"All my three- and four-year-old want to do is watch TV. They fuss about having to turn off TV at dinner and bedtime. They wouldn't even play with their friends yesterday because their favorite shows were on. I think I've let it get out of hand," lamented Robin.
I was impressed to hear Robin take responsibility for situation. Television is an easy thing to let take over, with big screens and DVD players, surround sound, 100 cable stations and children's stations. Children are usually quiet when they are watching TV, so it can ease into our lives with no awareness. Video and computer games could be included in this discussion.
Children under age of six want to be near you all time it seems. Why fight it? Use it to your advantage. How? By setting up an activity center in your home. In a short time, center will be more satisfying to your children than television.
I recommend that every home with small children have a child-sized table and chairs. Small shelves can be purchased inexpensively at an office supply or discount store. White melamine boards and glass blocks purchased from a building supply also make an attractive three-shelf unit for an activity center. The kitchen, dining room or family room are good areas to put your activity center.
After you have shelves, put six to ten activities on shelves in baskets or trays. A crafty friend of mine used wallpaper to cover oatmeal and shoe boxes for their center. This is a sample of what might be on shelves:
• A puzzle board • A basket of duplo blocks • A wooden bead stringing exercise • A shoe lacing activity • A basket of three or four books • A basket of wooden blocks • Button sorting in a muffin tin or egg carton
For four-year-olds and up, add art activities such as colored pencils and paper on a tray, homemade salt dough with a plastic place mat or a mosaic gluing activity with a glue stick and colored bits of paper.
Show your children how to use these things properly and how to return them to order on shelves. You might want to change out items every week or two. Give children about a week to get used to using activities.
Next comes challenging part. One night after children are asleep, unplug all of television sets. If you have any budding electrical engineers, you might have to turn electricity to television off at breaker. When children try to turn on television next day, they will "discover" that it doesn't work.