Friday, January 21, 2011

Using the Television as a Learning Tool - Two Examples of a Child's Learning

We've always been believers that children learn from a variety of activities: playing with toys, games, other playmates; reading; watching the behavior or others; attending school; sports; etc. However, one activity that many parents discourage is: Watching Television. For whatever reason, adults often think that there is too much violence, and that this time can be better spent doing something else.

But, two unexpected questions that my son asked us when he was little made us aware to the importance of television in shaping his thinking. Both seemed a bit humorous at the time, but each has had a lasting impression on all of our memories.

The first example of his television learning occurred about a month before his 3rd birthday. One Saturday morning as we were driving home from a "You Too Can Swim" lesson at the local YWCA, my son asked: "Is that Ken Smith Chevrolet"? I looked to my right and sure enough, we were stopped at a red light just in front of the car dealer. "Yes", I replied, and then asked: "Can You Read"? "No" he said, "But it looks just like that on the TV".

The second example was when we visited Walt Disney World for his 5th birthday. We had gone on many rides and got the autographs of many of the roaming characters. Then, we went to the Hall of Presidents. In there, they describe a bit about the history of the country and end with an animated figure of each President standing up and introducing himself. After Ronald Reagan's turn, my son looked at my wife and I and asked: "Ronald Regan? Bonzo's father? He's a President too"?

We all laughed at his innocent questions but realized that he was learning to make visual and oral connections between what he had seen on television and with the real world. After that, we never discouraged his watching children shows or movies on the television. While we always monitored what he watched, we would take some time to review the show afterwards. Our son thought we were simply interested in his shows, but instead we were trying to assess what he had learned from that entertainment.

Perhaps his learning development was different than others, but we would encourage all parents of young children to consider using the television as a learning tool rather than assuming it is a waste of time.
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  1. I agree, TV can serve as a learning tool if the program is the right one. My son watches certain learning shows such as Word World, Super Why, etc...we monitor what he watches. I used to be dead against TV for little ones, but I have seen a positive side to it, again monitored.

  2. @Simplegirl,
    Yes, monitoring is the key here. Parents need to be involved and the kids love when they think we're sharing in their activities. Thanks for your reply and thoughts.

  3. My three sons, all adults now ( 40 to 26 ) really did learn a lot from television. I did, of course, execise some control over their choice of programs, especially when they were younger, less soas they got older, after some discussion as to their choices. There were restrictions, of course, as to the amount of time spent watching t.v. and homework had to be completed first.

  4. I so agree, but there has to be a nice balance.. just like with anything.
    I just wanted to thank you for following my blog.. it means a lot. I am now officially following yours! : )


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