Television isn’t as detrimental to young minds as many parents fear it to be. In fact, there are some educational shows programs that, with the right parental approach, can even be beneficial to young minds. Angela Santomero’s book Preschool Clues was written to help parents make well-informed decisions about what their kids watch. She shares some of that insight with Parentology.
“It’s really important to me that parents know that there are creators who are thoughtful and passionate about their media,” Santomero says.
Santomero is among them. Using her expertise in child developmental psychology, she co-created several educational children’s shows for preschoolers, including Emmy award-winning shows Blue’s Clues and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
Getting Informed About Educational Shows for Kids
Not all children’s programming has an educational bent. Santomero suggests parents research potential shows for their children online before tuning in. Fortunately, watching all of a show’s seasons isn’t necessary to make a determination; Santomero says viewing just the first episode will suffice.
Several children’s shows give viewers a glimpse into their greater educational purpose in their first episode. Santomero calls this the curriculum, which consists of a show’s learning goals and objectives for their viewers. Shows with clear curriculums tend to be of higher education quality for children.
While effective curriculums differ, they’re all very clear. The Blue’s Clues‘ curriculum aims to prepare kids for kindergarten by teaching the alphabet, how to count and critical thinking. The curriculum for Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood focuses on fostering socio-emotional skills in preschoolers by teaching them how to make friends, label their feelings and navigate simple social conflict.
Shows with murky curriculums or without one at all are most likely not the most educational for preschoolers. However, Santomero understands children have individualized learning needs. As hard and fast as these guidelines seem, parents must consider what works best for their child. “Knowing the difference between a high-quality show for your kids versus a low-quality show for your kids is also very individual in a lot of ways,” Santomero says.
To make the most out of your child’s media consumption, Santomero suggests not only researching shows, but actively watching them together with your kids.
Whereas co-viewing consists of passively watching your child’s shows with them, involved and active viewing requires more interaction. To be an involved viewer, parents should ask and answer any questions their child has in order to “[extend] the learning before, during, or after the show is over,” Santomero says.
The preference of involved viewing over co-viewing stems from a study examining children’s reactions to Sesame Street episodes. According to the study, kids who watched the show with a caregiver were more receptive to learning than those watching without because they could ask questions and have them answered.
The beauty of involved, active viewing is that parents don’t even need to be constantly watching the show with their kids to reap the educational benefits of doing so. If parents are familiar enough with the characters, Santomero says they can ask their child what they did in the show without having watched the episode with them, much like how parents ask about their kid’s friends at school.
Making Play Time
While the right media can be beneficial for your child’s learning, they shouldn’t spend all their time watching TV, regardless of how educational it may be. “Everything in moderation,” Santomero says.
With every hour of screen time, Santomero suggests scheduling an hour of free play.
By playing, children learn myriad, lifelong skills. Playing fosters cognitive learning and social-emotional learning. Through engaging in free play, kids also learn how to resolve conflict and understand other perspectives through role play.
Free play also gives kids the chance to absorb and practice what they learned on screen. “We need to give them time to digest [what they learn from their media] and then to go out and figure out how to apply it on their own,” Santomero says. “If they don’t have that time to digest it and to work it through, then it won’t be something that could potentially stay with them.”
With all the development psychology experts and research that goes into her shows, Santomero hopes to incite creativity in her young viewers. “Our goal with any media and kids is to inspire and empower them.”
Educational Shows for Kids – Sources
Angela Santomero, creator of educational shows for kids