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Put away the cellphone and take out the finger puppets!

Store two finger puppets in your bag, so during commutes or long waits at the doctor’s office, you and your child can make the puppets converse. You can take the lead from your child, or steer the conversation to promote processing of a significant experience: “Panda, did you go to the dentist today?” You can promote creative thinking and collaboration: “Frog’s birthday is next week. Let’s plan her party together.” Inserting fanciful ideas can lead to interesting outcomes: “I’m going to rent a rocket, and we’ll go to the moon…”  You can model narrative structure by creating a story together. Obviously, the possibilities are endless. But the first step is to avoid giving your child your cellphone and to prohibit yourself from going on it as well. If you’d like to be reminded of the dangers of screen time on the developing brain, read Jane Healy, or visit Cris Rowan’s website:

Better yet, watch this TED Talk:

Dimitri Christakis is a pediatrician, parent, and researcher whose influential findings are helping identify optimal media exposure for children. In this talk he shares his research on the effect of prolonged exposure to rapid image change during early brain development. In humans, it leads to inattention in later life; and it results in impaired short-term memory in mice.

There are many finger puppet sets to choose from, of course. But you can’t beat the price of $6.99 for ten, and besides, they’re awfully cute!