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Media Use by Young Children – By Dr. Kyle Pruett


Remember when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its recommendation five years ago that children two and under should not watch any television, and that children over two should limit exposure to two hours per day? Many parents seemed as reassured by this advice as they were confused. How could such an esteemed organization give advice that was “so out of touch with real American family life,” as one mother commented to the evening news? In those five years, children’s media appetites have hardly slackened. In fact, ‘screen time’ has eclipsed ‘TV watching’ as the name for such activities, given the plethora of devices on which real or animated moving and talking figures can now inform, distract, stimulate and baby-sit our young. So what is a parent to do?

An enlightening new study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and Sesame Workshop,, “Always Connected: Young Children’s Media Use is On the Rise (March 2011),” tells us what parents are actually doing. It seems like many parents don’t know about the guidelines anymore, given that the majority of parents ignore them. They may feel a need to ‘plug the kids into something besides me [i.e. the parent],’ or they turn a deaf ear because they feel that media exposure stimulates intellectual growth and development or they feel that ‘it’s something the world will expect my kid to be able to use, so the earlier the better.’ The report goes on:

* For the time being, television remains the favorite medium. 90% of the average families sampled with children over five had kids who were regular, even enthusiastic, viewers. They watched an average of three hours per day.

* Media use by young children ranges across a variety of platforms. 80% of sampled kids five and under are on the internet at least once a week and slightly less than half of all six-years-olds regularly play video games.

* Media multitasking is growing quickly, with over a third of two- to eleven-year-olds using the television and the internet simultaneously (sound familiar?).

* These usage patterns are likely to change, given that four of the top five electronic devices owned by children are mobile platforms.

So, back to that question of what is a parent to do, given that the expert advice out there seems not to have kept pace? [Keep your eyes open for some fresh guidelines from NAEYC on this topic coming to its website this year – maybe they WILL have kept pace].

* If you want your kids to play imaginatively (great pre-literacy foundation!), keep the playthings away from the screen. University of Massachusetts researchers found that toddler play erodes and disorganizes when TV is on.

* Keep the media diet balanced. Print materials, screen devices, video games and DVDs should be rotated and refreshed (if not occasionally ‘lost’). Think of nutrition’s representation of a healthy, balanced diet. The food pyramid evokes positive images of a ‘media pyramid.

* The best way to use the positive impact of TV (yes, there is one and this is it) is to engage parent-child pairs in co-viewing programming that stimulates learning and delight with the use of humor and playfulness (not silliness), novel topics and perspectives. This prevents the use of TV as a baby-sitter, but that’s the point. There is no stand-in for you, or the delight that you take, in your child’s growth and health.

Five Tips for Developing Healthy Learning Habits

* Encourage play. Playing alone and with others not only builds brain development, it also helps children develop social skills and a sense of ethics. The most effective play is free of evaluation and correction (after all, throwing a ball shouldn’t be “right” or “wrong”), while promoting autonomy

* Play together. In addition to their ABCs and 123s, preschool children are learning and developing life skills that will shape who they grow into as adults. One of these building blocks is learning to play well with others and accepting one another’s differences.

* Get adequate sleep and proper nutrition. Your child will do their best if they get to sleep early and eat a healthy breakfast each day before school. A daily diet of junk food is not compatible with learning. It can cause listlessness and hyperactivity, which can impair a child’s ability to learn. Skipping breakfast, especially, is a detriment to a child’s education.

* Continue year-long education. Routine provides structure, which is often lacking during the summer months when children all too quickly become detached from the lessons they learned throughout the school year. Maintaining a schedule throughout the summer supports an environment that is less of a contrast to the classroom and provides a healthy balance between building skills, play and rest.

* Turn off the screens. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to avoid television and other electronic media for children two years of age and younger. Time spent in front of a computer, TV, video game or other similar devices can interfere with schoolwork, physical activity, curious exploration, social interaction and play.

Discovering the word “NO”!


With your toddler asserting a newly discovered feeling of independence, you may find yourself at your wits’ end. Tasks that were once a piece of cake—from buckling a car seat, brushing teeth and getting dressed to grocery shopping and mealtimes—can be a big production these days. Now that your child is testing the waters of freedom—getting bigger, stronger, faster, and simultaneously discovering the word “No!”—you might wonder how to regain control. Consider these tips for guiding your child toward good behavior.

Prepare your child in advance by listing each step. Instead of asking, “Are you ready to go home?” use a happy but firm tone to say, “First, we’re going to walk to the car. Remember to hold my hand. Next, I will help you climb into your seat. Then, I will need your help buckling the seat belt.”

Do allow your child feel as if they have some control of their world. Instead of, “What do you want to wear to today?” try, “Would you like to wear the blue shirt or the orange shirt?” Instead of, “What do you want for breakfast?” try, “Would you like oatmeal or eggs for breakfast?”

Reward good behavior. When your child has cooperated, let them know how pleased you are. “Great job! Thank you for helping me buckle you in! It’s so important to wear your seat belt. Now I will get in and buckle my seat belt just like you!” and, “Great choice! Oatmeal is really yummy and will help keep your tummy full until snack time!”

Choose your battles. While it is critical to not give in on some things (seat belt use, holding hands when crossing a street, etc.), sometimes you have to pick your battles. If your child refuses to get dressed, sometimes you just need to call it a pajama day—easy to do on a day off! If she refuses her meat and veggies at dinner time, don’t make it a big issue. She’ll eat when she is hungry. Just continue to put healthy, well-balanced choices on her plate or tray at each meal and eventually she’ll try them.

How do you guide your child toward good behavior?

Baking Holiday Memories

Bake up some warm holiday memories with your children this season. Put on those aprons, the mess is part of the fun! Older children can crack the eggs and measure wet/dry ingredients, while the younger children participate by pouring the pre-measured ingredients into the mixing bowl (be sure to point out that oil and water don’t mix) and by stirring and creating cut-outs with cookies cutters. Be sure to encourage creativity and imagination when it is time to decorate! Festively colored frostings, sparkly sanding sugars, pre-cut fondant in holiday shapes (or make your own), gumdrops and more are perfect for little fingers, and make for wonderful holiday cookie decorations.

Don’t forget to taste test your creations! Giving and sharing provide a feeling of joy that you can reinforce by having your children deliver a plate of cookies to a neighbor or the local senior center.

Warm Winter Wishes Craft

This special homemade photo gift is sure to warm hearts this winter! Create one for a special someone or make many to give as gifts to family & friends.

What you need:

Sheets of colored paper or craft foam

Ribbon or small adhesive magnets

Small photo(s) of your family or child

Glue stick

Child-safe scissors

Washable markers


Single hole punch

Decorative “winter” craft accessories of your choice

What to do:

1. Use a pencil to trace your child’s hand on a sheet of paper or craft foam. Trace each finger individually or around their four fingers together and thumb separately to make a mitten shape.

2. Carefully cut out the hand or mitten shape, and then trim your photo to fit in the “palm” of the cutout. Glue the photo in place.

3. Here’s the fun part! Encourage your little one to get creative with washable markers and “winter” craft accessories to add their own decorative touch!

4. When your child is happy with their masterpiece, either punch a hole in the top and tie a ribbon through it for hanging or attach small adhesive magnets to the back for hanging on the refrigerator.

*An adult should oversee all activities. Activities may not be appropriate for all ages.

Five Ways to Make Family Meal Preparation Easier

Sitting down to dinner with your family is great. You can recap your days, spend some time together and have some laughs. Between work, school and extracurricular activities, though, finding the time to sit down together can be challenging. Here are five ways to make preparing family meals easier.

1. Prepare meals beforehand. Make a lot of a particular dish over the weekend and serve it throughout the week. For example, make a double batch of a casserole or a big batch of soup or chili and serve it every other day so you don’t have to worry about cooking on those nights.

2. “Cheat” when you cook. Using frozen or pre-cut veggies and other prepared foods is an excellent way to save time when you cook. Also, a slow cooker lets you cook a full meal with less preparation.

3. Keep meals simple. Plenty of fast, easy meals are also delicious and nutritious. The internet has a treasure trove of recipes to suit your family, your wallet, your schedule and your taste buds.

4. Have breakfast for dinner. In a pinch, serve scrambled eggs, toast and fruit. Waffles or pancakes are easy, too. Eating mostly healthy foods is important, but sitting down with your family is important, too.

5. Make dinner as a family. Having help can cut down on meal preparation time. Children can stir and roll out dough, and they can mix the vegetables you chopped into a salad. Cooking together is also a terrific bonding activity.

Teaching Children a Foreign Language

Learning language is a natural process when children are young. Introducing them to second languages such as Spanish, French and American Sign Language (ASL)encourages brain development. The earlier a child is exposed to another language, the greater the likelihood is that the child will become fluent in the language.

Second languages also help celebrate cultural diversity and create an understanding of the written word. A second language can unleash a child’s curiosity.

The sooner a child is introduced to a second language, the more success he will have in learning the language. Following are some age-appropriate activities to help you incorporate a second language into your baby’s daily routine.

Infant to 12 months

* Sign as you say words;

* Use one-word signs, like more, mom, dad, ball or cup;

* Gently move your child’s hands to make a sign;

Play music in the target language.

12 to 18 months

* Add to your child’s signing vocabulary;

* Use signs with verbal cues;

* Say both the English word and the target language word for an object;

* Practice the target language while playing ball. As you roll the ball to your child, you could say, “Here comes the red ball, la pelota roja”;

* Use the target language words interchangeably in your own speech;

* Name body parts, animals and colors in the target language.

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks!

We see our family and friends, eat too much pie, enjoy a few extra days off from school and work, but beyond that… How can we demonstrate to our children the importance of both Thanksgiving and giving thanks?

The first Thanksgiving. First, let’s start by making sure our children know the story of the first Thanksgiving. Pick up a developmentally-appropriate book or find information online. It is important to discuss this story of hardship, friendship and sharing in an age-appropriate way.

A new tradition. Establish a new family tradition revolving around what your family is thankful for. This Thanksgiving, have everyone write or draw what they are most thankful for. Together, decorate a shoebox or journal to everyone’s answers. Make a point of adding to this box or journal throughout the year, and by next Thanksgiving you will have an amazing record of thanks. Add to this year after year—what a great treat it will be for the family to read through each Thanksgiving as your children grow!

Share. What are some of the things your children are most thankful for?

Biting – by Dr. Kyle Pruett

Why does a nearly universal event in a child’s development evoke such strong feelings? Odds are – as children we were either a biter or a victim – and often both. Plus, biting hurts and frightens us a lot. And though we know aggression is a normal part of development, regular cruelty is not, and we fear the connection between the two.

Some thoughts to help us manage:

  • When children first bite, it is often their mother while breast-feeding, and their motive is most probably curiosity – not aggression. Mothers should send the following message to their infant: “Ouch, no and if you bite, you lose the breast – end of discussion.”
  • Biting often begins as exploration, but may be quickly associated with out-of-control feelings or feelings of being overwhelmed – with excitement, fear or curiosity. Parents should manage these feelings by staying as calm as possible and firmly saying:
    • “No one likes biting, especially me.”
    • “You just cannot bite.”
    • “I’ll help you stop until you stop yourself.”
  • Parents often fear biting at school most. Peers, especially close ones, are fascinated by each other’s aggression, and the dramatic reactions it evokes. Adult overreaction just makes things more exciting! Experienced teachers have radar for when ‘the chompies’ are in the air and become particularly vigilant.
  • If all adults involved in a biting incident are convinced that it was not an isolated but willful, premeditated event, both children should be kept safe.  Adults should explore the language of what went on and be able to offer alternative responses.

Finally, it bears stating – parents should never bite children back. Believe me, I understand the impulse, but all you accomplish is establishing mutual violence as an acceptable value in your family, embarrassing yourself, and degrading the natural authority you have with your children.  They want your help with this stuff, not your indulgence.

Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. is an advisor for The Goddard School®.  Dr. Pruett is an authority on child development who has been practicing child and family psychiatry for over twenty-five years.  He is a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale University’s Child Study Center. 



Fall Leaves

The Goddard School® located in Weston, MA recommends trying new activities with your child!


Contact paper (clear)

Colored tissue paper

Permanent marker

Double-sided tape



*Children should have adult supervision throughout this activity.

How To:

1. Cut two pieces of contact paper into 5” X 5” squares.

2. Place double-sided tape on the dull side of one square and secure the square to a table or flat surface.

3. Peel off the contact paper backing so the sticky side faces up.

4. Cut or tear small pieces of different colored tissue paper and place them on the sticky side of the contact paper square until completely covered.

5. Place the second square on top of the first square (sticky side down) so the tissue paper is sealed between the two contact paper squares.

6. Trace a leaf shape onto the contact paper squares.

7. Cut out the shape to make a colorful fall leaf.

8. Use tape to adhere the leaf to a window where the sun will shine through it!

9. Have FUN!!!!