Most American children spend three or four hours a day watching television and playing video or computer games. Yet pediatricians and child psychiatrists are urging parents to limit electronic entertainment to a total of two hours a day. This includes even educational TV and interactive videos.
The problem is, when children spend too much of their day sitting in front of a screen, they miss out on the all-important social and intellectual development they can get only through active play with family members and other children. They don't develop their own rich imaginations. And they set themselves up for obesity and other health problems that come with physical inactivity.
In The Best Way To Play, Little Bill shows your child a way to use television as a springboard for creative play. After he and his friends watch the cartoon Space Explorers, they create their own make-believe spaceship and pretend to be explorers themselves. After a while, they realize it's more fun to play their own game.
The story makes another point, as well. Because younger children don't understand advertising hype, they relentlessly badger their parents to buy the toys and games they see promoted on children's programs. (If they'd only apply that persistence to chores or homework!) Often, of course, the actual merchandise disappoints them. Though Little Bill's parents summon the strength to say no, his friend does get the Space Explorers game. And the kids are quickly bored with it.
Most children need their parents' help and encouragement to discover the satisfaction of using their own imaginations. But the rewards of children's active, creative play last a lifetime. The Best Way to Play offers your child an example of great way to have fun -- using TV instead of being used by it.
Alvin F. Poussaint, MD
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School and
Judge Baker Children's center