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Television as a Learning Tool

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Dear Debi,
I have a lot of channels on TV that teach the children their ABCís and 1,2,3ís. What else can I do during their TV time to help them learn?
Alexis, Los Angeles, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Always preview programs
  • Always watch with the kids
  • Incorporate books, activities and discussion
  • Viewing should be limited to about 15 minutes
Expert Advice
Cheryl Chisolm
Cheryl Chisolm
Media literacy educator
It is fine to use television as an educational tool under certain conditions. First, you have to do some research. Make sure you preview what you will show to your children. The program should be age-appropriate and should teach the kids something that they are developmentally able to learn. You should know what the message of the program is and what it is teaching kids that watch it.

Always remember that television is not a substitute for your presence. A child care provider should always be with kids when they are watching a program. The point of the program is to have children learn from it, so you should always be present to guide the viewing and ask and answer questions from the kids.

The viewing of the program should only be one small component of the whole learning plan for the kids. For example, letís say you are watching a program with your kids, that teaches them about the color red. The next thing you should do is read a book about the color red. Then maybe go on a walk through the neighborhood to identify items that are red. It should be a small part of a total learning experience for kids that goes beyond simply watching a program on television.

A two- or three-year-old-child should not watch more than 10 minutes at a time. A five-year-old should watch no more than about 15 minutes. Anything beyond that is unnecessary and you will lose the learning aspect of the program because childrenís attention spans donít last an hour.

Use television in small doses.
Child Care provider Comments
Karolina Ramirez
Karolina Ramirez
Child care provider for 6 years
As a provider, I think there are two ways to use television: as a way to let kids relax and as an educational tool. I believe that whatever the kids watch, an adult should to. I really think that television can be a supplemental tool for teaching and learning.
Lynette
Lynette
Child care provider for 10 years
I have two videos that I use frequently. One video talks about different types of insects. After we watch the video, we go outside with magnifying glasses and look for real insects. We have little science kits that we use to study them and take what we say on TV and put it into practice. Kids love it.
Parent Comments
Kayren
Kayren
Has a 2-year-old son in child care
My 2-year-old sonís child care provider doesnít use television at all with the kids in her care who are all between the ages of 2 and 5. But the idea of co-viewing is a very interesting concept to me. I would be open to the idea of my provider using educational videos as a supplemental tool, as long as there are follow-up activities either during or right after the viewing.

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Watching TV with Kids
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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