How to Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing

By the time your child begins kindergarten in the United States, he or she will have watched an average of 4,000 hours of TV. Most child development experts agree that this is too much. But banning TV from children's lives isn't the answer. Good TV programs can spark children's curiosity and open up new worlds to them.

A better idea is for families and caregivers is to monitor how much time their children spend watching TV and what programs they watch. This article provides a number of ways in which you can monitor and guide your child's TV viewing.


  1. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 1
    Choose according to your child's age. Choose the shows that provide activities and values that you want your child to see, learn and imitate. To this end, it is important to look for TV shows that:
    • teach your child something
    • hold his interest
    • encourage him to listen and question
    • help him learn more words
    • make him feel good about himself; and
    • introduce him to new ideas and things.
  2. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 2
    Be aware of how many hours of TV your child has watched every week, as well as what she is watching.
    • Either note down or keep a record in your head of each week's viewing hours.
    • Some experts recommend that children limit their TV watching to no more than 2 hours a day. However, it's up to you to decide how much TV and what kinds of programs your child should watch.
  3. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 3
    Learn about what current TV programs, videos and DVDs are available. It is important that you help your child to select good ones. Some current good choices for preschoolers include:
    • "Sesame Street", "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood", "Blue's Clues", "Between the Lions", "Reading Rainbow", "Barney & Friends", "Zoom", and "Zoboomafoo", are some shows that you may want to try.
    • Many other good children's programs are available on public television stations and on cable channels such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.
  4. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 4
    Find the classics as well. You may remember enjoying certain series when you were young and want your child to enjoy these too. If you have a VCR or DVD player, look for video or DVD versions of classic children's stories and books, such as the Babar stories and the Children's Circle series, "Stories for the Very Young" and "More Stories for the Very Young."
    • For your very young child, try the "Baby Einstein" series.
  5. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 5
    Use online resources to help you make good choices for your children. Do some research with reputable sites that are concerned with the quality and content of children's programming.
    • Parents' Choice, a quarterly review of children's media, including TV programs and home video materials, can help you to choose titles that are suitable for your child.[1]
    • Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization keen to ensure that parents have access to quality information about media products aimed at children, including TV.[2]
    • You can also read about programs in TV columns in newspapers and magazines. Cable subscribers and public broadcasting contributors can check monthly program guides for information.
  6. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 6
    Help your child to make good choices about what to watch. After selecting programs that are appropriate for your child, help her decide which ones she wants to watch.
    • Turn on the TV when one of these programs starts and turn it off when the program ends.
    • Watch TV with your child. This will help you answer questions and talk about what he sees. Pay special attention to how he responds, so that you can help him to understand what he's seeing.
    • Read Have Fun Watching TV Shows for Small Children for some ideas on coping yourself!
  7. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 7
    Follow-up TV viewing with activities or games. Have your child tell you a new word that she learned from a TV program. Together, look up the word in a dictionary and talk about its meaning. Or have her make up her own story about one of her favorite characters from a TV program.
    • Include the whole family in discussion and activities or games that relate to TV programs.
    • Visit the library to find books that explore the themes of the TV shows that your child watches. Or help your child to use her drawings or pictures cut from magazines to make a book based on a TV show.
  8. Image titled Monitor Your Preschooler's TV Viewing Step 8
    Allow for creative time without TV. Make certain that TV isn't used as a babysitter. Instead, balance good television with other enjoyable activities for your child. You don't need to be present or directing everything that your child does when playing with toys, reading, enjoying the mud in the backyard, etc. – it is just as important that he learns to find out about things for himself, including how to bust boredom using his imagination!


  • Start with PBS - Public television - to avoid commercials. Children tend to ask for everything they see.

Things You'll Need

  • TV show schedules
  • Internet access
  • Library account

Sources and Citations

  1. For more information, see the Parents' Choice Web site:; or write to: Parents' Choice Foundation, Suite 303, 201 West Padonia Road, Timonium, MD 21093.
  2. Common Sense Media,

Article Info

Categories: Parenting and Technology | Toddlers