Most parents don’t want to abuse visual media. Used properly, television can help entertain and teach your children. Make your child’s time in front of the tube works for everyone.

9 Tips for TV Watching

1. Check out programs first

Don’t trust a network just because it’s marketed toward children. Watch a few episodes of the programs you are considering allowing your kids to watch, and make sure the storyline and content is something you want in your home.

2. Set rules

Except on special occasion, enforce the rules. If your preschooler is allowed one program, understanding what program they are allowed to watch, rather than the amount of time they can watch is a more concrete concept for young minds. When the show is over, the TV should be turned off.

3. Give them a choice

Once they’ve been exposed to a few different programs, allow them to choose each day what they’d like to watch.

4. Know educational programming

There are some great interactive shows that encourage thinking and building educational skills.

5. Skip the commercials

If you have a DVR, use it to record and play the shows. Having your child beg for the latest toy being advertised isn’t helpful. If you’re still stuck with the “old” VCR, or no way to tape at all, make PBS your new best friend.

6. Encourage movement

Dance with your kids during catchy songs. This means you’ll have to be a good sport and be a little silly; your kids will love it!

7. Review the shows with your child

Jot down a couple of the concepts, words, or problem-solving techniques you hear as your child watches. Later, go over some of those things with him and make the connection to a real life situation.

8. Don’t let TV become the primary source of entertainment

Children need to play outside, read books, paint, color, dance, and use their mobility and creativity in a variety of ways.

9. Don’t allow meals in front of the TV

For the family movie night, special occasion, or the fourth stormy day in a row, go ahead and let your kids have fun with a snack during a show or a movie. Just make sure it’s the exception, not the rule.

10. Be prepared

No matter how fantastic the show, how well the characters entertain, or how educational for young minds the program may be, children will pick up on some goofy behavior from what they see on television.

My TV Picks for Young Children


The following programs all happen to be on PBS. There’s a website for each show with character introductions, printables, and activities to build on skills children may learn or practice during while watching. Most also have at least one episode for parents to view.

  • Word World, where “words come alive,” uses “WordThings” and “WordFriends,” written to look like the picture or animal they identify. The characters also use alphabet letter sounds to sound out, or “build” words. The website contains viewing tips for parents and gives a literacy tip each day to add to what your child is learning.
  • Super Why shows young children the “power of words” by demonstrating how reading gives us information, and how switching words around in a sentence can change the meaning of the sentence. The program uses classic fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs. A few seconds of wait time is included several times in each segment, giving young children time to point to the correct answer.
  • Dragon Tales teaches themes of cooperation, friendship, overcoming obstacles, and storytelling. The PBS Kids website includes character descriptions from the show.

For fun

  • Curious George: Adventures of the precocious, curious little monkey.
  • Arthur: Stories about this aardvark and his family and friends.
  • Sesame Street: The well-known neighborhood on Sesame Street certainly includes some good literacy skills, math concepts, and social skills. I don’t think the content of the show is nearly as good as it was a couple of decades ago, but it’s still a fun time, and the website offers options to personalize a variety of skill-teaching short videos for kids.


  • Little Einsteins: The Little Einstein characters embark on great problem-solving adventures while encouraging listening, movement, and the teaching of musical lingo.
  • Veggie Tales: Bible stories told through the eyes of some live vegetables. Veggie Tales also has weekend half-hour television programs for kids.

Additional Information

Additional resource: TV and Kids Under Age 3

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages television for children under the age of 2.

There’s more than one research study on how television-viewing is one of the most sedentary activities. Again, make sure viewing is limited, and that your child’s day includes plenty of other activities.

What are the rules for the television viewing in your home? And what programs would you add to the above list?