What parent hasn't used the television to occupy their child from time to time? After all, parents have a thousand demands placed on them. Television can keep your preschooler happily absorbed when it's time to get dinner started, sneak in a household chore, or just have a little alone time.
You probably also know, however, that it's important to limit preschoolers' tube time. How important? A 2010 study of 1,314 children showed that the more TV children watched between the ages of 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 years, the less likely they were to exercise at the age of 10. Watching more TV was also linked to a higher body mass index (BMI) -- a measure of weight relative to height -- as well as lower grades and intake of more snacks and soft drinks.
Once television habits become entrenched, it's more difficult to drag kids away from TV. So the preschool years are a great time to start developing good TV habits in your child. Here are some ways to limit TV and provide better activities for your child.
Good Alternatives to TV for Preschoolers
Of course, your preschooler should spend most of his time playing, learning, and interacting with you and other people. But when you're busy, try occupying his time with an alternative to TV.
When possible, involve your preschooler in chores with you. With a little broom, he can sweep up part of a room you're sweeping. He can help dust furniture or run a toy vacuum. If he wants to watch you cook, he can learn the names and colors of foods. Or give him simple tasks to do, such as adding and stirring ingredients.
Make a special kids' activity basket. Fill it with things that will busy your child for a while: books, puzzles, and toys. Keep the basket hidden away in a closet and bring it out only when you really need it. This will keep your child interested for a longer time.
Put on a CD. Buy a tape or CD of someone reading great kids' stories for your preschooler to listen to when you're occupied. Or record yourself reading your child's favorite story. This also helps your child develop listening skills.