Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TV, Toys and children

I recently read a blog about the benefits for children having less toys. The writer listed many benefits and from what I know of children they are accurate. Too many toys over stimulate children and minimize the need for them to use their surroundings creatively.

I want to have a TV rant though. I have observed different ages of children and how they view tv when it is constantly on, when there are only certain programs at certain times and when the tv is switched off regardless of what usually happens. With older children TV will include all screen activities educational and otherwise.

I look after a baby and a two year old in a house all day one day a week. The TV is on all day on ABC2 (age appropriate tv programs) on a low volume. The younger child ignores the tv, the older child will alternate between playing and watching tv minute by minute. These are not children who are content or even encouraged to sit for any length of time on the couch and watch tv. When I turn the tv off it does not worry them at all and they concentrate on playing.

Fast forward to a 5 yr old and a 4 yr old, different house, different situation, different parents. These children have grown up in a house with the tv always on. Their mother wishes them to sit still and watch a movie or two on a daily basis so they are out of her hair. Because the tv is always on they are not interested in sitting to watch, it is more interesting and satisfying to get their mothers attention however they can. Thus tv is not a good baby sitter. I cared for these girls each day for a week while their mum was away and we did not watch any tv (they did not miss it at all) and we went to the park, we cared for my horse, I did cross words while they helped or played in the back yard. (These children have more toys than they can possibly play with and so usually play with none of them. They like the idea of toy ownership but do not care for or play with the toys)

Fast forward to 6 and 8 yr olds who, on weekends and holidays are allowed to play screen activities of all kinds for 6 or 8 hours a day. I turned off and forbade all of these one day, dealt patiently with the whining, and the kids discovered they could play games on the trampoline. At first their games reflected their screen games (pokemon, mario) but with 6 months they were playing games from books they had read, from experiences they had had and about animals they played with.

Fast forward to 10 and 11 yr olds. Even at this age, turning off the tv and playing with them, reading to them, and refusing to allow the tv to be turned on before a certain time resulted in better obedience, more creative time fillers and more reading and problem solving and experiences. We built a fort out of hay in the shed and through pine cones at invisible monsters, we tried to build a bridge across a patch of knee deep cow mud.

It is never too late to turn off and leave off electronic entertainment and, after dealing with the whining, enjoying spending time with children. Sometimes even just sitting outside reading a book or doing a cross word while they play helps them feel valued. Sometimes insisting that they go outside or into their bedrooms or whatever to play while you are busy gives them time to be creative on their own. Do plan to spend time with your children either doing what they enjoy (barbies, babies, tea party, cars, pokemon, soccer) or teach them to do something you enjoy (fishing, cooking, sewing, craft, painting, gardening) They will live either.

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