The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children do not watch television for the first 2 years of their lives. This is because the pixels that make up the pictures on the screen and speed at which they change (not to mention the content), can have damaging effects on children’s brain and eye development. For more information on the research behind this recommendation, visit www.aap.org. At a recent event, some parents presented the idea that not all television/ electronic media is bad- such as Sesame Street, programs shown on Nick Jr. etc. and many smart phone apps. While this argument addresses the issue of the content children are seeing on television, it doesn’t address the effect on children’s brain and eye development. Children have their whole lives to watch TV (and learn to use technology, for that matter), why not give them the first 2 years to just play?
But, what do you do when television has always been a huge part of your life? Maybe you’ve always had it on as you are preparing for work in the mornings, or at night as you are winding down after work. Now you have a small child in your house and you’re not supposed to watch TV. What do you do?
Here is the briefest list of ideas that will hopefully get you thinking of more and playing with that fantastically fun young one that only wants to play with you:
- Work puzzles
- Read (or just talk about the pictures in) books- lots of them!
- Go for a walk
- Have a dance party in your living room
- Roll a ball back and forth in the house
- Throw a ball back and forth out of the house
- “Cook” with pots, pans, spoons, spatulas, etc.
- Explore with water outside or in the bath tub: splash, “paint” with the water and a paint brush, practice pouring water from one cup to another
- Have your child help you around the house (fold wash cloths, wipe off table tops, put things away, etc.)
- Make a tunnel/ car/ train/ rocket ship/ castle out of a box
The most important thing is to follow your child’s lead and just be with them- present: in mind, body, and spirit. While you’re at it, see just how much fun you can have with your little one. Eventually, you will begin to not even miss that show on television because you are living in your own reality show. And, who doesn’t love that?
Rebecca Wilson, MS, is mother to Emogene (IC7) and is an enthusiast for all things related to young children. She earned her Bachelors Degree in Child Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education both from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has worked with children of all ages from birth through 3rd grade in different positions from teaching to administration to consulting. Currently, she is a grant manager for the early childhood council in Adams County.