Daily Recommended Allowance of……TV?

We as parents work very hard to be sure our children get the correct amount of everything they need.  We have food guide pyramids, a recommended amount of daily exercise, our older children in elementary school need to read at home for a certain number of minutes a day.  Parents can often find it helpful to follow, as best as we can, the prescriptions from experts about what is most beneficial for our kids.

It might surprise us to know, then, that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no screen time for children under the age of two.  The organization recommends 2 hours a day or less for kids who are older. Because our children have access to so many different types of screens–TV, computer, video games and etc.–the AAP has shifted its focus from simply TV watching. The above recommendations include interactions with all screens, not just television.

There is no “good” vs. “evil” in the debate about TV use.  Parents understand that TV has it’s uses and benefits.  It is a common, relaxing experience to sit down with a favorite show and watch a world unfold, characters experience problems, and see the issues neatly tie up in a happy ending. Children are often interested and eager to see some of their favorite characters on their TV shows, and it sure helps to have it on when we have to get the laundry done.

However, it is important to note that that there are some consequences for us and our children if we allow unlimited TV watching.  There has been a great number of research projects focused on the effects of screen watching in the younger years.  Screen time has been linked to childhood obesity, physical aggression, delayed language acquisition and irregular sleep patterns. In addition, the habits formed in the early years can be hard to break–the more time children interact with screens as young children, the harder it is for them to turn screens off as older children. The more information we have as parents, the easier it is to decide on reasonable limits to screen time, and to stick to our own guidelines.  For more information on research associated with screen viewing, follow this link from the organization
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC).

One way to help families make decisions about screen time has been the national week long celebration of Screen-Free Week. This event has evolved since it’s inception in 1994 (when it was called TV-Turnoff) and has become a way for parents, teachers, local organizations and anyone who is interested to change their viewing habits for seven days. And when is Screen-Free Week, you might ask?  It is this week!

April 18-April 24 is Screen-Free Week, a chance to turn off all screens in your household and engage instead in activities focused on family engagement indoors and out. It is also an opportunity to explore ways to create definite guidelines around yours and your children’s screen viewing. The  more information we have as parents about what our family might be doing if the screens were not on, the better able we are to make decisions about how long we leave them on in the first place.

If the TV is off, what are some activities that you can offer to your children when they come complaining they are bored?  Remember that boredom is often the first step in creativity!  However, feel free to use some ideas from this list, created as a support for families interested in minimizing their screen time:

101 Things to Do Instead of Watch TV

If you decide to use Screen Free Week as a means of exploring what your family might learn about creating limits around TV, then we would love to hear your comments about what activities you enjoyed doing together, and what you decided about the rules you will put forth for future viewing.  Either use the button at the top of the screen to send a comment, or log in to send a reply / comment on the blog.  However you decide to address your screen time habits during your children’s early years, remember that you as a parent create the modeling and the guidelines for building healthy habits with your children. Just like a fine piece of chocolate or a delicious raspberry filled cake with buttercream frosting (my personal favorite)–enjoy in moderation!

Reading with Dad

Reading together can be a delightful family ritual.  It provides a cuddly, loving experience for parents and children both. It is important for adults of both genders to be reading with their children; both male and female caregivers provide the building blocks for early literacy. The men in a family’s life may include fathers, grandpas, uncles or another loving caregiver–they have their own influence and get their own benefit from developing a literary environment with the child they love. I will refer to dads within this article, but make note that all the men providing care in a child’s life can experience and share the positive benefits of reading aloud.

According to research summarized by the organization Minnesota Fathers and Family Network (MFFN) fathers tend to read to their children for two main reasons: it is a bonding activity that brings them closer to their children, and it builds skills for school. Children benefit from their time reading together with dad in ways that go beyond school skills. When fathers read to children, they help to foster emotional security, aid  in relaxation of the child, and they get the chance to share their personal values with their child. Research has shown, (also summarized by MFFN) that children who read with their fathers have superior reading skills, perform better in school, and are better able to build relationship skills.

There are so many wonderful books for children these days, but it is sometimes nice to find a book that a father and child will especially enjoy.  Minnesota Humanities Commission (MHC) has created a book list which features quality children’s picture books for and about fathers.  Here is a sample of some of the books for younger children:

Because Your Daddy Loves You by Andrew Clements (2005)
When things go wrong during a day at the beach, a father could do a lot of things but always picks the loving one.

Daddy is a Doodlebug by Bruce Degen (2000)
Written with inventive rhyme, a father bug and his child savor the special joys of companionship.

The Daddy Mountain by Jules Feiffer (2004)
A little girl’s step by step account of climbing all the way up on top of her daddy’s head. (be forewarned: My daughter spent weeks after reading this book attempting to actually climb to the top of her daddy’s head)

Two Homes by Claire Masurel (2001)
A young boy enjoys the homes of both his parents who live apart but love him very much.

The MHC has provided the complete list of father-featured books online.  If interested in seeing the list designed for older children, or for getting a more complete list of books for younger children, follow this link:

Reading With Dad Book List

Find a great book, find a comfortable and cozy spot and spend a relaxed moment together enjoying a good story!