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ENTERTAINING ALTERNATIVES TO TV: For Kids and Other Creative Humans

When our kids are young, we expose them to as many things as we can to stimulate their minds and assist them in the learning process. We buy them this educational toy, that mind challenging game, and everything in-between. However, somewhere along the way we let our kids watch educational TV, which often includes Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and too many other shows to name. We exposed them to TV for a good reason, but the more we sit them in front of the large screen, the more they come to rely upon it as a pastime. The battle between you, your child, and the TV will occur for years, but here are a few creative options to have in your back pocket to lure them away.

Good Food Gardening
Gardening isn’t just for Mommy anymore. Having your kids assist you in the backyard is a great way to teach them about the values of healthy foods, give a simple science lessons, and in its simplest form, it’s FUN.
You don’t need a plot of land to be a gardener, nor do you need to go buy every tool at home depot. A small balcony or even a sunny window can sometimes suffice and there are lots of easy to grow plants and vegetables that grow in containers. Lettuce, kale, and Swiss chard can grow in pots without needing a full day of sun. If you have a sunny porch or a small backyard, your options are many; from tomatoes and peppers to peas that can grow up the railing. A fun project, if you have the space, is to build a “Jack and the bean pole” tepee. Just lash 4-6 poles (wooden or bamboo works great) at the top, spread evenly with an opening in the front and plant pole bean seeds around the bottom, and watch them grow! If you don’t have space, you can make a potted plant topiary using wire or sticks and train a vine to climb according to the shape you and your child create. No matter what approach you take, make sure to reinforce the science behind what you’re doing.

Clever Cooking

Learning to cook is a valuable lesson that will be everlasting. The skills you build with your child will benefit them years from now when you’re not home and he or she has to feed his or herself. Bring your kid into the kitchen and let your child read the recipe to you, gather the items needed, and do the measuring. Point out how things can be converted and substituted (ex. two ½ cups equals one whole cup).

Don’t be nervous about the danger in tools for preparation; just be vigilant and teach age-appropriate best safety techniques. There are child friendly kitchen tools available if you’re scared about them hurting themselves.

Making Musical Harmony

Many struggling schools have given up offering the arts altogether, despite clear empirical evidence that artistic expression contributes to improved learning in other subjects. What a terrible loss for our children!

You and your child can sing along with the radio (yes, radio still exists) or stereo. Mix the tunes up between yours and theirs, and switch styles, discussing this with your kids. Classical music has been shown to produce very positive effects on the minds of the youth. This genre is largely believed to be the best study music around.

Another great idea is to keep various instruments around the house that your child can pick up and play along with whatever music you put on. For very little money you can find maracas, tambourines, bongos, xylophones and a recorder instrument. Vendors like West Music are a great resource for finding musical recorders, as well as other instruments for your kids. For the larger, more costly instruments, such as guitars, banjos, trumpets, violins, and so on, check out yard sales, EBay, Craig’s List, Freecycle and other reasonable options. If you don’t want to spend a buck, there is no end to what can be made out of recycled items around the house. The goal is to entertain new and fun ideas.

Learning to play an instrument requires creativity and self-discipline; two character traits that all loving parents want their children to develop, while simultaneously fostering each child’s individual creative spirit.
Television may be a convenient distraction when we need our kids “out of our hair” but it is a false and lousy substitute for real and valuable creative stimulation.

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