Your 3 1/4-year-old: TV time

Your 3 1/4-year-old: TV time

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Your 3-year-old now

No one can deny the power of television. The question is how much power you want it to have in your child's life.

The preschool years are a period of tremendous mental, physical, and emotional development. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours a day of educational, nonviolent programs for preschoolers. Your child's day is better spent actively exploring his world, not sitting in front of a screen. That said, 30 minutes' peace gained while your child tunes into an age-appropriate show isn't likely to cause any damage. Aim for moderation and start some basic good habits now:

  • No channel surfing. When a chosen show is over, turn off the TV. Some parents limit viewing to DVDs. That way, when a program is over, TV time is over.
  • Don't use the TV for background noise when you're not watching — it can interfere with learning.
  • Eat as a family at the table, not in front of the TV. There's nothing like the family table for learning manners and conversational skills.
  • Try to make TV time happen at around the same time every day so your child knows what to expect and doesn't think of TV as an ever-present possibility. This can cut down on battles over the on/off button.
  • Watch with your child so you can talk about what you're seeing. Children this age don't know fact from fiction, ads from program content. You'll need to do some interpretation.
  • Make sure babysitters and other caregivers know your viewing rules.
  • Above all, model TV viewing for your child. If you're sitting in front of the screen for hours, he'll want to know why he can't, too.

Your life now

If your child has begun to help out around the house — and, no, 3 is not too young to do simple things like help set the table — you may be wondering if he's ready for an allowance. An allowance can be a great way to teach kids about money, but at this age they lack the cognitive readiness for that. It's better to wait until age 5 or 6. For now, just instill the idea that having responsibilities is part of life. Most 3-year-olds thrive on being helpful, so enjoy it. To them, your enthusiastic thanks and praise are enough.

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