When I tell people that my toddler rarely watches television, the most common response I hear is, “What on Earth does she do all day?” Unfortunately, many parents have difficulty comprehending what a child might do all day if she isn’t sitting in front of a glowing screen. Many parents allow their children to watch four, five, or even six hours of television on any given day. When they try to give up the habit, they are left wondering, “What are we supposed to do now?”
There are plenty of fun things to do with your child that don’t involve television. If you’re trying to turn off the boob tube and need a few entertaining suggestions, here are some fun activities to try.
1. Play board games. When was the last time you sat down with your kids and played Candy Land or Monopoly? You may have forgotten just how much fun board games are as an alternative to television. From Uno to Trivial Pursuit, you can keep your kids entertained for hours with board games and card games. These are educational alternatives to television and they facilitate bonding between you and your kids. Take a trip to your local book store or toy store to pick out a game that you and all of your children will enjoy.
2. Read books. It should be obvious that books are among the best alternatives to television, but many parents completely forget about the joys of reading to their children. My own daughter, who is nearly three years old, has never gone an entire day without reading a book to her. On more than one occasion, I’ve offered to allow her to watch a movie, and she has responded, “No thank you. I would prefer to read a book.” I believe that this good habit will foster lifelong learning and a strong attention span. Build a love of literacy now to keep your child smart and creative throughout life.
3. Play make-believe. Children who watch too much television often lack the creativity of kids who engage in make-believe play on a regular basis. Offer your child plenty of old-fashioned toys, such as wooden trains and farm animals. These help your child to develop her own play-scenarios and imaginative games. If you want, involve yourself in these games. You can “be” one toy while your child role-plays another. These alternatives to TV can help your child learn to self-entertain and to solve pretend problems. Until the last few decades, most children used make-believe play as their primary source of both entertainment and social education.
4. Create something. There are dozens of simple art projects that you can do at home with your child. Print coloring sheets. Make paper-bag puppets. Make sock puppets. Buy some washable finger paint and give your child an empty cardboard box. Make crowns, bead jewelry and cardboard swords. Make a book. Make recycled paper. Build a drum. Build a rainstick. The possibilities for creative, artistic activities are absolutely limitless. Do something creative to give your child a fun alternative to watching television all day.
5. Kick your kids out of the house. When was the last time your child played in the rain, climbed a tree, or build a castle in a sandbox? Children today spend so much time in front of the television that it leaves almost no time for outdoor play. However, these everyday outdoor activities are essential for a child’s overall physical, emotional and cognitive development. Outdoor play improves your child’s creativity and attention span. If they aren’t into the idea, join them in a game of tag or hide-and-seek. Odds are high that you could stand the exercise, too.