This I Believe

Tom - Denver, Colorado
Entered on January 5, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: sports

It’s SuperBowl Sunday, and all you want to do is watch the NFC and AFC champions beat up on each other. You can’t wait to enjoy our modern gladiators at war with the beautiful finale of the season.

Instead of relaxing, however, you can’t seem to avoid the evil, judgmental eye of your mother-in-law. She stares down at you, disapproval leaking from all of her pores, her expression silently asking the question, “Why are you not playing with your little kids on such a beautiful, family-oriented day?” In the past, you reluctantly pushed yourself out of the Lazy Boy, looking like a dog that had been hit with a rolled up newspaper. Now, with a little creativity and a lot of moxie, you have a defensible compromise. Have your little ones watch the game with you, but make it educational.

This, I believe: That you can watch the SuperBowl guilt-free

Sit your two year old in your lap, grab a big bag of peanuts and start shelling. Shelling a peanut is educational to a tiny child, as she is learning and exercising fine motor skills. The pincer grasp she is perfecting will allow her to hold a pencil more easily when she is older, and that is one of the most basic measures of school readiness. Tell your Mother-in-Law that peeling hard boiled eggs has been a part of the Montessori curriculum for decades with kids as young as eighteen months. Explain to her that your child is learning patience, which is an attribute every kindergarten teacher appreciates. You’re not just watching football; rather it is a priceless parent-child moment. Get the video camera!

Have your child pick out the colors and numbers of the jerseys, and ask, “Which one is dressed like a Zebra?” Animals! Colors! When the teams are lined up for a play, freeze in an exaggerated position until the ball is snapped. Your little ones will catch on quickly, especially if you yell, “Off-sides” for a Freeze Game violation. Your child will love wiggling on the floor and screaming “Fumble!” whenever there is a loose ball. Ah yes, a vocabulary lesson. Think of all the great new words. “Gridiron.” “Illegal Formation.” “Over-priced Bum.”

Teaching the rules of football to your child is a wonderful comprehension tool. Start with the most basic aspects for the little ones and add complexity as they grow up. The lesson isn’t abstract Use the football watching opportunity to teach your little one that timeout can be a good thing. It gives the players a chance to take a break, calm down, and to get themselves set to keep playing – quite analogous to a child’s disciplinary timeout.

So, watch the SuperBowl guilt-free with your kids. You get to enjoy the game, and your child gets to learn while bonding with you. You will also be fulfilling your civic duty by indoctrinating a new football fan. Finally, your Mother-in-Law will be so impressed that she may sit with you and shell some peanuts.

(I am the Executive Director of the Children’s Museum of Denver, and I think my mother-in-law is wonderful.)