TV or Not – What’s a Mom to do?
By Carla Foote, Leadership Editor
Recent stories and reports about the habits and potential hazards of young children and screen media may leave moms wondering about the choices of media in their own homes.
- How much is too much?
- Is any media good for young children?
- How do my children spend their time?
- How can I get a 30-minute break?
And of course, mommy-guilt comes rushing in to make us question our choices, activities and motives.
Whatever you decide is appropriate for your own home in terms of media use, here are some thoughts on spending time with your young children:
Reading time is a special time for cuddling, caring and creativity. Certainly the educational benefit of reading to your young children has been shown by research, but the joy of imagination, stories and sharing a few minutes on the couch together is the real reason to read. Even if you can only set aside a few minutes a day to sit and read, it does make a difference for you and your child.
Play! Early childhood is a wonderful time for active play. Touching, stacking and sorting for a young toddler soon gives way to imaginative games, stories and scenes for older preschoolers. In our TV-free home, puppet shows were a favorite evening activity in the living room. Time spent with DVDs, TV and computers for young children is time that is not spent actively playing and using their minds, bodies and imaginations.
Outdoor activities require few purchased toys. Collecting and organizing rocks and sticks, looking at bugs and digging in the sandbox or dirt are fun ways to utilize the whole mind and body for preschoolers.
Great ideas – but the reality of how to occupy the children for 30 minutes while you prepare dinner, take a shower or just have some time to yourself still remains. Of course, with a DVD, there is no guarantee that your child will sit and watch while you are in the shower anyway!
How about putting on some peppy music and telling your preschooler that it is dance time? You might spend a few minutes dancing and then say, “Mommy is going to get dinner ready while you make up some new dances to show us after dinner.” This also builds the concept of shared family time during and after dinner.
Make up a short puppet story with your child to model imaginative story-telling and then challenge him to choose two puppets and practice a story to tell you when you are finished with a particular task or chore that needs your attention.
Very young children shouldn’t be left unattended anyway, so the use of the TV or DVDs for keeping them occupied while mom takes a shower isn’t safe. During shower time, baby can sit in a baby carrier with a safe toy attached and listen to mom sing, or play safely in her crib or playpen with a few toys.
Rather than feeling deprived by restrictions on TV or DVDs in your home, think of the good, positive activities that you want to emphasize in your family, and consider how the careful and limited use of media can supplement rather than replace reading, play and fun for your family.
For further consideration:*
American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org/parents.html
Topic Index: Media Use
Kaiser Family Foundation, www.kpp.org
The Media Family report, May 2006