School holidays are looming and with it the dilemma on how to entertain your child. Thoughts of children slouching around in front of the TV all day whilst parents are still at work dredges up mixed feelings of relief and trepidation:
At least they’ll be entertained and kept out of mischief but we know that too much TV cannot be a good thing.
The first 2 years of life are considered a critical time for brain development. TV and other electronic media can get in the way of exploring, playing, and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development.
As kids get older, too much screen time can interfere with activities such as being physically active, reading, doing homework, playing with friends, and spending time with family.
But TV does not have to be the evil electronic monster turning our babies, toddlers and children into a generation of square-eyed ‘blobs’. Research has shown that not only is television (with controlled and limited screen time) good for kids – it actually makes them smarter.
Here is how:
1. Watch TV with your child
- Watching TV with your kids allows parents to get a check the content of what they are viewing and allows parents to provide input, guidance and perspective on what they are seeing.
- Children who watch educational programs in the company of caregivers actually learn more from the material than children who view without co-viewing caregivers. Why? Children pay more attention to the TV, and view the material as more important, when a parent/caregiver watches with them.
2. TV can help kids learn about a variety of subjects
- If there’s a subject your child enjoys, more likely than not, there is a TV show, movie, or educational DVD or You-Tube clip that explores the subject in detail. You might be even be surprised to find out how many kids watch and love educational shows aimed at adults – “Masterchef” and “Who wants to be a Millionaire come to mind.
- Most children are not able to visit the rain forest or see a giraffe in the wild, but many have seen these things on TV.
3. TV can help build analytical thinking skills
- Asking questions such as “What do you think will happen next?” “Who did it?” “What will the result be?” “What could that character have done instead?” will help children learn to think, problem solve, and predict, making TV viewing a more active experience
- Compare and contrast: Develop these skills by comparing characters in movies, sitcoms, or even reality shows.
4. Use TV and movies to motivate children to read books.
- Many of the movies and TV programmes are based on books. Encourage children to read the book or read the book with younger children and then allow them to see the movie. Discussions comparing and contrasting the book and the movie will facilitate language development and thinking skills.
5. Discuss Advertising
- Young children often do not understand the difference between the TV programme and an advert. It is import to discuss the role and purpose of advertising. Thinking skills and creative skills can be developed in older children by discussing and analyzing the methods that advertisers use.
6. Good role models and examples on TV can positively influence children & teach social skills.
- Children are influenced by people they see on television, especially other kids. Obviously, this can have a negative result, but it can be positive too. As kids see their favorite characters making positive choices, they will be influenced in a good way. Parents can also point out positive traits that characters display and thereby spark valuable family discussions
- When children of the same age all watch the same programme, they talk and recreate parts of that programme in their play. This is important for group inclusion as well as the development of social narratives.
7. TV shows can inspire kids to try new activities and engage in learning.
- Children enjoy learning activities more if it involves their favorite characters. TV characters can be very motivating especially for younger children.
We live in a rich media environment with so much choice and whilst the web is very open, it is much easier to control what is suitable for children to watch on TV and how much time they spend watching.
So, sure, you may want to throw up when you hear the theme song to Barney, Dora Explorer or Ben 10 yet again!
But maybe you don’t need to feel so guilty about it. 😳
Your son is 2 years old and still isn’t talking. He says a few words, but compared with his peers you think he’s way behind. You remember that his sister could put whole sentences together at the same age. Hoping he will catch up, you postpone seeking professional advice. Some kids are early walkers and some are early talkers, you tell yourself. Nothing to worry about…
This scenario is common among parents of kids who are slow to speak. Unless they observe other areas of “slowness” during early development, parents may hesitate to seek advice. Some may excuse the lack of talking by reassuring themselves that “he’ll outgrow it” or “she’s just more interested in physical things.” After all, wasn’t Einstein late to talk? This can be a very confusing situation for parents who want to do the best for their child.
Whilst it is important to recognize that every child is unique and develops at his/her own pace, knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development will assist you in making a decision regarding referral to a speech and language therapist. Below is a chart of “typical” language development in children.
LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT CHART
|AGE OF CHILD
|TYPICAL LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT
| 6 – 8 months
- Vocalization with intonation
- Responds to human voices without visual cues by turning his head and eyes
- Responds appropriately to friendly and angry tones
- Enjoys social games like peek- a- boo
- Babbling sounds include p, b, m
- Uses one or more words with meaning (this may be a fragment of a word)
- Understands simple instructions, especially if vocal or physical cues are given
- Practices inflection
- Is aware of the social value of speech
- Responds to name
- Has a vocabulary of 10-20 words.
- Produces more than 5 consonant sounds, like m, w, n, p, and b.
- Begins to use two words together (“mommy shoe” meaning “mommy’s shoe”).
- Points to some body parts
- Follows simple commands (“Give me the ball”).
- Pretend play beginning.
|2 years (24 months)
- Approximately 2/3 of what child says should be intelligible
- Vocabulary of approximately 150-300 words
- Rhythm and fluency often poor
- Volume and pitch of voice not yet well-controlled
- Can use two pronouns correctly: I, me, you, although me and I are often confused
- My and mine are beginning to emerge
- Responds to such commands as “show me your eyes (nose, mouth, hair)”
- Puts many actions together during play like stirring, pouring, scooping, and feeding a doll.
|3 years (36 months)
- Use pronouns I, you, me correctly
- Is using some plurals and past tenses
- Knows at least three prepositions, usually in, on, under
- Knows chief parts of body and should be able to indicate these if not name
- Handles three word sentences easily
- Has in the neighborhood of 900-1000 words
- About 90% of what child says should be intelligible
- Verbs begin to predominate
- Begins to use negative words – no, can’t don’t
- Understands most simple questions dealing with his environment and activities
- Relates his experiences so that they can be followed with reason
- Able to reason out such questions as “what must you do when you are sleepy, hungry, cool, or thirsty?”
- Should be able to give his sex, name, age
- Should not be expected to answer all questions even though he understands what is expected
- Asks lots of questions.
- Most regular and irregular past tense verbs are used correctly.
- Understands most questions but has difficulty answering “how” and “why.”
- Can retell stories and recent past events.
- Uses the pronouns: they, us, hers, his, them, her, its, our, him, myself, ours, their, theirs, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves.
- Knows names of familiar animals
- Can use at least four prepositions or can demonstrate his understanding of their meaning when given commands
- Knows one or more colors
- Can repeat 4 digits when they are given slowly
- Can usually repeat words of four syllables
- Demonstrates understanding of over and under
- Has most vowels and diphthongs and the consonants p, b, m, w, n well established
- Often indulges in make-believe
- Extensive verbalization as he carries out activities
- Understands such concepts as longer, larger, when a contrast is presented
Many late talkers do “grow out of it,” but many do not. It can be difficult to predict which children will not catch up to their peers. However, a list of risk factors has been identified, which suggest that a child is more likely to have continuing language difficulties. These include:
- quiet as an infant; little babbling
- a history of ear infections
- Limited number of consonant sounds (e.g., p, b, m, t, d, n, y, k, g, etc.)
- does not link pretend ideas and actions together while playing
- does not imitate (copy) words
- uses mostly nouns (names of people, places, things), and few verbs (action words)
- difficulty playing with peers (poor social skills)
- a family history of communication delay, learning disabilities, or academic difficulties
- a mild comprehension (understanding) delay for his or her age
- uses few gestures to communicate
What about the group of late talkers who seem to catch up on their own without intervention?
Even though a large percentage of these children appear to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school, studies are showing that this group of children do not perform as well as their peers in certain aspects of language use such as language complexity and grammar.
So, back to my maxim – when in doubt, check it out,