WHILE most mothers do not ban their preschoolers from watching TV, they are clear that television is no substitute for fun, creative and healthy activities, and proper learning of values and knowledge.
They also like the idea of taking their children to the theatre where commonly, ageappropriate programmes make their little audience laugh and learn.
Three mothers we spoke to do not reject TV outright but are compelled to set boundaries for their young children and are careful about the programmes the kids tune in to.
Elaine Tan, 35, limits the time that her twoand-a-half-year-old son watches TV.
“I let Ethan watch during selected slots – when I need to grab lunch or as a reward after he’s finished his lunch and before nap time,” says the writer from Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
“But TV shouldn’t be considered a teaching tool. It certainly is a tool of convenience but education needs to be more holistic. If kids watch TV, then their time should be balanced out with non-tv activities.”
However, Tan doesn’t dictate terms at the babysitter’s. “My priority is him being well taken care of, so if the TV is on, so be it.”
Patronella Chieng, 36, a Malaysian music teacher who lives in London, allows daughter Maya, four, to catch TV two or three times a week, with up to one hour per day.
“I do keep an eye on what she’s watching, making sure we steer clear from shows with unsavoury characters and violence. Shows here (in Britain) are of a much higher quality than what I used to get as a child. Cbeebies (the BBC TV channel targeting children six years and below) has shows that teach positive moral values and others that impart valuable knowledge, such as healthy living, creativity and life skills like cooking. Of course, there are also those purely on entertainment, singing and dancing,” she says.
One thing this mother is not keen on is to let Maya go through the Disney princess phase, like most little girls do. “I’m not sure I’d like to instil in her the idea of love at first sight and being rescued by Prince Charming!”
Though tax manager Yinleng Yen and mother-of-two – Ryan, two-and-a-half, and Lauren, eight months – is aware of the socalled “evils of TV”, she reckons there are some very good educational programmes for children.
“We should cut TV some slack. Children can learn a lot from TV, provided an adult is there to talk them through it. Just don’t let them sit there zombie-fied by the colours and movement,” says the 31-year-old based in Petaling Jaya.
What are the kinds of programmes approved by these mothers? Tan names those on Baby tv and Disney Junior (both available on Astro) as well as children’s DVDS as being suitable material for Ethan.
Chieng favours arts and crafts programmes. “I also love gardening and science-based programmes, which are brilliant to feed Maya’s hungry brain. As a family we also enjoy nature programmes.”
Yen, meanwhile, regards series like Sesame Street, Blue’s Clues, Barney, The Wiggles and Leapfrog: Letter Factory and Baby tv programmes as “less bad than good”. Shows like Ultraman and Ben 10 and generally those where the characters move really fast and fight all the time, are out.
“I think most shows on TV these days may be more suited for older children (other than Baby tv). A lot of shows don’t necessarily teach moral values, but surely parents cannot expect TV to be doing that anyway. Some shows do teach the importance of honesty, respect, friendship, etc. But these are actually deep concepts which you cannot expect your child to learn from a TV show alone. Even if a show is good enough to incorporate such values/teachings in the half-hour programme, it really requires an adult to talk to and help the child to relate it to their own lives,” she opines.
Yen, on the other hand, finds theatre shows, musicals, puppet shows and the like to “spark imagination and creativity”.
For Chieng, given the vibrant performing arts scene where she lives, she started taking Maya to the theatre when the girl was two.
“Over here, there’re quite a few shows targeted at children. So far, she’s been to two and we’ll be going to catch a puppet show next. The two shows that she’d been to were productions of children’s stories that she already read at home. The shows engaged her mind, listening skill and concentration. I thought she’d be restless but she was completely glued to the stage.”
All three women are, however, united on the need to spend time doing stuff with their kids outside and inside the home (and we don’t mean in front of the telly!).
“When Ethan is at home with me in the mornings, he doesn’t get any TV. If the weather is good, we go out to the garden to play. Indoors, we usually do jigsaw puzzles, drawing, painting or make-believe play,” says Tan.
Chieng would do piano practice, lots of drawings and colouring with Maya. They also love reading, role-playing (Maya’s obsession), painting, cooking, watering the plants and going to the park.
In Yen’s home, the kids have plenty of toys to keep themselves entertained. “We practically have a mini Toys R Us! We also try to let Ryan out of the house whenever possible – walks, swimming, ‘badminton’ (for now, it’s swinging the racket about), catching butterflies. Basically, there’s plenty for him to do outdoors.”
Supervision and moderation: Most mothers know it’s wise to keep an eye on the type of programming that benefits their kids and to control the amount of viewing.