Preschoolers: Ages 3 - 5 (page 2)
During the preschool years, children explore the world and their role in it. There are several areas in which to encourage development during the ages of three to five:
- Social Skills - Preschool children need to learn skills like sharing, turn-taking, empathy, and compromise. Many of these skills can be learned through activities like dressing up, sharing the playground, and playing games.
- Language Skills - Kids of this age are building and refining their vocabularies constantly. In order to encourage this development, kids should engage in conversation with adults and other children. Reading picture books with parents is also important.
- Learning About the World - Surely you've heard preschool children constantly ask "Why?" at this age. They are trying to learn more about how the world works. On top of asking questions, children also need to answer questions at this age. Try asking them open-ended questions like "What do you think will happen next?" to learn more about what they are thinking.
- Physical Activity - Preschool children are also learning how to use their bodies. They need physical activity to learn motor skills, coordination, speed and balance.
- Creative Expression - Kids of this age need to have outlets for expressing themselves creatively through art, music, and pretend play. Provide them the time, space, and materials to work out their ideas.
So how does media fit into these needs of preschoolers?
Television and Movies
Because television shows do not respond to the individual viewer, they do not offer a chance for true interaction. However, there are a number of well-designed educational programs for children of this age. Some examples are Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, or Dora the Explorer.
Studies have shown that preschoolers can learn academic and social skills from watching these kinds of educational television programs. In fact, in one study, children who watched Sesame Street at age 3 received higher grades in high school.
However, parents should limit preschoolers’ exposure to all other television content (especially violence). Since preschoolers are not yet capable of distinguishing fantasy and reality, they are especially likely to experience fear. Be aware of what your preschoolers are exposed to while you are watching TV and while their older siblings are watching.
The American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends that parents avoid all screen media exposure for children under the age of two. After this age, they recommend no more than two hours of screen media per day. CMCH recommends gradually introducing a few educational programs after age two. Your child is likely to lose interest after 15 to 20 minutes, at which point, you can shut the TV off and direct their attention to a different activity.
While there are many benefits from educational programs, parents are still strongly encouraged to keep media out of children’s bedrooms and to limit overall viewing to one to two hours a day, particularly to prevent overweight.
- See tips for using television safely
Preschoolers are very vulnerable to advertising because they do not typically understand the purpose of advertisements. Research shows the children do not understand that commercials are trying to get people to buy things until the age of seven. They often believe that commercials are more of a "public service", telling them what kinds of things are available at the store.
Advertisers try to build brand loyalty from a very early age. Commercials on Saturday morning cartoons are most often for toys, cereals, and snacks high in sugar. These ads are appealing to young children, who often turn around and beg their parents to buy the items they see.
CMCH recommends that parents limit exposure to commercials, either by choosing commercial free programs, or by taping programs and skipping over the ads. VCRs and DVRs, especially at this age, can be a very effective way for parents to control what their children watch on TV. Preschoolers love repetition and are usually happy to watch the same videos over and over again.
- See tips for preventing the negative effects of advertising
Computers, like television, are two-dimensional and do not offer the chance for true interaction. Although there are many products that offer lapware and educational computer games for young children, there is very little research evidence to show that these products are beneficial for learning.
Some candy and junk-food companies have websites with computer games that advertise their products. This is called "advergaming," and parents should be aware that children may be attracted to these sites.
Music is great for preschoolers, especially songs with simple lyrics that they can sing on their own. This can introduce them to the concepts of rhythm and rhyming as well as teach new vocabulary. Music can also help young children with memory-building skills. Getting to know classic sing-along songs is a great task for memorization.
© 2004-2008 Center on Media and Child Health, Children's Hospital Boston.
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