The other morning I positioned my youngest son in front of our bedroom TV while I was showering. One of his favorites, Dinosaur Train, was on PBS and when I peered in on him, I noticed that he had plopped down with his mini-white board and was drawing [what was later revealed to be] his version of a pteranodon.
“Mom,” he said, lifting his white board. “Look what I did! What do you think it is?”
My eyes sprang open, eyebrows climbing half-way up my forehead upon hearing the question. The “guess what I drew” game is always a bit dangerous, isn’t it? Not wanting to disappoint, I craned my neck and squinted my eyes, trying to identify the orange blob that seemed more like some sort of chemical pond than a dinosaur.
“Wow, buddy…Hmmmm…I don’t know.” I paused, rubbing my chin in thought.
“It’s a pteranodon!” he glowed.
“Oh! I can see it now–there’s the thing on top of his head…”
Hearing him describe his creature inspired me: we have used whiteboards while reading [details next time!], but why not while watching an educational program on TV?
If you’d like to turn TV time into something with a little more meaning and staying power, start by purchasing a small whiteboard for each of your kids [available for a couple bucks at Target/Walmart] Here are a few easy ideas!
- Discuss the difference between main and supporting characters. Ask your kids to identify the main character in the show and draw him/her. Can they do the same for two supporting characters?
- What was the setting of this show? Can you draw it? Emphasize the details of landscape just as much as those of manmade objects such as bridges and buildings. If you have older kids, ask them to write the name of the state, area, or–if you’re watching Dinosaur Train, the time period.
- Recall: If you’ve watched the show with your child, conjure up a few questions and allow them to answer by drawing or writing a word answer: What did the dinosaurs use to enter the Jurassic Period? What was Papa Bear working on in the woodshop? What did Laura Ingalls have to bring into town?
- Ask your kids to imagine an alternate ending. What if the Man With The Yellow Hat hadn’t left George alone in the apartment. What do you think they would have done together? Have your kids draw their alternate ending and then go around and take turns explaining them.
- Was there a moral of the story? What was the lesson? Discuss or draw.
Of course your kids might protest if every morning becomes a platform for a quiz, however allowing whiteboards to make an appearance every once-in-awhile can be a fun challenge and an opportunity for you to praise their brainpower. Try it and see if TV time becomes a little more intentional–especially with shows that already convey a moral or clear teaching.
What creative ways do you employ to discuss the shows and movies you watch with your kids?