Debate may rage forever about whether watching TV is good or bad for children, but for most of us, telly is a fact of life.
CBeebies and NickJr are already part of the staple diet for many under-threes. That viewing menu has now expanded with the launch of BabyFirst, an advert-free educational channel for babies and toddlers on Sky TV’s Kids Mix.
The shows have been put together with advice from experts in child development, education and psychology, and are designed to be watched by children alongside their parents to provide enjoyment and education.
London-based child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson belongs to the advisory board behind BabyFirst.
He says, ‘High-quality child-centred television programmes can enrich a child’s life and can provide access to an exciting range of learning opportunities.
Co-viewing, however, is a key factor in making your child’s television successful. By sharing the television watching with your baby or toddler, you can monitor exactly what she watches, you can manage the amount of viewing, you can encourage and prompt her learning more effectively while viewing and you can provide her with after-programme activities to supplement what she saw on screen.
And then there’s the emotional bonus of sharing with her.’
BabyFirst’s original programmes are designed to help children learn about numbers, letters, animals, colours, sign language and music.
Dr Woolfson recommends 10 ways to make TV work for your baby:
1. Limit the amount he watches.
Don’t just switch on the TV and leave it on, use your judgement in balancing viewing time with other activities.
2. Don’t let her watch rubbish.
TV can open up your baby to a world of imagination and images, introducing new vocabulary and ideas, provided she watches high-quality programmes that are suited to her age group.
3. Watch TV with your baby.
You should always stay with your baby while he watches TV to help develop learning skills. Talk about the programme, the images on screen and how they relate to your child’s everyday life.
4. Choose the right programmes.
Shows suitable for your child’s age-range will be designed to enhance developmental skills in areas such as creative thinking, maths, sensory skills, language, social skills and creative play.
5. Watch the remote.
Make sure you know what your baby or toddler is watching. It is amazing how quickly a nimble-fingered child can switch channels or put on a DVD when you’re not looking.
6. Real or imaginary?
Make sure your toddler knows the difference between fact and fiction by talking about what you are watching and whether it is real or make-believe.
7. Discuss TV shows.
Chat about the animals, children, songs and stories you have been watching, in the same way you would talk about things you have been doing, places you have visited and people you have met.
8. Note your child’s reaction.
You will learn which programmes your baby likes and which do not grab her interest. If her attention wanders, it is time to switch off.
9. Use TV within a range of activities.
Educational shows are most effective in enhancing your child’s development when used alongside other activities such as art, craft, physical or social play.
10. Use the off button.
Responsible parents are not afraid to turn off the TV when they think their little one has had enough. Decide which programmes are allowed and for how long and stick to those limits.
Click HERE to find out more about BabyFirst.