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Tune In to Fun

Make TV-Turnoff Week a success for your family with our guide.

By Lynne Ticknor, M.A. | null , null

Beginning April 23, TV screens around the country will go dark for seven days as millions of Americans take part in TV-Turnoff Week 2007. Now in its 13th year, the event is a national campaign founded by TV-Turnoff Network, a nonprofit organization that encourages families to cut back on their television viewing and instead use the time for healthier pursuits, such as reading, playing, exercising, or just talking. The Network's motto is "Turn off TV, Turn on Life."

Television itself is not evil. The problem is excessive TV watching and the lack of quality programming, especially for kids. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, children under the age of 7, on average, spend two hours per day using screen media (television, computers, and video games). The American Academy of Pediatrics, which calls the violence and suggestive behavior on TV inappropriate for kids, recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch any TV at all and that older children have limited access to television and other screen media (no more than one to two hours per day).

TV-Turnoff Network wants families to become more selective in their choice of programs in addition to watching much less television. TV-Turnoff Week encourages you to try replacing television time with more beneficial activities before making a greater commitment. If you are considering participating in this year's event (April 23 to 29), hold a family meeting first to discuss the pros and cons of watching television. Your children will be much more willing to follow limits when their input is considered.

We have provided some ideas to try during your family's reclaimed time. You can also visit the Center for Screen-Time Awareness for more suggestions.

Tube-Taming Activities

  • Get lost in a book. Reading aloud is one of the best things you can do for young children. Even older children love to spend time with a good storyteller.

  • Act out stories. Young children love to play make-believe. Pick their favorite book or nursery rhyme and let your child act out the story as if it were a play.

  • Get physical. Remember the fun things you used to do as a child?  Play hide-and-seek, build forts, or design an obstacle course.

  • Play old-fashioned games. Charades; Duck, Duck, Goose; and Red Light, Green Light are timeless favorites that require little or no setup and cleanup.

  • Get back to nature. Go for a nature walk as a family, and collect items such as leaves, rocks, and sticks. Make a collage with the materials you collect.

With a little setup, these suggestions can keep kids active on their own:

  • Get cooking. Give your child a pot, a wooden spoon, and some brightly colored plastic Easter eggs. Put some water in the pan and float the eggs. Let your toddler sit on the floor and "cook" the eggs while you prepare dinner.

  • Make homemade playdough. Mix 3 cups flour, 11⁄2 cups salt, 6 tsp. cream of tartar, 3 Tbsp. oil, and 3 cups water in a large pot. Stir over medium heat until mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pot. Add a few drops of food coloring and knead.

  • Finger paint. Pull out a cookie baking sheet, some white shaving cream, and food coloring. Let your child squirt shaving cream into the middle of the sheet. Add a few drops of his favorite food color and let him create a work of art. Cleanup is easy.

  • Encourage creativity. Inspire open-ended play with open-ended materials: a few boxes, a ball of yarn, an old sheet, and tempura paint.


About the Author

Lynne Ticknor, M.A., is a certified parent educator and a freelance writer specializing in child development, parenting, and family issues.

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