Is TV OK for Young Children?

Is TV OK for Young Children?

This article was featured on Mother & Child Magazine in English and Arabic

Every parent has been in this position where you are tired, hungry, just came home from work and need to shower, make dinner or just take a break! Problem: Your baby is asking for entertainment. Solution: the TV!

A little amount of TV never hurt anyone. However, television has become the “virtual nanny” for many parents. Children eat, play or read while the TV is on. Often resulting in hours of television viewing,

What's the Problem?

The problem is that television viewing takes away from human interaction, which is how your baby is designed to learn and develop.  Actually the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV exposure for children under 2!. A recent study showed that every hour of TV that a child under 3 watches per day increases the chance of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnosis by 10%.This is most likely because of the fact that in those early years your child’s brain is still developing. The frontal lobes which are important for working memory and keeping things in mind are not yet fully developed, TV programs with changing scenes or those interrupted by commercials may seem like separate scenes with no coherent link to your child.

Remember the huge Baby Einstein and “educational videos” craze? Well, in reality there is no scientific research to back up that these videos benefited children at all! On the contrary research has shown that exposure to such “baby videos” among infants 8-16 months was strongly associated with lower scores on standard language development test. While on toddlers ages 17-24 months no significant effects, either positive or negative, were noticeable.

It’s worth mentioning that in 2009 the Walt Disney Company offered refunds to parents for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that didn’t make their children smarter!

However, reading to your child daily and storytelling were found to be associated with somewhat higher language scores for toddlers. Young children need human interaction for learning. This coincides with Dr. Kuhl’s findings on language development in a very interesting experiment showing that babies lean language sounds from a person not a video recording of a person. In the experiment she exposed babies to a person reading a story in Mandarin or the baby would listen to a tape recording of a person reading the books.  A third option was watching a video of a person reading a story in Mandarin.

The results? The babies only learned the Mandarin sounds from the live person!

So,What Can You Do?
  • Read stories and sing songs with your baby. This well help develop your child’s language and attention span. As well as being a first step to literacy.
  • Use an activity center with your infant. Exploring, pushing buttons, grasping and pulling objects will help develop your baby’s cognitive skills, fine and gross motor skills, understand cause and effect and just have fun.
  • If your child is a fussy eater, try feeding her during meal time. Seeing Mom and Dad sitting and eating at the table may influence her eating habits.
  • Have your toddler play with some Tupperware while you are in the kitchen. This activity helps foster spatial visualization ability by placing objects inside each other and fine and gross motor skills when grasping objects and putting the lid on and off.
  • Involve your toddler or preschooler in everyday household activities. While cooking your child can peel an onion for you or help you pour. If you are going shopping he can help point out where items on the list are on the shelves. There are so many options! Remember that what you do in a few minutes can be endlessly entertaining and a fun learning experience for your child.

I have to say that not all TV watching is bad. There are wonderful shows that do have an educational aspect to them.

How to Choose an Appropriate TV Show?
  • First, monitor what your child is exposed to. Avoid shows with violence or upsetting scenes. Research has shown that children who are exposed to TV violence may become numb to it and gradually accept it as a way to solve problems.
  • For very young children below 3, choose shows that don’t have too  many changing scenes or a cluttered background. A show were there is a static background and a main character talking directly to your child about objects that pop out onto the screen clearly is a good option. This format helps your child stay focused on the character and can understand clearly that when she hears the word “banana” and sees a picture of a banana on the screen that these two are related.
How to Watch TV with Your Child?
  • Television watching can be an active experience not just a passive one. Watch programs together and encourage your child to sing and dance along with the characters on the show.
  • Ask your child about what’s going on ? what does he thinks will happen next? point out new objects. This well help turn TV watching into a shared activity and is an opportunity for your child to learn new words.
  • Use new and funny words that you learnt while watching TV. “Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus” from the movie Mary Poppins comes to mind 🙂
  • After television, come up with activities like drawing or outings around things seen in the show.

I hope this gives a new perspective to the use of television with your children 🙂



It’s never too early to start painting with your child. I’ve done painting activities with children as young as 9 months old! I’m sure even younger babies would also enjoy it.

Painting is of course a form of expression and creativity, for young children it’s a wonderful learning experience where they get to explore so many aspect. It’s a great way for your baby to get introduced to different textures,  mix and squish the paint, notice the effects of mixing colors, painting different surfaces; paper,wood or even themselves! You can paint outdoors or indoors, using a brush, sponge, foam, cotton or their little fingers, hands or feet ! You can put paint in cups to dip into or little bottles so they can squeeze out the paint and make squiggly patterns. It’s also an activity that develops young children’s large and fine motor skills,visual perceptual.

Keep in mind it’s not about the final product but about experiencing the process. An activity like painting fosters creativity which fosters your child’s mental growth by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas and new ways of thinking and problem solving. Try not to judge,direct,compare or guess your child’s creative project, this may influence your child in taking your direction of thought instead of her own! “A little assistance and direction can be helpful, but be careful not to interfere with your children’s creative explorations.Avoid dominating the play. Play should be the result of the children’s ideas and not directed by the adult. “*

Make sure you use  toxic free paint and give your baby ample room and supplies (don’t give too many choices in the beginning it may be overwhelming). Children work well in defined spaces so you can spread a mat or plastic sheet (used by painters) and put all your supplies and paper on it. It’s most likely your baby will stay within that defined area and focus on exploring all the material! It’s likely your baby will need a bath right after 🙂

While your thinking of this activity take a look at this inspiring video of Aelita Andre, a 4-year-old who has just opened her art exhibition in Manhattan last June.


Great Resources

  • Read more on creativity and play here
  • For some creative play ideas check out the featured blogs on the Links & Blogs page 

*Website: The Whole Child (pbs) : Creativity and Play, Fostering Creativity

Image by jkurl11

The Marshmallow Test

The Stanford Marshmallow Test was conducted in 1972 by psychologist Walter Mischel of Standford University. The purpose of the experiment was to study when the control of deferred gratification, the ability to wait in order to obtain something that one wants, develops in children.

Each child was placed in a room with no distractions with just a table, chair and a treat (the marshmallow) and explained the rules. The children could eat the marshmallow if they wanted but were promised if they waited and didn’t eat it for 15 minutes they would get another marshmallow as well. Children developed self distracting methods like counting, covering their eyes or kicking the desk.

The outcome of the study showed that age does determine the development of deferred gratification. Furthermore, follow-up studies showed that children who had better impulse control “were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent”

This explains a lot to parents about why their toddlers seem so emotional and are prone to tantrums. Another interesting fact is that the part of the brain in charge of impulse control is located in the frontal lobes, which isn’t developed until children are 9 and continues to develop till the age of 21!

So, now that we understand why toddlers and preschoolers act this way. How can we help?

  • Give your baby a responsive and predictable environment. Your baby will learn that the environment is safe and her brain will focus on learning from new experiences.
  • Remove temptations. Now that we understand that some actions, like telling your toddler over and over again not to touch the vase yet she still runs over to touch it every time, just can’t be controlled. You can make life easier for your child and yourself by removing tempting objects from your child’s reach to minimize conflict situations.
  • Give your toddler independence and words to express himself. During this age your toddler is developing a feeling of independence and autonomy. Allow him to do things for himself and help around the house to develop his sense of confidence.  Also, help him identify feelings and words that express those feelings  “I feel sad” “I’m angry he took my toy”. Use situations when your child is going through tough emotions to label those feelings “I know you feel sad…” “You look happy, I see a big smile on your face”. This will help your toddler express himself and help avoid frustration in already difficult situations.
  • Help your child figure out solutions. Once your child is able to communicate with you and other children you can help her solve conflict on her own. Take your child through these simple steps when a conflict arises. 1. What is the problem? 2. What does your child think would be a good solution? 3. Does this solution suit everyone? 4. If not? then what else do you propose? 5. Finally, go through with it.

You may need to act as a moderator in the beginning and help propose solutions, but by just going through the steps you’re giving your child a way to express herself,  regulate her frustrations and develop her problem solving skills. Pretty soon you’ll only be supervising this procedure and lending a hand once in a while your child handles things on her own.

  • Explain the consequences. By explaining to your child the reasons behind rules and the consequences for misbehavior you are telling him what to expect and what you expect quite clearly. This helps your child develop self-regulatory skills and learn to manage his own behavior.
  • Model self controlling behavior. This is a technique that can be used in almost anything, you basically can’t ask your child to behave a certain way if you are behaving the absolute opposite. If you expect your child to be calm and self controlling then you should be as well! Try to count to 5 before rushing to correct your child, make sure you are calm and you speak in a low tone. your child will follow your example!

Remember that any “mistakes” your child does are all part of her learning experience. Your role is to be a supportive and positive guide and assistant. Make sure you try approach situations with a positive attitude especially if your child is having a difficult moment.

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