Daffodils are blooming, birds are chirping, and spring athletes have hit the fields – after a long, hard winter, spring has finally arrived!  What better time to reevaluate the role TV plays in our lives.  This year’s National TV-Turnoff Week is the first nationwide effort aimed at helping people to reassess the role TV plays in their daily lives.

National Turn Off TV Week is sponsored by TV Free America, a national nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 to raise awareness about the harmful effects of excessive television-watching and to encourage Americans to reduce the amount of television that they watch.  The research shows American children are watching a lot of television!  Check out these eye opening statistics: For example, did you know:

  • Number of 30-second commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680
  • Percentage of children ages 6-17 who have TV's in their bedrooms: 50
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70
  • Hours per year the average American youth spends in school: 900 hours
  • Hours per year the average American youth watches television: 1500
  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner: 66

We are blessed to live in a world with incredible resources at our disposal.  Modern media, including television, permits us access to a vast array of educational programming and allows us to stay informed and connected with others in our community, near and far.  The statistics noted above, however, are a clear reminder of the importance of making responsible choices about what and how much to watch, especially for young children. Television is generally a passive "non-activity" and too much screen time can detract from more healthy, interpersonal and productive activities.

Sign Up for E-News

National TV-Turnoff Week is not about villanizing television, but about making a conscious choice to turn off the TV and tune into other parts of life. It's an opportunity to rediscover a wide range of activities that are not only fun and entertaining, but that also engage your mind and senses.  Get outside and enjoy the great weather - - take a walk, go for a hike, or play sports. 

Staying inside? How about some good old-fashioned game time? Simple toys, when used properly, can help develop complex learning skills. Cognitive skills, like attention, auditory and visual processing, memory and processing speed, are essential tools that help kids become better learners. Research now shows that learning skills can be taught-and therefore improved.  Brain training- like in these games that parents can play with their kids during National Turn Off TV Week and beyond- does for the mind what exercise does for the body.

Here are a few inexpensive, but fun games that can be used:

Alphabet Blocks ($6–$12)

Help develop analysis skills by using alphabet blocks to make up nonsense words starting with two to three blocks.  Pick a vowel and a consonant and create a nonsense word, then have your child remove one of the blocks and add a new one while verbally trying to figure out what the new nonsense word sounds like. This builds phonemic awareness through sound blending and segmenting.

Legos (all $10 and up)

Use these building tools along with the accompanying pictures of completed projects to increase attention, logic and reasoning, and visual processing. Parents can also use a stopwatch to encourage their child to work quickly, which enhances processing speed.

How-to-draw Books ($3–$7)

These simple books are great for visual processing, attention to detail, and planning.

Playing Cards ($2-3)

Spread cards out face down and have children draw two at a time looking for matches. Cards that don’t match are put back in the same location. This builds memory and attention.

Puzzles ($2–$15)

Math, science, test taking and, most importantly, reading comprehension, all require visualization skills. Puzzles are great tools to develop visual discrimination, as well as logic and reasoning.

Simon ($13–$35)

Children can increase their sequential processing, short-term memory, attention and visual processing with this sound and light mimicking game.

Chess ($5–$30)

A classic brain game, chess helps with divided attention, executive processing, logic and reasoning, planning and problem solving.

Marcia Douglas is the Owner and Executive Director of LearningRx Warren, located at 34 Mountain Boulevard, Building C in Warren, NJ.   Ms. Douglas graduated from Georgetown University and went on to earn a law degree from the University Of Virginia School Of Law. She was inspired to put her psychology background and education law experience to work by opening a LearningRx Center after the brain training program produced incredible results for one of her own children. To learn more about LearningRx brain training, stop by the Center, call 908-22-BRAIN, or visit the LearningRx Warren website www.learningrx.com/warren