Help your child’s brain develop

Children can survive without TV. Given the time and space to do so, youngsters can develop the mature attention spans they need for effective thinking and problem-solving skills in today's complex world.
Susan R. Johnson, M.D., author of Strangers in Our Homes: TV and Our Children's Minds, has the following advice for parents who want to see their children develop well without TV.
1. Keep the television turned off as much as possible. One author recommended avoiding television as much as possible for the first 12 years of your child's life and then encourage your child to always read the book first before seeing the movie.
It helps to cover the TV with a cloth or store it away in a closed cabinet or closet. Out of sight really helps the child keep the TV out of mind. Remember that what we do serves as a role model for our children. We can't really ask our children to stop watching TV if we keep doing it — that will eventually lead to power struggles.
When the television is on, then try to neutralize its damage. Select the programmes carefully and watch TV with your child so you can talk about what you see.
Keep a light on when the TV is going since that will minimize the effects of the reduced field of vision and provide a different light source for the eyes. Try to sit at least 4 feet from the TV.
Plan to go outside (to the park or beach) after viewing television.

2. Read a lot of books to your children (especially ones without lots of pictures) and tell your children lots of stories. Children love to hear stories about our lives when we were little or you can make them up. Bedtime and riding in the car provide good opportunities for telling stories. Telling our children stories helps to stimulate their internal picture-making capabilities.

3. Nature! Nature! Nature! Nature is the greatest teacher of patience, delayed gratification, reverence, awe and observation. The colours of nature are spectacular and all the senses are stimulated. Many children today think being out in nature is boring, because they are so used to the fast-paced, action-packed images from TV.

We only truly learn when all our senses are involved, and when the information is presented to us in such a way that our higher brain can absorb it. Nature is reality while television is a pseudo-reality.

4. Pay close attention to your senses and those of your child. Our environment is noisy and over-stimulating to the sense organs. What a child sees, hears, smells, tastes, and touches is extremely important to his or her development.

We need to surround our children with what is beautiful, what is good and what is true. How a child experiences the world has a tremendous influence on how the child perceives the world as a teenager and adult.

5. Have children use their hands, feet and whole body performing purposeful activities. All the outdoor activities of running, jumping, climbing, and playing jump-rope help develop our children's gross motor skills and pathways in the higher brain.
Performing household chores, cooking, baking bread, knitting, woodworking, paper-folding, string games, finger games, circle games, painting, drawing, and colouring help develop fine motor skills and also pathways in the higher brain.

Prescription for brainy child

INSTEAD of plonking your toddler in front of the television, do the following and you will be helping him or her develop a range of social, emotional and learning skills.

  • Cuddle the child.
  • Play with the child.
  • Talk to, smile at, and hug the child.
  • Let the child reach for and touch objects : blocks, toys, coloured paper, etc.
  • Sing to, or play music for the child.
  • Play counting games.
  • Play peek-a-boo