5 Ways TV Has Made My Toddler Smarter

mother and child watching TV

There have been plenty of reports released about how television is sure to create little demons and criminals out of our kids. The research isn't that damning -- for example, an Ohio State University report has found that preschoolers who watch a lot of TV-- which includes being exposed to background television noise and having a set in their bedroom -- perform worse on assessments that test how well they can understand other people's "emotions, intentions, beliefs, and desires."


I'm not going to try and dispute the findings of scholars who have worked for months or years to make these discoveries. But I am going to offer a simple counterpoint: in addition to breaking their souls and spirits, TV can actually teach our kids some pretty great things.

I have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. I work from home and don't really have a whole lot of help during the day. So I break up my morning like this:

  • Wake up super early and work.
  • Hang out with my child when she wakes up and have breakfast together and chat.
  • Let her watch two hours of Sesame Street and either Super Why! or Barney so I can get some work done. 
  • Try to turn off the TV exactly two hours in, but sometimes miss by 15 minutes because I am still getting work done. Feel like a failure and make up for it with extra time at the park.

I'm never going to shake the feeling that watching TV = sucking as a parent, but honestly, I wouldn't get anything done in the morning if not for those precious few hours when she is entertained. But this post isn't about me. It's about my toddler and what she has learned, thanks to her TV-viewing experiences. Here are some examples:

1. She understands what it means to have a sibling and she's way more excited about having a baby brother this spring thanks to TV. I'd been talking to her about it since the start of my pregnancy, but watching examples of brothers and sisters on her fave shows has made it more comprehensible for her, I think.

2. She's learned about dance. Sesame Street taught her about flamenco, salsa, tap, and ballet. I noticed her interest in dance right away and it spurred me to put her in a toddler ballet class. With my two left feet, she wasn't going to acquire a love of dance from me, believe it. 

3. She used "camouflage" in a sentence the other day. She also links her Curious George books to the word "curious" when she hears it used on Sesame Street. No matter how many conversations we have, it's likely I would have missed teaching her about "camouflage" and it's pretty cool she could learn this by watching TV.

4. She recognizes and is interested in logos. This is an oddball one, but she has become fixated with the Earth's Best and Crayola logos. She calls them the "names of companies" and lists products these companies make. I'm sure she'd make Marxists cringe, but I don't see anything wrong with this knowledge. 

5. She's memorized the words to two million songs. I'm sure she'd love music if we played it from an old-fashioned transistor, but the sight of other children on TV clapping their hands and moving to her favorite songs brings this love out in her even more.

In no way does TV replace life experiences and time spent with mom or dad, but we need to ease up on ourselves and realize a little television won't hurt them -- and may actually help.

How much TV do you let your children watch? Do you feel they learn from television?


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