. Usually it’s from PBS sprout, or it’s an educational DVD in Spanish, such as Plazo Sesamo.

But yesterday, Mark set me up with Spanish language cable. When River saw a program on water, he became excited by the seals. “Focas!” he called out in Spanish, pointing at the TV. He was fixated on the show. Why not let him learn about water, mountains, ice, animals and insects, I thought. So I watched it with him.

It was more interesting for me than the kids shows are. And the Spanish was faster and more sophisticated in the kids shows. An animal appeared that I thought might be a wolf. But then I heard the narrator describe it as a grey fox. “Un zorro gris,” I could tell River, as if I knew. The white birds with black necks floating on the beautiful water? No idea. But then he described them as black necked swans. Great. “Gansos de cuello negro,” I told River. I was learning too.

Mark has been on my case for years to replace my reality-show staples with something more educational. I’ve resisted because the moments when I’m watching reality TV are usually when I’m tired and I don’t feel like taking in knowledge. But if this is River’s TV time, why not learn something with him.

So I waved the DVR wand and recorded a bunch of animal and nature programs, as well as one on major construction. We watched the first today, a Discovery program about a Spanish guy who rescues chimpanzees from Angola and brings them to a reserve in South Africa. It was a little more mature that I might have liked for River. We saw the chimpanzees living in difficult conditions as well as the scary process of tranquilizing them. But he seemed interested and his attention didn’t waver for the 20 minutes I let him watch it.

Mark grew up on documentaries, so he feels he’s already seen them all. I grew up on Sesame Street and Wild Kingdom. I guess this is one of the fun parts of parenting – the opportunity to have a second chance to learn things all over again.

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