In an article which appeared on Parents.com website April 8, 2004, author Beth Turner cites a study that found a correlation between children under 3 years watching TV and an increased risk of developing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) later on. In fact, the study (which involved 1,350 kids and was written up in the April 2004 issue of Pediatrics by Dr. Dimitri Christakis) found that for every hour of television watched per day between the ages of one through three, the risk of ADHD is increased by almost 10 percent at age seven.
>Dr Christakis theorizes that TV's rapidly changing images can over-stimulate the newborn child's brain which continues to develop very quickly for the first three years of life. Furthermore, although the images and scenes on TV may be very interesting and distracting to children, they are NOT REAL and should be avoided during this critical time of brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) recommends that parents not let their children under the age of two watch television at all and exert caution in children over the age of two.
So, what can we busy parents do occupy our little ones instead of plunking them in front of the 'electronic babysitter'? Most of us have been guilty of doing this while we prepare meals, do household chores, talk on the phone or run a home-based business because, we tell ourselves, at least we know where they are and that they are not getting into mischief….right? As a single mom with four children (ages 5, 6, 12 & 14) I can assure you that I've done just that more than I care to admit. However, I have recently discovered a strategy to avoid this negative pattern more often than not and thought I'd share it with you.
First, I had to acknowledge that the less organized I was when beginning my day, the more likely the kids would fall into the TV trap. I also noticed that the more disorganized their toys and games were, the less likely they were to choose them as an activity…the TV was the automatic default. So, with the help of my kids (the TV was unplugged!), I spent an entire weekend throwing out broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces, sorting books, reorganizing bookshelves and cupboards. We even filled a box with items that were still in good shape but the kids were no longer interested in (or wanted to give away as "gifts") and took it to a local women's shelter.
Next, we set up an 'Art Center' which included all the crayons, felt pens, pencil crayons, glue, sparkles, etc. We found coloring books I didn't know we had and lots of scrap paper and nick knacks to be creative with. We put all the puzzles in separate baggies and Lego, dolls and cars in separate boxes and established a FIRM rule that each bag or box is considered an "activity" and they are allowed only one activity at a time and must clean up before beginning the next. (If this scenario sounds remotely familiar, I must admit that I was inspired into this organizing frenzy by a book that I was reading my children after one particularly chaotic day called The Berenstain Bears and the Messy Room by Stan & Jan Berenstain.)
So, now before heading to my computer, the kitchen or the laundry room, I get the kids (the younger ones) to choose an activity and I make sure they are well underway. I check in on them fairly often and take a few moments to really connect with them and encourage them in their activity…we all benefit from this kind of interaction and it definitely keeps them interested in the activity for longer. I have found that being organized, intentional and specific in setting up activities with my children, as well as establishing very strict boundaries around TV viewing, that the time they spend in front of it has greatly diminished as has their insatiable former craving.
This is just one of many great alternatives to TV that works in my home and I will share more in future articles. In the meantime, I welcome YOUR ideas and feedback…we will compile a list of other "Things to Do With Your Kids" from personal experience here at One ADD Place and from the experience of you, our readers. Please send your ideas and/or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the Best,