Thursday, June 3, 2010

Week 20 Yes You Can Use the TV to Build Communication :)

Today I am going to touch on a subject that has some "energy", both positive and negative around it. It is about actually using the TV as a way to build communication with your child.

TV and children is a topic that many people have opinions on. There are the families that have the TV on all day and that's fine with them and then there are the families that don't have a television in the house. There are studies out there that talk about the damage that TV can have on young children. And I read those studies and have friends that don't have televisions in their homes and I am totally respectful of that. I am a person that believes that pretty much anything in life is OK in moderation and the reality is that most homes have televisions in them. And alot of the time they are on. So, as a speech and language pathologist I think it is important to share some tips that can actually let you use the TV to pop more language in your child.

Now, I am not an advocate for plopping your child down in front of the TV for hours at a time. It is important for your child's development to have actual people interaction on and off, all day long to grow and learn. But for short periods of time, the TV can be OK.

The most important thing to me is that you are sitting with your child and interacting with the TV and your child. How would this look (did she really say, interact with the TV ?)!!! When I use the TV as a language tool I would join the child during their favorite program, let's say Mickey Mouse Playhouse. As the show is going on, I would be commenting about what is happening..."hi Mickey" when Mickey first shows up and I would wave at the same time. "Oh no, Donald down!" would be something I would model if Donald fell down and I would probably cover my mouth in horror (dramatic effect). I would most certainly sing along with the songs they have "hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog" and do some dancing. Now think about what your child is seeing and doing compared to just sitting on the couch and passively watching. You are doing all the suggestions (labelling, commenting, using animation, etc) to make this activity fun and interactive. And so many of the children's programs are very repetitive, so they hear the same songs and phrases over and over, like "oh man" from Dora. Since they hear these phrases and songs over and over, they are more apt to be able to imitate them.

Now I would take this one step further and maybe later in the day use the actual Mickey Mouse and Donald figurines that you probably have in the house and role play some of the show that you saw earlier. You could have Mickey dance and then sing the hot dog song, slowly and with breaks and see if your child joins in. You could set up the situation that Donald falls down and say "oh no" or "you OK Donald?" which can be followed up with giving Donald a kiss which is doing some oral motor stimulation. You can give your child the choice (do you want to have Mickey or Donald?). Then of course this can overlap with books, pictures, singing, etc.

Let's think about sports shows. Many families enjoy watching a team or teams together and it becomes a family celebration. You will be surprised to find that doing the touchdown arms up motion or saying an approximation of "touchdown" can come pretty quickly when the whole family is involved...there is lots of modelling going on and the whole family is having fun. Other words during sports shows that children pick up quickly are "go, oh no, etc." Also watch out for the swearing that might pop out during a game because it's amazing to me how quickly and appropriately your nonverbal child will pick up those words first!! But think about it, the model is usually pretty animated, loud, a short model and pretty attractive to small ears :)

The wonderful thing about TV programs and DVDs or videos (yes I am old :) is that they can expose your child to places and people and experiences that they do not see on a daily basis. This is a way to expand your child's understanding of the world, increase their vocabulary, and meet new people or find new places that give them pleasure. Most of us watch TV for enjoyment so using it to pop some communication just makes sense.

The power of learning those simple tricks that I shared at the beginning of this blog is that you can use them in all different activities that you are doing throughout your day. It makes learning how to communicate so less stressful because it's not an additional thing that you are adding on to your day, it's looking at what you are already doing and enriching the interactions. I know that it feels awkward and weird at first, but the more you try, the more "normal" it will feel to you and you will find it effortless after time.

Have a wonderful week.


  1. I had to chuckle on the swearing example. Have you been at our house for football games?

  2. No :) but I have heard many "language delayed" children "pop" swear words, clearly and appropriately when they aren't saying much yet at all. I think it has to do with the enthusiasm that the model is demonstrated !!!