It would certainly not be news to anyone that plopping your child down in front of hours of television is a bad idea. But, we do hear and see quite a few ads for special educational videos and programs for our little one’s. They promise to make our toddlers smarter than the average tyke. When we see the word “educational” attached to a product it is easy to be convinced that it is a good way to give our children a slight head start before attending school or pre-school.
The bad news is that according to a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, “ TV watching not only isn’t educational, but it seems to stunt babies’ development.”
This study and others found that 60 minutes of TV viewing a day caused developmental scores that were one-third lower at 14 months than babies who were not watching that much TV. It is interesting that the lower score may not be due to the actual viewing of TV, but it is more about what was NOT happening while a child sits in front of the screen.
While even educational programs like Sesame Street are entertaining a toddler, they are not being talked to, played with or engaged in any other human interactions. It is the lack of engagement that is harmful to small children.
An earlier study conducted by New York University School of Medicine-Bellevue Hospital Center, found that the parents who allowed their children to watch non-educational programs such as SpongeBob SquarePants spent less time reading to their children or teaching them.
These scientific studies found no difference between the shows advertised as educational or non-educational. The obvious factor came down to how the parents or caregiver spent their time with the child. The accepted recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics is that babies under age 2 watch no television at all.
As a parent, your time with your baby is all quality time. Using all of the senses during the day with your child is the most educational thing you can do. Talking, touching, questioning, playing, tasting and going places are the very best education you can provide for healthy development.
Some ideas for replacing TV time:
• Place your baby in a secure seated position while you fold clothes or wash the dishes within view of you. Chat with her while you work. Even if she cannot understand you, she can understand that you love her and are paying attention to her.
• Get down on the floor and play with his leggos or blocks. He will join you and be thrilled to show you how to do it right!
• Take an exploring walk around your neighborhood together. Stop and watch the bird or squirrel in the park.
• Make a game out of housecleaning. Race to put all the toys into the toy bins. Or give him all the sox in the clean laundry so he can find their mates.
Parenting is a full-time job and it is totally worth the effort and creativity that is required. Don’t allow the television or video game to steal important moments with your little one.
You are your child’s best entertainment and educational tool!