Educational TV: 6 Reasons It's Not Just a Myth

child watching televisionTV has a dirty name in the parenting world, and it's just not fair. You have to let your kids watch it on the sly lest you be called a worthless parent who plops her kids in front of the idiot box so she can go out and have a good time.

Sure, you just desperately needed a shower since you haven't had one in three days. But how dare you, Mom? How dare you?

Lean in closer mama. Let us school you -- TV can be, wait for it, educational!


No, I'm not talking about those "your baby will be a genius if she watches this" scams. I'm talking the old-fashioned weekday cartoons and the even more old-fashioned parental intervention:

1. Pick shows based on books. Martha Speaks, Olivia, Curious George, and plenty of other popular children's shows were books first. So let your kids watch them, then pull out the paper versions and discuss how everything on television was once a written script.

2. Read up on the educational basis of a TV show. You control the remote, so use your power for good. Sites like Common Sense Media do a break down of what a show entails and how much education is actually packed into programming.

3. Watch it with them. Kids learn from repetition of lessons, and if you're watching alongside them, you know what to quiz them on later. Ask them questions about what happened in the story to test their memory, explain what any big words meant, and answer their questions. TV can offer new ways to discuss troubling topics -- that's why shows like Sesame Street tackle big deal issues like death and health.

4. Go out of their comfort zone. Cartoons are made "for" toddlers, but there's no reason you can't turn them off and tune into more adult fare that you've pre-approved. If they're fascinated with something, hit up Discovery, National Geographic, or other channels that offer more in-depth study. They won't get it all, but that's what you're there for.

5. Teach them to tune out commercials. Whether you're showing them how to work the on-demand channels to avoid them entirely or you're actively discussing what commercials are trying to do (sell them things), anything you can do to lessen the impact is good for them. 

6. Let them play. The TV has often been on in my house simply as background noise -- which means no one is watching it. Allowing them to keep their toys on hand means the tube might keep them in one place, but the play will actually keep their minds engaged. Watch your kids -- you'd be surprised how often they'll give the Play-Doh or blocks the main focus and just glance at the TV.

How do you add an educational spin to television?


Image via jerine/Flickr

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