Until well after M’s 1st birthday she watched very little TV – a few viewings of a Baby Einstein video was it. Since then we’ve slowly allowed more TV to creep into her day: a few minutes of Blue’s Clues in the mornings to allow us to finish getting ready in peace, some Sesame Street while cooking dinner seemed like a harmless distraction. She liked watching these shows but never asked for them or got angry when we turned them off. That all ended about a month ago when Dora the Explorer got her claws on M.
She caught the start of an episode when we didn’t turn the TV off quickly and it was an instant addiction. We thought it was pretty harmless and let her watch Dora instead of Sesame Street while we prepared dinner. Every time it came on she would absolutely freak out screaming “Dora! Dora!” and dancing around the room; we found this kind of funny. She quickly learned the names of all the characters and would shout them out when the came on screen. We saw trouble brewing when she would melt down when the show was over, but again we didn’t see this as a huge problem – just typical 2-year-old behavior, right?
The mistake came when I thought it would be a good idea to get a Dora DVD for our 12-hour car ride. The first problem was that I snagged a $5.99 deal on one which should have alerted me to the fact that this was a crappy movie. Let me just tell you that you should avoid Dora’s Pirate Adventure at all costs (here’s a little tip – it’s a musical, which I didn’t notice until loading it into the DVD player. You should never, ever buy a cartoon musical). The second problem was as soon as it was over she immediately asked “again?” and when I refused and put in a new movie she lost her damn mind. If you’ve ever been in a car with a tantruming toddler and know you’re stuck in that car for several more hours then you understand you’ll do any thing to MAKE IT STOP. So Dora went back in and we watched it over and over while my brain started to slowly leak out of my ears. 60 minutes of whiny cartoon voices singing songs about lost pirate costumes is enough to make you want to jump out of a moving vehilce; hours of it is pure hell.
This Dora-fest during the ride led to a full-blown addiction. While on vacation every time we came back to the condo she demanded “I want Dora!” In the car for a quick trip to the grocery store – “I want Dora!” The moment she woke up from a nap – “I want Dora!” We decided that for the sake of our own sanity while on vacation she could watch all the Dora she wanted but when we got home it was time for an intervention. We considered enrolling her in a 12-step program but opted to go cold turkey in the end.
I remembered reading some of Sundry’s old posts about breaking Riley’s addiction to TV by telling him the TV was broken so we tried it (I think it was Sundry – I can’t find the specific post). By leaving the cable box off the screen is just blue so when M sneaks over and turns it on we just tell her it’s broken. She gets pretty upset for a few minutes but we can usually distract her with a toy or book. So far it’s worked pretty well although we have gone back to letting her watch a few minutes of Blue’s Clues in the morning, especially if she’s up before 7; otherwise our mornings are chaotic. We still let her watch the occasional episode of Dora the Evil Explorer*, and she still loses her shit when it’s over, but the battles are not nearly as tragic as they were a few weeks ago.
*One thing that takes the evil edge off Dora is the fact that M has started to drop Spanish words – “the moon is arriba!”, “I salta” as she jumps, and in front of every closed door she shouts “abre!”