Alternatives to Television Viewing

Television Alternatives

In case you missed it, there has been a lively discussion on the Unpreschool list on the merits and pitfalls of television viewing for young children. Author and lecturer Diane Flynn Keith provided a terrific list of activities to take the place of television viewing...

An Unpreschool List Member named Michelle wrote:

Our family will start the New Year out right, as of January 1 we will begin a 30-day TV fast. Anyone want to join me? We still are deciding what that will look like for us. Will we unplug the darn thing, or just finally limit it to 30 minutes a day? (Even if it's 30 minutes a day, I think we'll still unplug it in between times to help our self-control!)

It's amazing how much more productively our time is used when we don't have the fall back of the TV for entertainment. My kids actually pick up books to read, or help with household chores. My husband and I play board games (with or without the kids) and talk or read books. I totally agree with a poster yesterday who said they don't want their kids to grow up dependent on the screen. What a gift it would be to my children if they learned at a young age how to entertain themselves and be comfortable with silence. I want to give them that gift. Anybody with me?

Unpreschool List Owner Diane replied:

Great idea, Michelle! If you need more motivation go to Kill Your Television.

You may or may not be aware of TV Turn Off Week in April of every year. It's April 21-27 in 2008. Screen-Time offers suggestions on things you can do other than watch TV. They have kits and contests and all kinds of stuff.

I put together this list of things to do besides watch TV:

Note: Many of these ideas come from different articles at and the Home Preschool Curriculum that contain lots of contributions by Fran Wisniewski.

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Fun Activity Suggestions for Preschoolers

  1. Talk with your child. Conversation starters.
  2. Read. Books, magazines, newspapers, poetry, nursery rhymes, myths, etc. Go to the library for an evening storytime or go to a bookstore and hang out for a while.
  3. Go for a walk. Check out our Fun Walks ideas
  4. Start a hobby. Stamp collecting, rock collecting, coin collecting, jewelry making, collect things from nature, collect hats, dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, etc.
  5. Go for a drive. Bring along a family-friendly audio-book or music on CD. (Try the Jim Weiss Stories or Raffi music.)
  6. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Ravensburger has great Children's Puzzle selections for kids.
  7. Clean up a mess or a room. Kids love to help. Play Trap the Toys! Take a big, empty cardboard box and write "Toy Trap" on it. Tell your child that you've noticed the toys keep escaping from the bedroom. They are everywhere throughout the house. Explain that you've built a toy trap to keep them in a safe place when your child isn't playing with them. Ask your child to help you round up the toys and put them in the trap.
  8. Play with your kids. Have some flashlight fun: Turn off the lights in the room. Shine a flashlight on a bare wall. Ask your child to stand in front of the bright light and experiment with making shadows of all shapes and sizes on the wall. Show them how to make Hand Shadows. Experiment with casting different kinds of shadows by holding different objects up in front of the flashlight. Try a stuffed animal, scissors, a pencil, a toothbrush, small toys like cars and action figures or doll house dishes and cups. Puzzle pieces cast interesting shadows too. I'm sure your child think of many more to try.
  9. Show your children how to repair something. Sew on a missing button, mend a tear, change a light bulb, change a washer in the faucet, use a hammer and nail, use a screwdriver, etc.
  10. Paint! With a little advance preparation you can all have fun with relatively little mess. Check out this article for some simple painting ideas.
  11. Make up a Story. Check out these ideas for some story-telling fun.
  12. Build an Indoor Obstacle Course! Learn how.
  13. Go on an Indoor Scavenger Hunt - or try these "rainy day" activities that work every day.
  14. Have fun with Dry-Erase Markers! Try these fun activities.
  15. Color! Get the crayons out and start coloring. You'll find free coloring pages to print out.
  16. Visit a friend. Bake a special treat to give to your friend.
  17. Dance! Turn the music on and have fun moving to the beat!
  18. Play board games. You'll find a great selection of cooperative board games for little kids and their families.
  19. Go bowling! Even little kids can bumper bowl!
  20. Play Math Games! Here are some fun ones.
  21. Go on a Field Trip! Many of your local community services and stores offer tours such as the fire department, police department, grocery store, bank, hardware store, post office, bus and train stations, museums, zoos, state parks, etc. Even large chain stores offer opportunities to see how things are made - such as Krispy Kreme donuts and Noah's Bagels.
  22. Go to an entertainment event. Try a play or a concert.
  23. Play with the dog! Or go to a pet store and look at all of the animals, fish, reptiles, and other critters.
  24. Play with Balloons! Blow up different sizes and colors of balloons and bat them around. Bat them back and forth to each other. Kick the balloons! Who can keep the balloon from touching the ground the longest?
  25. Make something. Build with blocks, make a fort, make a piñata, make a paper chain, make a cereal necklace, make finger puppets and more. Check out these ideas.

Have fun not watching TV!


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