Strangers in Our Homes:
TV and Our Children's Minds
by Susan R. Johnson, M.D.
Susan R. Johnson, M.D., 1999.
Duplication and redistribution of unbound paper copies permitted.
TV rots the senses in
It kills the imagination dead!
It clogs and clutters up the mind!
It makes a child so dull and blind.
He can no longer understand a fantasy,
His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
-- an excerpt from Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl, 1964
As a mother and a pediatrician who completed
both a three-year residency in Pediatrics and a three-year subspecialty
fellowship in Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics, I started to wonder:
"What are we doing to our children's growth and learning potential
by allowing them to watch television and videos as well as spend endless
hours playing computer games?"
I practiced seven years as the Physician
Consultant at the School Health Center in San Francisco, performing comprehensive
assessments on children, ages 4-12, who were having learning and behavioral
difficulties in school. I saw hundreds of children who were having difficulties
paying attention, focusing on their work, and performing fine and gross
motor tasks. Many of these children had a poor self-image and problems
relating to adults and peers. As a pediatrician, I had always discouraged
television viewing, because of the often violent nature of its content
(especially cartoons) and because of all the commercials aimed at children.
However, it wasn't until the birth of my own child, 6 years ago, that I
came face to face with the real impact of television. It wasn't just the
content, for I had carefully screened the programs my child watched. It
was the change in my child's behavior (his mood, his motor movements, his
play) before, during and after watching TV that truly frightened me.
Before watching TV, he would be outside
in nature, content to look at bugs, make things with sticks and rocks,
and play in the water and sand. He seemed at peace with himself, his body,
and his environment. When watching TV, he was so unresponsive to me and
to what was happening around him, that he seemed glued to the television
set. When I turned off the TV he became anxious, nervous, and irritable
and usually cried (or screamed) for the TV to be turned back on. His play
was erratic, his movements impulsive and uncoordinated. His play lacked
his own imaginative input. Instead of creating his own play themes, he
was simply re-enacting what he had just seen on TV in a very repetitive,
uncreative and stilted way.
At age 3 1/2 years, our son went on a
plane trip to visit his cousins near Boston, and on the plane, was shown
the movie "Mission Impossible." The movie was right above our
son's head making it difficult to block out. Earphones had not been purchased,
so the impact was only visual, but what an impact it had on our son. He
had nightmares and fears about fires, explosions, and bloody hands for
the next 6 months, and his play was profoundly changed. One of my colleagues
told me I just had an overly sensitive child, and because I had not taken
him to see a movie or let him watch much TV, he was not "used to it"
and that was why he was so disturbed by the pictures he saw. All I could
think was thank heaven he was not "used to it".
Later that year, I assessed six different
children from ages 8 - 11 years at the School Health Center who all had
similar difficulties with reading. They couldn't make a mental picture
of letters or words. If I showed them a series of letters and asked them
to identify one particular letter, they could do it. If I gave them no
visual input and just asked them to write a particular letter by memory,
they couldn't do it. All of these children watched a lot of television
and videos and played computer games. I wondered what happens to a developing
child placed in front of a TV set if they are presented with visual and
auditory stimuli at the same time. What is left for the brain to do? At
least with reading a story or having a story read to them, the mind can
create its own imaginative pictures.
A question arose and I immediately called
up my colleague and asked: "Could television itself be causing attention
problems and learning difficulties in children?" My colleague laughed
and said just about everyone watches TV - even my child does - and she
doesn't have Attention Deficit Disorder or a learning disability. I thought
to myself: "Are we spending enough time with our children and looking
deeply enough into their development and soul to notice the often subtle
changes that occur from spending hours in front of the TV set"? Maybe
some children are more vulnerable to the effects of television because
of a genetic predisposition or poor nutrition or a more chaotic home environment.
I wondered about the loss of potential in all our children, because they
are exposed to so much television and so many videos and computers games.
What are the capacities we are losing or not even developing because of
this TV habit? I then started to read, attend lectures, and ask a lot more
Television has been in existence for the
past 80 years, though the broadcasting of entertainment shows didn't begin
until the 1940's. In 1950, 10% of American households owned a TV set. By
1954, this percentage had increased to 50%, and by 1960, 80% of American
households owned a television. Since 1970, more than 98% of American households
own a TV and currently 66% of households own three or more TVs. Television
is on almost 7 hours per day in an average American home. Children of all
ages, from preschool through adolescence, watch an average of 4 hours of
TV per day (excluding time spent watching videos or playing computer games).
A child spends more time watching TV than any other activity except sleeping,
and by age 18 a child has spent more time in front of a TV than at school.
There have been numerous articles looking
at the content of television and how commercials influence children's (and
adults') desires for certain foods or material goods (e.g., toys), and
how violence seen on television (even in cartoons) leads to more aggressive
behavior in children (Fischer et. al. 1991, Singer 1989, Zuckerman 1985).
Concerns have been raised about who is teaching our children and the developmental
appropriateness of what is presented on TV to toddlers, children, and even
adolescents. Miles Everett, Ph.D., in his book, How Television Poisons
Children's Minds, points out that we don't allow our child to talk to strangers,
yet through television we allow strangers into the minds and souls of our
children everyday. These "strangers" (advertising agencies),
whose motivations are often monetary, are creating the standards for what
is "good" or developmentally appropriate for the developing brains
of our children.
More importantly, several investigators
(Healy 1990, Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998, Winn 1985) have drawn attention
to the actual act of viewing television as even more insidious and potentially
damaging to the brain of the developing child than the actual content of
what's on TV. So what are we doing to our children's potential by allowing
them to watch television?
Question: How does a child's brain
develop and how does a child learn?
Joseph Chilton Pearce in his book, Evolution's
End, sees a child's potential as a seed that needs to be nurtured and nourished
in order to grow properly. If the environment doesn't provide the necessary
nurturing (and protections from over-stimulation), then certain potentials
and abilities cannot be realized. The infant is born with 10 billion nerve
cells or neurons and spends the first three years of life adding billions
of glial cells to support and nourish these neurons (Everett 1992). These
neurons are then capable of forming thousands of interconnections with
each other via spider-like projections called dendrites and longer projections
called axons that extend to other regions of the brain.
It is important to realize that a six-year-old's
brain is 2/3 the size of an adult's though it has 5 - 7 times more connections
between neurons than does the brain of an 18-month-old or an adult (Pearce
1992). The brain of a 6 - 7 year old child appears to have a tremendous
capacity for making thousands and thousands of dendrite connections among
neurons. This potential for development ends around age 10 - 11 when the
child loses 80% of these neural connections (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998).
It appears that what we don't develop or use, we lose as a capacity. An
enzyme is released within the brain and literally dissolves all poorly
myelinated pathways (Pearce 1992, Buzzell 1998).
In the developing child, there is a progression
of brain development from the most primitive core (action) brain, to the
limbic (feeling) brain, and finally to the most advanced neocortex, or
thought brain. There are critical periods for brain development when the
stimulus must be present for the capacity to evolve (for example, language).
There is also plasticity in brain development so that even adults can make
new dendritic connections, but they have to work harder to establish pathways
which were more easily made in childhood.
[Figure (Pearce 1992) shows a brain cross-section
with labels. 1. Thought: New Mammalian "Human" Brain 2. Feeling:
Old Mammalian Limbic System 3. Action: Reptillian R-System]
The core (action) brain is dedicated to
our physical survival and manages reflexes, controls our motor movements,
monitors body functions, and processes information from our senses. Along
with the limbic (feeling) brain, it is involved in the "flight or
fight" response that our body has to a dangerous or threatening situation.
Humans react physically and emotionally before the thought brain has had
time to process the information (Buzzell 1998).
Our limbic (feeling) brain wraps around
our core (action) brain and processes emotional information (e.g., our
likes - dislikes, love - hate polarities). Our feeling brain gives meaning
and value to our memories and what we learn. It influences behavior based
on emotional feelings and has an intimate relationship to our immune system
and capacity to heal. It is involved in the forming of our intimate relationships
and emotional bonds (e.g., between mother and child) and is connected with
our dreaming, subtle intuitive experiences and the daydreams and fantasies
that originate from the thought brain (Healy 1990). This feeling brain
connects the more highly evolved thought brain to the more primitive action
brain. Our lower action brain can be made to follow the will of our thought
brain or our higher thought brain can be "locked into" the service
of the lower action-feeling brain during an emergency that is real or imagined
(Pearce 1992). The action and feeling brains can't distinguish real from
imaginary sensory input. It is a survival advantage to react first and
Finally our thought brain, the neocortex,
represents our highest and newest form of intellect. It receives extensive
input from the core (action) brain and limbic (feeling) brain and has the
potential of separating itself and being the most objective part of the
brain. It connects us to our higher self. However, the neocortex needs
more time to process the images from the action and feeling brains. It
is also the part of the brain that has the most potential for the future,
and it is the place where our perceptions (experiences), recollections,
feelings, and thinking skills all combine to shape our ideas and actions
(Everett 1997). The thinking brain is "5 times larger than the other
brains combined and provides intellect, creative thinking, computing and,
if developed, sympathy, empathy, compassion and love" (Pearce 1992).
There is a sequential development (a progressive
myelination of nerve pathways) of the child's brain from the most primitive
(action) brain to the limbic (feeling) brain and finally to the most highly
evolved thought brain, or neocortex. Myelination involves covering the
nerve axons and dendrites with a protective fatty-protein sheath. The more
a pathway is used, the more myelin is added. The thicker the myelin sheath,
the faster the nerve impulse or signal travels along the pathway. For these
reasons, it is imperative that the growing child receives developmentally
appropriate input from their environment in order to nourish each part
of the brain's development and promote the myelination of new nerve pathways.
For example, young children who are in the process of forming their motor-sensory
pathways and sense organs (the action brain) need repetitive and rhythmical
experiences in movement.
Children also need experiences that stimulate
and integrate their senses of sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Their
senses need to be protected from over-stimulation, since young children
are literally sponges. Children absorb all they see, hear, smell, taste
and touch from their environment since they haven't developed the brain
capacity to discriminate or filter out unpleasant or noxious sense experiences.
The sense of touch is especially crucial since our culture and its hospital
birth practices (including the high rate of C-sections) and, until recently,
its discouragement of breast-feeding, deprive infants of critical multi-sensory
The stimulation and development of our
sense organs is the precursor to the development of part of our lower brain,
called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). The RAS is the gateway through
which our sense impressions coordinate with each other and then travel
to the higher thought brain. The RAS is the area of the brain that allows
us to attend and focus our attention. Impairments in motor-sensory pathways
lead to impairments in children's attention span and ability to concentrate
(Buzzell 1998). Over-stimulation and under-stimulation of our senses and
poorly developed fine and gross motor movements may lead to impairments
By age 4, both the core (action) and limbic
(feeling) brains are 80% myelinated. After age 6-7, the brain's attention
is shifted to the neocortex (thought brain) with myelination beginning
first on the right side or hemisphere and later joined by the left hemisphere.
The right hemisphere is the more intuitive side of the brain, and it particularly
responds to visual images. It grasps wholes, shapes and patterns and focuses
on the big picture rather than the details. It directs drawing and painting
and monitors melodies and harmonies of music. It is especially responsive
to novelty and color and is the dominant hemisphere when watching TV (Healy,
1990, Everett 1997).
The left hemisphere dominates when a child
reads, writes and speaks. It specializes in analytical and sequential thinking
and step-by-step logical reasoning. It analyzes the sound and meaning of
language (e.g., phonic skills of matching sound to letters of the alphabet).
It manages fine muscle skills and is concerned with order, routine and
details. The ability to comprehend science, religion, math (especially
geometry) and philosophy relies on abstract thinking characteristic of
the left hemisphere.
Even though we emphasize which functions
of learning are performed by which hemisphere, there is a crucial connection
between the two hemispheres called the corpus callosum. It consists of
a large bundle of nerve pathways that form a bridge between the left and
right hemispheres. It is one of the brain's latest-maturing parts. The
left and right sides of the body learn to coordinate with each other by
this pathway. Gross motor activities like jumping rope, climbing, running,
and circle games and fine motor activities like form drawing, knitting,
pottery, origami, woodworking, embroidery, and bread-making are crucial
to myelinating this pathway and lead to more flexible manipulation of ideas
and a creative imagination. This pathway provides the interplay between
analytic and intuitive thinking, and several neuropsychologists believe
that poor development of this pathway affects the right and left hemispheres'
effective communication with each other and may be a cause of attention
and learning difficulties (Healy 1990).
We myelinate our pathways by using them.
Movements of our bodies combine with experiences of our senses to build
strong neural pathways and connections. For example, when a toddler listens
to the sound of a ball bouncing on the floor, tastes and smells the ball
or pushes, rolls and throws the ball, neurons are making dendritic connections
with each other. When a toddler examines balls of varying sizes, shapes,
weights and textures, a field of thousands (and possibly millions) of interconnecting
neurons can be created around the "word" ball (Pearce 1992).
Repetition, movement, and multisensory stimulation are the foundations
of the language development and higher level thinking. The toddler's repetitive
experiences, with an object like a ball, create images or pictures in his/her
brain. "The images of the core limbic brain form much of the elemental
"food" for the remarkable and progressive abstracting abilities
of the associative high cortex [neocortex]" (Buzzell 1998).
Question: What is so harmful to the
mind about watching television?
Watching television has been characterized
as multi-leveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of
our children's brains. Brain size has been shown to decrease 20-30% if
a child is not touched, played with or talked to (Healy 1990). In addition
when young animals were placed in an enclosed area where they could only
watch other animals play, their brain growth decreased in proportion to
the time spent inactively watching (Healy 1990). Television really only
presents information to two senses: hearing and sight. In addition, the
poor quality of reproduced sound presented to our hearing and the flashing,
colored, fluorescent over-stimulating images presented to our eyes cause
problems in the development and proper function of these two critical sense
organs (Poplawski 1998).
To begin with, a child's visual acuity
and full binocular (three-dimensional) vision are not fully developed until
4 years of age, and the picture produced on the television screen is an
unfocused (made up of dots of light), two-dimensional image that restricts
our field of vision to the TV screen itself. Images on TV are produced
by a cathode ray gun that shoots electrons at phosphors (fluorescent substances)
on the TV screen. The phosphors glow and this artificially produced pulsed
light projects directly into our eyes and beyond affecting the secretions
of our neuro-endocrine system (Mander 1978). The actual image produced
by dots of light is fuzzy and unfocused so that our eyes, and the eyes
of our children, have to strain to make the image clear. Television, like
any electrical appliance and like power lines, produces invisible waves
of electromagnetism. Last June, a panel convened by the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences decided there was enough evidence to consider
these invisible waves (called electromagnetic fields or EMFs) as possible
human carcinogens. In the article it was recommended that children sit
at least 4 feet from TV and 18 inches from the computer screen (Gross 1999).
Our visual system, "the ability to
search out, scan, focus, and identify whatever comes in the visual field"
(Buzzell 1998), is impaired by watching TV. These visual skills are also
the ones that need to be developed for effective reading. Children watching
TV do not dilate their pupils, show little to no movement of their eyes
(i.e., stare at the screen), and lack the normal saccadic movements of
the eyes (a jumping from one point to the next) that is critical for reading.
The lack of eye movement when watching television is a problem because
reading requires the eyes to continually move from left to right across
the page. The weakening of eye muscles from lack of use can't help but
negatively impact the ability and effort required to read. In addition,
our ability to focus and pay attention relies on this visual system. Pupil
dilation, tracking and following are all part of the reticular activating
system. The RAS is the gateway to the right and left hemispheres. It determines
what we pay attention to and is related to the child's ability to concentrate
and focus. The RAS is not operating well when a child watches television.
A poorly integrated lower brain can't properly access the higher brain.
In addition, the rapid-fire change of
television images, which occurs every 5 to 6 seconds in many programs and
2 to 3 seconds in commercials (even less on MTV), does not give the higher
thought brain a chance to even process the image. It reportedly takes the
neocortex anywhere from 5 to 10 seconds to engage after a stimulus (Scheidler
1994). The neocortex is our higher brain, but also needs a greater processing
time to become involved.
All the color combinations produced on
the television screen result from the activation of only three types of
phosphors: red, blue and green. The wavelengths of visible light produced
by the activation of these phosphors represents an extremely limited spectrum
compared to the wavelengths of light we receive when viewing objects outdoors
in the full spectrum of reflected rays from the sun. Another problem with
color television is that the color from it is almost exclusively processed
by the right hemisphere so that left hemisphere functioning is diminished
and the corpus callosum (the pathway of communication between the brain's
hemispheres) is poorly utilized (i.e., poorly myelinated).
Reading a book, walking in nature, or
having a conversation with another human being, where one takes the time
to ponder and think, are far more educational than watching TV. The television
-- and computer games -- are replacing these invaluable experiences of
human conversations, storytelling, reading books, playing "pretend"
(using internal images created by the child rather than the fixed external
images copied from television), and exploring nature. Viewing television
represents an endless, purposeless, physically unfulfilling activity for
a child. Unlike eating until one is full or sleeping until one is no longer
tired, watching television has no built-in endpoint. It makes a child want
more and more without ever being satisfied (Buzzell 1998).
Question: Well, what about watching
Sesame Street, isn't it educational for our children? Doesn't it teach
them how to read?
Jane Healy, Ph.D., in her book, Endangered
Minds, wrote an entire chapter entitled "Sesame Street and the Death
of Reading". In addition to the concerns already mentioned about watching
television, Sesame Street and the majority of children's programming seems
to put the left hemisphere and parts of the right hemisphere into slow
waves of inactivity (alpha waves). Television anesthetizes our higher brain
functions and disrupts the balance and interaction between the left and
Brain waves can be measured by an EEG,
and variations in recorded brain waves correspond to different states of
activity in the brain. In general, reading produces active, fast beta waves
while television watching leads to an increase in slow alpha waves in the
left hemisphere and at times even in the right hemisphere (Buzzell 1998).
Once again, the left hemisphere is the critical center for reading, writing
and speaking. It is the place where abstract symbols (e.g., the letters
of the alphabet) are connected to sounds (phonic skills). The pulsating
fluorescent light source of television may have something to do with promoting
slow wave activity. Our brain "wakes up" to novelty and falls
asleep or habituates to repetitive, "boring" stimuli. Advertising
agencies and many children's shows (including Sesame Street) have had to
counter children's tendency to habituate to television by increasing the
frequency of new images, using flashing colors, close-ups, and startling,
often loud, sounds. These distracters get our attention momentarily but
keep us operating in our lower core and limbic brains.
The lower brain can't discern between
images that are real or created on TV, because discernment is the function
of the neocortex. Therefore, when the TV presents sudden close-ups, flashing
lights, etc. as stimuli, the core-limbic brain immediately goes into a
"fight or flight" response with the release of hormones and chemicals
throughout the body. Heart rate and blood pressure are increased and blood
flow to limb muscles is increased to prepare for this apparent emergency.
Because this all happens in our body without the corresponding movement
of our limbs, certain TV programs actually put us in a state of chronic
stress or anxiety. Studies have shown atrophy of the left hemisphere in
adults who are chronically stressed and only functioning from their core-limbic
brain. Even as adults, what we don't use, we lose.
Finally, when our brain is simultaneously
presented with visual (images on the screen) and auditory (sound) stimuli,
we preferentially attend to the visual. A dramatic example of this phenomenon
was illustrated when a group of young children (6-7 years old) were shown
a video show where the sound track did not match the visual action and
the children, when questioned, did not appear to notice the discrepancy.
Therefore, even in Sesame Street, studies have shown that children are
not absorbing the content of the show (Healy 1990).
Maybe the most critical argument against
watching television is that it affects the three characteristics that distinguish
us as human beings. In the first 3 years of life, a child learns to walk,
to talk and to think. Television keeps us sitting, leaves little room for
meaningful conversations and seriously impairs our ability to think.
Question: What's wrong with using television
as just entertainment? I enjoyed watching Disney films like Snow White.
Television seems to have a profound effect
on our feeling life and therefore, one could argue, on our soul. As human
beings, we become detached from the real world by watching television.
We sit in a comfortable chair, in a warm room, with plenty to eat and watch
a show about people who are homeless, cold and hungry. Our hearts go out
to them, but we do nothing. One could argue that reading a book could promote
the same sense of unreality without action. The phrases "turn off
the TV" or "get your nose out of your book" and "go
do something" have meaning. Nevertheless, while reading a book (that
doesn't have a lot of pictures) the child's mind creates its own pictures
and has time to think about them. These thoughts could actually lead to
ideas that inspire a child or adult to action. TV does not give time for
this higher level of thinking that inspires deeds.
Television projects images that go directly
into our emotional brain. It is said that the words we hear go into knowledge
while the images we see go into our soul. Pictures that elicit emotion
are processed by the limbic system and the right hemisphere of the neocortex.
If no time is given to think about these emotional pictures, then the left
hemisphere is not involved. Once again, watching television often eliminates
the part of our brain that can make sense of, analyze and rationalize what
we are seeing.
We don't forget what we see. The limbic
brain is connected to our memory, and the pictures we see on TV are remembered
-- either consciously, unconsciously or subconsciously. For example, it
is almost impossible to create your own pictures of Snow White from reading
a story if you have seen the movie. It is also true that often one is disappointed
when one sees a movie after reading the book. Our imagination is so much
richer than what can be shown on a screen.
The problem with television is that children
get used to not using their imaginative thinking at all, and they don't
exercise that part of the brain (the neocortex) that creates the pictures.
Children are not reading enough, and we aren't reading or telling them
enough stories to help their minds create pictures. Creating pictures is
not just entertaining, but the foundation of our dreams and higher thoughts
(intuitions, inspirations and imaginations). We dream, think and imagine
possibilities of the future in pictures.
Finally, the heart is now seen as an organ
of perception that can respond to a stimulus and release a hormone-like
substance that influences brain activity. This phenomenon is referred to
as our heart intelligence (Pearce 1992). Interacting with human beings
is essential for the development of this intelligence. When we stand face
to face and look into another person's eyes, we meet soul to soul and we
get a sense of who they really are (Soesman). We get a sense of whether
they mean what they say - in other words, whether they are enthusiastic
and passionate about their subject. We experience their non-verbal language
such as how they move, the tone of their voice, and whether their gaze
shifts around when they talk. This is how we learn to discern consistency
between verbal and non-verbal cues and, therefore, truth.
Television can't give us this intelligence
of the heart. It can shock our emotions and we can cry, laugh or get angry,
but these emotions are just reactions. When human beings speak on TV, children
are often doing homework, playing games, and talking to friends while watching
TV. These activities help save their visual system from the effects of
TV, but the underlying message is that you don't need to listen when another
person speaks or comfort anyone if you hear crying. If the heart, like
the brain and probably the rest of our body, gives off electromagnetic
waves (Pearce 1992, Tiller 1999), then there is a form of subtle energy
that only can be experienced between human beings by relating to each other
in the same physical space. This subtle energy can't be experienced by
watching human beings on television. Just as we must use all our senses
to construct higher level thoughts or pictures of an object, empathy and
love for others does not develop from seeing human beings as objects on
TV, but by actively relating, face to face, with each other.
Question: What can we do to help our
children's brain develop?
1. -- Keep the television turned off as
much as possible. One author recommended avoiding television as much as
possible for the first 12 years of your child's life and then encourage
your child to always read the book first before seeing the movie. It helps
to cover the TV with a cloth or store it away in a closed cabinet or closet.
Out of sight really helps the child keep the TV out of mind (Large 1997).
Remember that what we do serves as a role model for our children. We can't
really ask our children to stop watching TV if we keep doing it - that
will eventually lead to power struggles.
When the television is on, then try to
neutralize its damage. Select the programs carefully and watch TV with
your child so you can talk about what you see. Keep a light on when the
TV is going since that will minimize the effects of the reduced field of
vision and provide a different light source for the eyes. Try to sit at
least 4 feet from the television and 18 inches from the computer screen.
Plan to go outside (to the park, woods, or beach) after viewing television.
2. -- Read a lot of books to your children
(especially ones without lots of pictures) and tell your children lots
of stories. Children love to hear stories about our lives when we were
little or you can make them up. Bedtime and riding in the car provide good
opportunities for telling stories. Telling our children stories helps to
stimulate their internal picture making capabilities.
3. -- Nature! Nature! Nature! Nature is
the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe
and observation. The colors are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated.
Many children today think being out in nature is boring, because they are
so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from TV (Poplawski 1998).
We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information
is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it. Nature
is reality while television is a pseudo-reality.
4. -- Pay close attention to your senses
and those of your child. Our environment is noisy and over-stimulating
to the sense organs. What a child sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches
is extremely important to his or her development. We need to surround our
children with what is beautiful, what is good and what is true. How a child
experiences the world has a tremendous influence on how the child perceives
the world as a teenager and adult.
5. -- Have children use their hands, feet
and whole body performing purposeful activities. All the outdoor activities
of running, jumping, climbing, and playing jump-rope help develop our children's
gross motor skills and myelinate pathways in the higher brain. Performing
household chores, cooking, baking bread, knitting, woodworking, origami,
string games, finger games, circle games, painting, drawing, and coloring
help develop fine motor skills and also myelinate pathways in the higher
Finally, the future of our children and
our society is in the protection and development of our children's minds,
hearts and limbs. What we are aiming for in the thoughts of our children
is best summarized in this fine verse from William Blake's Auguries
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the Palm of your Hand
And Eternity in an Hour.
Susan R. Johnson, M.D., Assistant Clinical
Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics,
UCSF /Stanford Health Care and Graduate of San Francisco Waldorf Teacher
Training Program of Rudolf Steiner College.
This paper was presented at the Waldorf
School of San Francisco on 5/1/99 as part of a senior project.
It may be freely xeroxed and distributed!
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To Cindy Blain for her dedicated and inspirational
work in preparing this paper and creating the title.
To Jacques Lusseyran whose book, And
There was Light, literally opened my eyes to the more subtle senses
of human beings.