Many people, kids and adults alike, use television as an entertainer and a way to keep themselves busy. Therefore, one of the best ways to overcome too much TV is to make other activities more attractive than watching TV.
This is the same as any other diet - when you stop eating junk food, you must find healthy alternatives to eat.
Examine your watching habits and you will notice that when you are motivated, doing fun things and working towards a goal, you watch less TV than usual. People generally watch less TV when they renovate, when they start a new and exciting job or when they go on a family trip.
I have found that my kids turn on the TV when I am busy or not around. When I am around and I pay attention to them, I talk to them about school, encourage them to do their homework or practice their music, or come up with a family project. When they are with me, they do not turn the TV on.
My son spends about 45 hours at school every week with all his musical activities. He does not have time to watch TV. Being busy is not enough to keep him away from TV, but being happy and motivated is (trust me, he needs lots of motivation to get up so early and finish so late when he does not have to).
Take a look at your weekly routine and you will see that mornings, afternoons, evenings, weekends and school holidays are the problematic times. This is not that much time.
Start with the weakest point in your weekly routine and give your kids healthy alternatives to watching too much TV. Here is a list of things you can do to help your kids keep busy and not just busy, but actually doing something meaningful and entertaining, fun and rewarding, instead of numbing their brains in front of the TV.
It is amazing how many kids do not have hobbies. At first, kids choose their hobbies by what their friends do, but with the right direction, you can introduce them to many activities that may spark their interest.
In the early years, I recommend finding a physical activity that may interest your kids. Register them to courses for a short time, just to try. Avoid buying expensive equipment and clothing, but stick to the activities that make them happy.
Avoid competitive individual sports (like tennis), because young kids are not strong enough emotionally to understand competitive sport (that develops a bit later). On the other hand, team sports are a great way to improve their social skills, as well as their fitness.
When introducing a new activity, do not ask young kids to commit for a whole year, because they may not even know what that means.
Here are some examples of hobbies: ballet, hip hop, swimming, drama, skating, soccer, running, gymnastics, cycling, yoga, volleyball and basketball.
To support those physical activities, your kids may watch programs about their hobby. This is healthy for them, because it will motivate them to continue, especially when you watch with them.
I also recommend encouraging your kids to learn to play a musical instrument. I know musical instruments are very expensive (I keeping having to buy them…), but they do not have to be (at first).
I recently had a talk with a girl who won "Best music student of the year" last year and is now at the top of her class of Music studies at the university. She is truly a wonderful performer and has won many music awards. She told me she had never had any musical instrument at home. She had borrowed instruments from school or from others and even as a full-time Music student, she had been staying at the conservatorium and played there.
So you do not have to be afraid of buying something expensive. Start small. In many schools, kids can borrow instruments (often basic or child versions) for the first year and if they wish to continue, they buy their own instruments for their second year. Other places have rental options for musical instruments and you can ask friends and family if they have the instrument. To see the academic benefits of playing music, read my post Music for the Mind.
I also recommend encouraging your kids to pick up any form of art or creative thinking activity during the early years, to find out if they find pleasure in them. When my older kids were young, I registered them to a pottery class, to calligraphy, to an art class, to drawing, to cartooning, to craft and even took them to spend a day with a friend who taught them how to sculpt. My son had no arty-crafty inclinations, but was so happy when he learned to shape a limestone, he said for many years he would like to have a studio in his house (maybe he wanted it because he was so impressed with our friend's studio).
I can write for hours about the importance of creativity. In fact, I already have. So read all there is to know about how to raise creative kids.
Again, when your kids watch TV (with you), they should choose programs which promote their hobby. This is healthy watching.
In some cases, I would recommend for kids to find some hobby that promotes thinking and academic achievement, like chess, science, math or writing. Although it is better to choose hobbies that are different from the school curriculum, some kids may find academic or thinking hobbies very appealing.
Reading is a wonderful, healthy alternative to watching TV. Reading kids watch less TV and have higher academic achievements. Obviously, reading parents are a great example for reading kids, but whether you read a lot or not, you need to expose your kids to lots of reading and to make it a priority. Go to the local library you’re your kids every week and borrow some good books. At our library (Yay, Brisbane!), each family member can borrow 20 books, so we take 60 to 80 books each time we go (yes, our kids actually read their books and we do our best with ours…).
If you do not want your kids to feel left out, encourage them to read books that have been made into movies. My kids always, always say the book was better than the movie and that makes them think more highly of books than movies. This is a wonderful trick to make kids read books. I hand you this trick with lots of pride.
To learn how to make your kids read more books, read The Book Whisperer.
Join me next week for more healthy alternatives to watching TV.
Until then, happy parenting,
This post is part of the series TV Diet:
- TV Diet (1): Too Much TV?
- TV Diet (2): Health Concerns
- TV Diet (3): Kids Behaving Badly
- TV Diet (4): Kids’ Outlook on Life
- TV Diet (5): Parent-Child Relationships
- TV Diet (6): Disposable relationships
- TV Diet (7): Learning and Education
- TV Diet (8): How Much TV is Too Much?
- TV Diet (9): Kids’ Personalities
- TV Diet (10): Parents’ Influence
- TV Diet (11): The Right TV diet
- TV Diet (12): Junk TV
- TV Diet (13): Raising Aware Kids
- TV Diet (14): Cutting Junk TV
- TV Diet (15): Routine
- TV Diet (16): Healthy Alternatives
- TV Diet (17): More Healthy Alternatives
- TV Diet (18): Conclusion