The Joy of Connecting Face to Face by Sandra Schmidt

Sandra writes: Sometimes people wonder why we don’t have any media at LifeWays, even audio CD players for music. Recently I saw Miss Jane (the former lead caregiver of our suite) and, as early childhood teachers are wont to do, we updated each other on the children in our care. She let me know how the children that had left LifeWays and my care last fall were doing in Kindergarten and I filled her in on the milestones of the children that had been in her care before she left LifeWays to join the Tamarack School community.

As I filled her in on the lives of the children in my care, I told her of my babysitting for a young friend the previous night. Simon and I spent a good 25 minutes opening and closing a box that contained a set of small board books. The first thing he had to master was opening the box (it had a magnetic flap to secure the books) and after that skill was mastered, we spent the remaining time with me asking, “Where did they go?” (box closed), and Simon opening the box with a laugh and me commenting, “There they are.” Repeat. I marveled to Jane at his attention span, his ability to master the opening of the box, his pleasure in opening and closing the box, and his sense of humor (he hid books under the box with a grin). This never would have happened if the TV was on.

As adults we now talk less to our children because they are spending so much time having “screen time,” even though several studies have linked future success in school with how much parents talk to their children. A program in Providence, RI is now teaching parents how to talk to their children as a way to improve first grade readiness. Simon’s opening and closing the box, while perhaps not the most exciting thing from an adult perspective, was a deeply rewarding experience for him. Not only was he learning to use his auditory, fine and gross motor skills, he was learning what it is like to be a human with an adult that cares about him, something that never can be duplicated by an electronic device. That is why we at LifeWays use the human voice to sing and why we don’t use the TV or audio players in the classroom.

Sandra Schmidt is a lead caregiver at LifeWays of Milwaukee, a LifeWays Representative Center.