Kids in Daycare Watch Less TV -- But That's Still Too Much

Here’s something to ease working moms' minds: A new study found that kids in center-based daycare watched less TV than kids who stayed home with a parent. That means your child may not be as exposed to the potential dangers of too much TV, like possible speech delays, aggressive behavior and obesity.

The bad news? The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that all the groups of kids watched too much TV. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children get no more than one to two hours of screen time a day. But in the study, children who went to daycare centers had 3.2 hours of screen time a day. Kids whose parents took care of them all day got 4.4 hours. Kids in home-based child care got 3.8 hours of screen time in daycare, plus another 1.8 hours once they got home, totaling a whopping 5.6 hours a day!

For most of us moms, finding out that kids watch more TV at home isn't a big surprise. It's so much easier -- and cheaper -- to turn on the TV rather than call a babysitter when you need a break from your kids or need to get house work or other tasks done. Sometimes, as much as I know that TV is not good for my kids (though I sometimes wonder how bad can SpongeBob really be?), I often feel I don’t have a choice but to send them to the den to watch it for a half hour (which usually turns into an hour). But those half hours or hours can add up quickly. Here are some strategies to keep TV viewing to a minimum:

  • Look for a mother’s helper to keep your kids entertained if you’re a stay-at-home mom. Often, they’re affordable and can give you the break you need to get stuff done.
  • Get the kids involved in an art project or have them listen to an audio book when you need some down time, rather than always resorting to the TV. Make a plan to head to the store to stock up on craft supplies, so you're prepared.
  • Set TV limits early on. Consistency can keep your kids from constantly asking to watch more TV.
  • Play DVR-ed or on-demand shows, which stop when the show is over, signalling to your kid -- and you -- that the half-hour is up. With regular TV, it's easy to get sucked into the next show.
  • Set up a face-to-face talk with your home-based caregiver about how much the TV is on. Tell them exactly why it's important for the TV to be on less while your kids are there and suggest some alternatives.
  • Don’t let your kids watch TV if they’ve been in daycare all day. Their time with you is the time you can control, and if the TV's off, you know their total TV hours will be significantly diminished.
  • Involve your kids in cooking, or have them color or do other activities at the kitchen table. Don’t use the TV to babysit while you cook.

How do you help your kids watch as little TV as possible? Chime in below!

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