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Help your child to get the most out of TV – 10 top tips

All parents know that television can be a wonderful ‘window on the world’ for children, provided, of course, that what they watch is appropriate and that viewing time is sensibly managed.

Here are 10 tips to help you get the best out of television for your child’s all round development. They have been compiled by Katy Jones, a BAFTA award-winning producer, and Linda Mort, an ex-nursery headteacher and early years’ writer, who set up Child’s Eye Media to produce innovative, imaginative DVDs specifically designed to get children thinking, talking, imagining, playing and doing. Their multi-award winning DVDs are already used in thousands of schools around the country. To find out more about these fun and intriguing DVDs, and what teachers and parents are saying about them, please click on the logo.

1. Capitalise on your child’s interests

Whenever possible, look for programmes/DVDs that are about subjects that match your child’s interests and passions. In this way, it will be your child’s natural and powerful impulse to learn which is the driving force in their TV watching, rather than the other way round. This way, your child will be actively engaged in what they see, so that they will be thinking as they watch, and be encouraged to talk about it and afterwards ask questions, and not just watch passively. It is vital, of course, that your child has as much first hand experience of the real world as possible, but television has a key role to play in helping your child to consolidate their understanding and extending it into new areas to develop their curiosity and imagination.

2. Pre-view

As far as possible, always try to pre-view what your child watches, to see that it is right for your child.

3. Watch together and talk

It’s hugely beneficial if you can watch programmes together, so that you can chat about them. You don’t always have to be there for the whole programme – just being able to chat about one or two parts will be very valuable in terms of developing your child’s ability to remember what they’ve seen, use new words and spark off new interests and ideas for things to do.

4. Link TV to books and pre-school magazines

Buy books and children’s magazines related to your child’s favourite programmes/DVDs, or make your own very simple booklets with your child (just 4 pages will do). These are great fun. Draw the pictures together, with your child as the ‘star’ and let your child dictate the wording to you.

5. Make simple stick puppets

Together, cut out pictures of your child’s favourite TV and DVD characters, or draw them. Stick them on to the backs of old greeting cards, and cover both front and back with transparent sticky-backed plastic. Cut out the pictures and attach each one to a lollipop stick, or strong straw, with sticky tape. Chat about a short section of one of your child’s programmes or DVDs, involving the characters. Encourage your child to retell the events. Give them the stick puppet(s) and together ‘talk through’ and ‘act out’ the sequence, adding small ‘props’ perhaps made from Duplo, toy animals, dolls’ house furniture etc. Encourage your child to change the events and to make up new ‘adventures’.

6. Use ideas from TV to inspire your bedtime story

Sometimes use the theme from one of your child’s favourite programmes/DVDs to inspire the all-important bedtime story. Make up a story, with your child as the central character. Children love this! Encourage your child to contribute ideas. At other times read stories from books with similar themes to the programmes/DVDs your child enjoys.

7. ‘Let’s pretend!’

Encourage your child to make up imaginative role-play scenarios based on their TV viewing. Child’s Eye Media DVDs have achieved widespread acclaim for their success in inspiring children to do this – each DVD includes a unique ‘Part 2′ section showing children enjoying ‘make believe’ and lots of other fun activities that you and your child will be able to do easily at home.

8. Calm to concentrate!

Choose programmes and DVDs which do not have too many special effects. Young children learn only gradually how to differentiate between what is real, and what is not real on television. They can become confused by programmes using too many special effects and gimmicks. Also, look for programmes which are filmed at a gentle pace, so that your child can think about and make sense of what they see.

9. Listen to learn

Listen to the narration of your child’s programmes/DVDs. The best ones will have a simple story sequence, with vocabulary pitched at the right level. If your child watches again and again, this repetition can be extremely valuable in helping your child acquire new words. Avoid too many programmes which are ‘all action’, with just fragmented dialogue and loud sound effects.

10. Variety

Try to find varied styles of programmes/ DVDs for your child to watch – puppets, documentaries featuring real children, nature and wild life programmes, as well as animations.

By Linda Mort, Educational Director, Child’s Eye Media Ltd.
Email: linda.mort at childseyemedia dot com


Watch the free film, Teigan gets lost which is the centrepiece of a new national child safety campaign endorsed by Dr. Tanya Byron, of BBC’s Little Angels, and children’s charities, on our website. Please click on the logo.

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