I don't normally do posts specifically about one of our projects or crafts, but this morning I was struck by what a fantastic tool this little idea has been. I feel like I have turned the power of the iPhone for good. Not that it wasn't already. For the most part I feel like having a "smart phone" has been a great blessing. I am rarely lost anymore, I am able to respond to emails or texts much more easily than phone calls, after our move to Germany I can easily translate things, etc., etc. However, where our toddlers are concerned I know we are all looking for ways to temper their expectations of "screen time" and teach respect for this powerful technology.
This idea came, as most things do, to help with the logistics that comes with the "stuff" needed to cart around a traveling toddler. We were going to visit my parents in Vermont for the first time and I simply couldn't pack all of Levi's favorite books. I was especially concerned about how to keep my not quite 18 month-old entertained on the flights. He loved to read, but I couldn't carry pounds and pounds of board books. So, I spent an afternoon pointing the video on my iPhone's camera at his very favorite books, reading them out loud. It was a huge hit on the trip! Even when I needed the sound turned down on the plane, I could still read the book to him myself. We used them all week long - before bed, in the car, etc.
Now, to be very clear, I am a BIG fan of real books and there are big reasons this method is different than buying book apps. What I love most about videoing his books myself is that he can see my hands turning the pages, I can point to his favorite parts of the page or the letters, it is my voice reading with the inflection he remembers....It reenforces a SENSORY experience. He relives it - the sound of my voice, the feeling of turning a page, snuggling on our couch at home, the smell of our house, etc., etc., as he watched the video. In a pinch, that's pretty great.
Then the idea grew. Could I use this to REENFORCE other things for Levi, tailoring it for his specific needs? (Not teaching something for the first time, mind you. The point is that he has a SENSORY experience memory first.) As many of you know, Levi came home from Ethiopia at about 10 1/2 months-old and he's now almost 3. So, his speech has been behind, we want to reenforce attachment to special people (once he was securely attached to us), we want to help his sensory experiences grow, and of course there are all the basics you want to teach a toddler/preschooler anyway. I am amazed at how this little video idea, born out of desperation, has become an incredibly useful tool. When it comes down to it, the proof is in the pudding. He loves it and it has made a big difference in lots of areas. Here is a list of how we have used it.
(Slight Disclaimer: Levi gets VERY limited screen time every day, what he sees is very carefully monitored, I never watch my own TV shows when he is awake, and [other than the books I recorded, as mentioned] he never had any "phone time" with apps, etc., until after he was 2. He's still never even seen a full movie! But what I love about these little videos is that he chooses them over apps or kids' shows frequently for his limited "screen time." We all know our kiddos love seeing themselves on the screen!)
- Affirmation - When it is a video of a project, like a puzzle, he hears me praise him and tell him how proud I am over and over every time he watches it.
- Technology Expectations - I love that this has kept his first experience with technology personal, positive, education, even loving and supportive. I never have to worry about what he will hear/see and I know it will reenforce a positive, personalized, tailor-made experience.
- Speech - He hears himself using his words, my words associated with a picture or book, friends and family talking in association with a sensory experience he remembers....For a child who was behind in learning English this has been invaluable. Mix this with the affirmation mentioned above and it has really built his confidence!
- Sensory Experiences - A wide variety of fun, messy, silly, varied sensory experiences is essential for any child. For a child who experienced very little of that for their first 10 1/2 months it becomes even more crucial, yet needs to be introduced slowly. Watching videos of sensory experiences reenforced them for Levi.
- Attachment - After Levi built a strong attachment to us we wanted to reenforce his attachment to his "inner circle," some of whom live far away. Videos of favorite memories and the sensory experiences that came with them has been a great way to do that. It even helps with name recognition.
- Knowledge - Whenever I feel like Levi needs reenforcement on preschool knowledge, I can make a video of us doing a puzzle, playing a game, whatever, re: that specific topic. It is an extension of the truth that kids learn best when they play. What kid doesn't want to watch themselves playing (and learning)!?
- Transitions - When we were preparing to move to Germany I made a video of our new German house during our house hunting trip. Before Levi even arrived he had a name for the house ("Pink Germany House" - very accurate), he recognized it and the surroundings, and his transition had begun. Videos of him successfully walking to his class on the first day of his 2 morning /week preschool were also very useful during that transition.
- Keeping in Touch - Since our move to Germany a few weeks ago Levi has been missing his buddies SO MUCH. I save the videos he receives from many of them in his video file. Whenever he misses a friend, there they are saying, "Hi!", and talking about all the fun we have had together.
Some of his current list of videos. I keep them under a "Videos" icon where he can't delete anything. It can only be changed by syncing my phone and choosing files on my computer:
One of his favorite puzzles that he can do all by himself! I videoed us doing it together, pointing out states, talking about where we live, used to live, where grandparents live, etc.
Another favorite puzzle. Imagine all the sensory experiences that come with watching this - the feel of the pieces, where we were, hearing our voices, associating words with actions/pictures, remember the feeling of success! (In one video he even finds dog hair on a puzzle piece - ha! It makes him laugh every time he watches it now.)
Video of Levi watching an orchestra play Respighi's Pines of Rome (a piece he knows from Fantasia 2000). He is bouncing to the beat, having a great time, we are talking about the instruments he sees, he hears us having fun with the music, we are at his grandparents' in FL, he remembers and associates this musical memory with his grandparents (both professional musicians)....Goodness!
We have put lots of favorite friends and family memories on these videos. For some of them who live far away, it helps to keep that attachment growing, there is the sensory memory of whatever the experiences was - boating, sledding, building a train track, taking a letter to the mailbox, here riding out in the sunshine with Neenie, we talk about where things took place, what we learned, on and on....
I'm still getting ideas on how to grow this. I think I will next do it to reenforce Letters of the Week, shapes, etc. I also like the idea of introducing video from our time in Ethiopia now that he is starting to understand the concept of "Where God made Levi," as we say. Imagine his wonder as he sees video of himself in this place we talk about so often.
The options really are endless!