TV Diet Part II
Tracey Frost, founder of the New York-based community center, Citibabes, provides great guidelines to move your kids away from the screen and into the green this summer.
– Ignore the Whining: It’s important for parents to understand that for children, TV may always seem like the more fun alternative. There will probably be a lot of whining when you turn the TV off and plan a “real world” activity, but I promise: once the kids are engaged, they forget all about what they are “missing” on TV.
– Think like a TV Producer: Examine your child’s favorite TV shows from a television producer’s eye and pick out exciting elements of that show you might be able to turn into a real world activity. Do your children love action and superheroes? Find a comic book shop in your neighborhood and make a trip. Is it fantasy they enjoy? Go to your closet and play dress up or, better yet, bring some dress- up clothes to the park for an afternoon of make-believe. For instance, if your child is obsessed with Dora, pack a backpack for the day, draw a map, and go on your own “exploration” of your neighborhood or city. Sure, children love watching their favorite characters on TV, but they love playing their favorite characters even more.
– Live Performance: One of the joys of living in New York City is the sheer amount of live performance available to families, from puppet theater to Broadway shows, there’s something for every child out there. I strongly encourage families to seek out local community theater, dance or music and exposing children to the energy of live performance. It’s a wonderful counterpoint to watching something on TV and you can discuss the differences between the two when the curtain falls.
What are the best TV shows for kids? While Tracey didn’t want to name names, she says she selects shows by their level of participation such as those shows that invite kids to get up, dance and sing along. I can’t see my eleven-year-old getting jazzed to do that, but she gets a lot of exercise just going to school and back every day. A little vegging out in front of the tube on vacation and weekends is okay as long as it’s not the only way they enjoy the slow.
Here are some of Tracey’s favorite alternatives to TV viewing:
– Make your own TV show or Movie: Create your own characters, costumes, plot and scenery for a class movie. Let the kids hold the camera, yell “Action” and direct their friends for hours of excitement.
– Make your own Storybook: Whether it’s a story about a television character your child likes or something they’ve made up completely, have your child narrate while you document their words verbatim. Help them if they’re stuck by asking questions about the character and plot, but try to let the child create the bulk of the tale’s action. When they’re done, divide up the words on several pages for the child to illustrate like a real storybook.
– Scavenger Hunts: Scavenger hunts are great warm weather activities that get kids out of the house. We actually use them a lot in the club in our preschool class, whether we’re learning about Australian animals or going on an African safari – we hide stuffed animals around the club for children to find. You can take this game outside very easily, either in teams or one-on-one with your child. Variations include doing a photo scavenger hunt where you take pictures of things on your list or the more traditional version where children have to retrieve items or information from various neighbors or local businesses.
– American Idol Sing-off: Turn on the CD player, if you don’t have a karaoke machine, and let your kids belt it out. It’s fun to play dress up before the big “show”, maybe choreograph a few moves and, at the end, you can even record it and play back the video for all to watch before it’s time to go.
Art imitates life. It’s fun to have a blend of both as Tracey suggests. With her tips it truly is possible to embrace the power of slow without drooling in front of the tube for hours on end.