Friday, May 17, 2013

How to teach your child using the TV

So the last post in this week's screen time series focuses on one of the most important parts of your toddler's screen time:

How can you use screen time to teach your child?

As a speech therapist, I try to find learning opportunities in every activity - and the television is no exception. There are many, many ways to help your child learn while at the same time not having to necessarily extensively plan an activity or do anything other than press a button to light up your television screen.  Here are some ways I teach our child while watching television.

- Watch with your child.

If your child is sitting and watching a television show with you, it is far more likely that they're going to be able to learn and retain than if they were sitting by themselves.  When you're with them, you can point out key details, concepts, and vocabulary at your child's level.  In our home, since Little Man is still iffy on his colors, I'll often point out different colored objects in his toddler programming.  I can also highlight key vocabulary that he wouldn't otherwise learn, like a character going skiing or the name of something like a palm tree, which wouldn't occur in our geographical area.

When you watch the show with your child, you can also take time to pause the show to talk further about these specific details.  It doesn't matter if the concepts you're highlighting have anything to do with the story or story line either.  Oftentimes, I'll pause a show and point out something in the background to Little Man that he may have missed, but is a good opportunity to teach a new word or concept.  It's all about finding those teachable opportunities and using them to your child's advantage.

- Make those episodes translate to real life.

In each and every good preschool television show {and heck, even in some of the not-so-good shows}, there are starting points for carry-over activities.  It can be as simple as pretending to be an elephant with your arm as a nose after watching Wild Kratts or as complex as doing water scooping activities at a water table after seeing an episode of the randomly creepy Eebee baby show, but there are always activities to be had.

While you're watching the show with your toddler, sit back for a minute or so and try to think of one fun activity you can complete with your child after the show is over to help drive home a new concept or vocabulary word.  By experiencing a new concept or vocabulary word for a second time in a more hand's on approach, your child is more likely to retain it.

I mentioned previously about teaching Little Man about the word skiing above, and that television show episode led to several lessons for us and a whole lot of fun.  For starters - we pretended to ski around the house.  By taking some old Hot Wheels track we had laying around the house and putting it under our feet, we had skis.  {To further drive home your point, you could even put your child into their coat, hat, & gloves first!}  After we were done skiing around the living room, we grabbed an ice cube tray {DH found an awesome one at Meijer that makes ice cubes in the shape of cars} and talked about how ice is just frozen water.  We filled the tray, put it in the fridge, and then came back a little while later to see what had happened.  At that point, I talked a lot about how water freezes when it gets cold enough outside.  We didn't end up having time for my last planned activity of the day, but you could end out the theme by either drawing snowflakes on paper or even cutting up small pieces of paper and throwing it up in the air to make it "snow" inside the house.

By just one simple television episode, we were able to create a full day of activities that were both fun and educational.  It only takes a few minutes of thinking on your end and likely a few items you already have around your home, but it's well worth it for your toddler's development.

- Help your child to retain those lessons

As our children get older, retaining the lessons we're teaching will become more important.  It's all well and good to learn something new, but it's even better to actually retain it.  When our toddlers become a little bit older and become school-aged, keeping a TV show notebook can be a fun way to help them retain the new concepts and facts they learn from the television.  It can also help your child to begin to take more responsibility in their own learning.

When watching a show like Wild Kratts or Octonauts, there are often very specific details about wild animals or sea life displayed on the shows.  To be totally honest, I often learn something new watching these shows as well.  If you have a TV notebook in your home, you can task your child with adding a few key details into the book after they've watched a show.  To help facilitate carry-over, you can re-read through these notes one time a week in order to help them remember.  Most children become really excited to write when they're first learning, and this can help them not only to remember newly acquired knowledge, but also work on their written language skills, penmanship, and many other important skills beneficial to their growing minds.

As we round out the screen time series here on The Naptown Organizer, I hope that I've given you some new information or tricks that you'll find helpful in your household.  As mentioned before, if you like these posts, please do share on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest!!!

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