Sunday, July 12, 2015

Music soothes the fussy toddler (thanks, Doc McStuffins)

We don't let our son watch a lot of TV (to appease the Parenting-Industrial Complex I must note that) but we have put on some shows for short periods when we need to keep him occupied (like when we're getting ready to go to work in the morning). We have recorded some episodes of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Doc McStuffins to be able to play when necessary.

What he particularly likes are the songs. Sure, all kids like music but he really responds to it. He started dancing almost as soon as he could stand up. At daycare when they have the "music man" come in on Fridays he's always the most excited of all the children.

Sure, the shows are effective in the moment, keeping him occupied for those few minutes, but interestingly those are helpful even when we're not around the TV. When he is particularly fussy (which he's being more as he gets older, especially when changing his diaper or getting him dressed or wiping his face after eating) we've found that singing, for example, the theme to Doc McStuffins (or her "Time For Your Checkup" recurring number) is immediately soothing; it calms him (or distracts him, depending on how one views it) enough for us to get through whatever task is underway.

The caveat there is that if the task takes longer than the length of the theme and we loop through it again the effect is not quite as strong; if there is a need for a third version its efficacy really wanes, so that's about as much as it can be stretched out.

For those of you keeping track at home, the implication there is that I know all the words to the Doc McStuffins' theme song, which now I do. However, he clearly responds more to the vocal melody, as I have on occasion come up with my own lyrics (for example, "It's time for you / To put on PJ's…" rather than "The doc is in / And she'll fix you up") and the effect is the same (as long as I don't push it with repetition). While that may seem a bit like cheating (and sometimes it is because the actual words escape me) it can make it more challenging, because then I not only am tending to a fussy toddler but I'm also straining to improvise rhymes that still follow the melody—and an anyone who has dealt with a squirmy toddler knows, one doesn't have a lot of spare attention in those moments.

I should abandon the rhyming obligation, I know, but I feel a certain fealty to at least end the lines with words that have some similarity of sound. Perhaps that's some unconscious consequence of how my parents sang to me when I was that young (not that I recall anything about that), or due to years of listening to pop songs where rhyming is the norm.

And now I'm setting that example for our son, who may someday feel the compulsion when dealing with his children. But if it gets those children to stop crying, he won't mind.


Oh, and speaking of these shows: I know Yo Gabba Gabba isn't new enough for comment about its theme song, but it really seems to dump on Brobee. Each character gets a quick description as they are introduced, but his is the worst.

Muno: "He's tall and friendly."

Foofa: "She's pink and happy."

Brobee: "The little green one."

Toodee: "She likes to have fun."

Plex: "A magic robot."

So while the others get adjectives about their personalities or preferences (friendly, happy, fun, magic), all Brobee gets is his height and the color of his (I assume it's) fur.

Seriously? That's the best the writers could do?

No, Gabba Gabba. That's why we're not adapting your theme to soothe our son.

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