Print this page Less Television, More Play!

1023 hours. That’s how much television the average American child watches each year. Put in context, that’s 14% more time than they spend in school and about 990 hours more than the child spends in meaningful conversation with a parent. It’s close to six half-hour shows a day—day in and day out, every day of the year.

While children do learn from high quality television content, many years of research about the benefits of play demonstrate that kids are better off spending their time actively exploring their world through self-directed experiences—in other words, play—than by sitting passively in front of the television. Children who play frequently and well are typically more school ready, better readers, and far more imaginative than heavy TV watchers.

Here are a few ideas for ways to redirect time from TV to family-centered play:

  • Board and card games. Games are great for family play because they bring the family together around something fun for everyone. The trick for success is to select games that suit the ages, abilities, and interests of all participating players. How do you choose? Many websites categorize games—just Google “children’s games by age” to get started, or better yet, visit your local neighborhood toy store to get tailor-made suggestions based on the expertise of the staff there.

  • Active indoor or outdoor games. How long has it been since you played a good old-fashioned round of Hide and Seek or Hot Potato? Indulge in a bit of nostalgia and try some family games that get everyone up and moving around. For ideas and rules for some timeless favorites, visit

  • Books and play with stories. First stop when you decide to turn off the TV? Take a trip to your local public library or bookstore. Pick up a stack of age appropriate books to supplement those already in your home. Add some fun family play by acting out parts of the story or building new stories based on the characters in the book—or play with combining characters from two or three books to create a whole new and probably hilarious setting and storyline.

  • Puzzles. One of the great things about puzzles is that they come in all shapes and sizes and you can always find one suited to the developmental level of your child. You can do some in one sitting or tackle a more complex one to which you keep coming back when you have a few minutes to play.

  • Favorite characters from TV or books. If your child is complaining about the television he is missing, have him make up his own “show.” Find dolls or other toys to represent favorite characters—or use toys you may already have that represent those characters—and ask him to pretend he is on TV. Making up stories rather than relying on those told on TV is a wonderful way to practice rich imaginative play that promotes your child’s creativity.

Don’t be daunted if the first few days sans television are difficult. If your child is used to having lots of television time that suddenly stops, she may be whiney or appear bored for a while. Don’t automatically jump in to ‘fix’ that situation. Just stay out of the way, and chances are you’ll soon see your child doing what kids do naturally if we would only let them—engage in creative, imaginative, age-appropriate play.

Provided By Susan J. Oliver, Tropomedia
This information is provided on behalf of the toy experts at your
neighborhood toy store.