Question About 5 Year Old and t.v.

Updated on December 29, 2010
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
20 answers

Hi Ladies!

Just wondering if anyone else out there has a 4 or 5 year old child who often seems bored at home? Regardless of how many toys and activities he has here, he frequently asks, "What are we going to do today?" He often seems bored and I get frustrated because I want him to learn to play more independently.

Also, how often does your child or children watch t.v. I'd really appreciate an honest response. I know that many moms state that they don't allow much t.v. but please share your honest experience with this.


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answers from Honolulu on

When my kids say they are 'bored" I reply that that is GOOD! Because now they can use their brains to be creative.

And then, I 'challenge' them to come up with ideas... to do. And they rise to the challenge. They find it fun.

Not everything can be planned for a kid or orchestrated... .'learning' also entails THEM coming up with ideas... too. It flexes their brains, their self-reliance and creativity.

all the best,

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

My 4 year old daughter doesn't watch any tv at all. Honestly, she's never watched tv or movies. I have taken her to a number of shows - Elmo Live, Lion King, Peter Pan, Cirque du Soleil, etc. She attends preschool 3x a week (and watched "Polar Express" there recently which I did not appreciate). She has weekly ice skating, swimming, and dance classes. We do art, read books, play games, and pretend play to keep entertained. She's never complained of being bored, but I am a SAHM with lots of help so I can devote my time to her.

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answers from Portland on

The honest answer is zero. We don't own a TV.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I always give my boys a "schedule" when they are spending the day at home. I tell them what we are doing today like:
1)eat breakfast
2)play bionicles/legos/transformers
3)get dressed and brush teeth
4)coloring/puzzles/activity books/practice "writing"
5)play outside
I think by giving him an agenda he has something to look forward to. You can also make it more elaborate by having him choose the schedule. He can make it at the beginning of the day using crayons or dictating it to you. I have also seen people make magnets of various activities and you can just have him line them up in the order he wants to do them.
Personally if you are going to the magnet route I would just print off some clipart of different activities on to paper and cut them up. Use a glue stick to adhere on all of those free magnets you get from local companies or magnetic letters.

About the TV...My sons watch about an hour in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. My oldest watches a movie instead of naptime. However when the weather is bad or they are not feeling well it is more. I just do the best I can and try not to have it on as background noise all day long. My rule is...if they are not watching it, it is not on.

Hope this helps,
Suzy and her men

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Ours is almost 5 and watches usually 20-45 minutes of TV in the morning while we're taking showers. On "special stat-at-home" days she sometimes gets to watch a whole movie. But otherwise, unless she's not feeling good or we've got a special movie to watch, she doesn't do any more than that usually.

It's interesting that you bring up the "bored" comment b/c ours doesn't seem to get bored of watching Gilligan's Island or Scooby-Doo over and over but when it comes to actually playing with toys she gets bored a lot faster. We do have the rule that if she wants another toy, she has to clean up her first one, which also keeps her occupied longer. (Also because she'll get distracted in cleaning up and will just play more. This is really great for teaching her to play by herself, not so great when cleaning up before dinner haha!)

She is also very extroverted and has to be near you or following you around all the time and always asks for you to play with her. However, she's been getting better at understanding "quiet play time" when we have other things to do like make dinner or online course work. But it does seem like "hiding" some toys makes them more interesting to her when we pull them out again.

Though I do really like the idea of a schedule or an activity calendar. We should try that...

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My son isn't your son's age, but I've worked with kids for a while and have some ideas and observations which might help.

It sounds like your son is old enough to have a "calendar check-in" with you in the morning. If it were me, the night before, I'd plan two things to do together with your son, where he gets at least 15-20 minutes of your time. This could be going to the park, following a recipe together, playing a game, or whatever else you enjoy doing. Have a morning activity and an afternoon one too, and don't be afraid to have him help you do something constructive as your activity, either. Sorting recycling, taking out trash, help with shopping (let him choose some of the fruits and veggies) and putting things away.... all of this is interesting to kids at some point or another. The idea in all of this is that you are getting time together, and write this on the calendar.

Then, in the mornings, you can show him what you've written on the calendar, so he knows there's a plan.

Also plan into your day a period of Quiet Play Time. No tv, computers, videos.... maybe a book on disc/tape, but otherwise, he needs to be playing away from you, and alone. Use a timer and when he pops in, keep referring to it like a broken record: "After the timer goes ding." and no more attention than that. (You don't even have to make eye contact.) At his age, start with 20 minutes and increase as you like. He'll likely be able to work up to 45 minutes within this year, if you do this consistently. He just has to get used to trusting this new routine.

What I've noticed consistently as a preschool teacher, and what my sister of 3 boys notices with her brood, is that when kids have more television, their ability to initiate play is somehow lessened. They have a harder time settling in to play, even difficulty figuring out what to do. We also notice that the less tv, the more easily they can engage in pleasant play. (My son is 3.5-- at current, he watches a 30 minute road construction video once a day. He can decide when, but it's only once because we tell him he has other fun things to do, too.We don't have a lot of problems with him finding something to do. And yes, he often wants to be in my company, as young children do!)

Lastly, it might be helpful to ask your son to help you pack up some of his toys. He may have so many choices going on, that selection can feel daunting. With younger kids, less is more, and if you rotate some toys out of his room or playspace, they are more likely to be played with when they are 'new' again, and the ones which remain are also more attractive.

Best wishes,

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My daughter got to watch Sesame Street for one hour many days, but there were days of no TV at all. And we got rid of the TV when she was 8. She was creative with her toys and projects, and I usually planned a couple of stimulating morning or afternoon activites with her on days I didn't work. And I'd get her out in nature for at least an hour a day unless weather was just too terrible.

My grandson (now 5) doesn't get any television. He does watch one or two kid's videos/movies each week. He occasionally complains of boredom, but he's usually quite capable of making up a game or working on a project of his own design with just a suggestion or two from adults. He has so many options that they become a blur, and he sometimes needs a bit of coaching to help him pick one.

I also spend Fridays with him, and prepare a couple of games or activities in advance, but much of what we do together is just play make-believe games that he invents as we go. But I take a 20-minute "nap" after lunch and insist that he find his own quite game, and he does.

When watching television, children are in a passive and receptive state, very different from active play. It messes with their normal brain activity. I agree with Hazel that more TV often results in less imagination and less creativity. There are studies that bear this out.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I nanny for a family and the kids are allowed 1/2 hour of screen time. that includes tv, video games, computer. 1/2 hour total. after that they have to play or read. I am with them for sometimes up to 10 hours during school breaks and it works out fine for us. you have to suggest things for him to do. and play sometimes but don't get sucked into entertaining him all the time. if you tell him you can find some housework or homework to do he will find something to do lol

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Victoria on

I have a bored box for this. i have both my kids list things they can do when they aren't bored and we make cards. I write the words & they draw a picture. my daughter is nopw starting to write her own words, but you get the point & we put them in the bored box. Then if they have done all their chores, i let them watch tv/ videos for about an hour in the late aftenoon, but if their time is up & I hear I'm bored, I remind them we have a box for that & they go pick a card. I found I would give ideas, but they weren't real receptive to my options, but surprisingly they take right to their own. Also, they know that I'm not taking on their problem and that it is theirs to deal with. so far it has worked for us. Oh & if they keep bugging me about it all, my backup is to put them to work. cleaning their rooms, bathrooms, or straightening up kitchen cabinets & drawers after those options, playdoh, puzzles, paint, or dress up starts looking a whole lot better. Hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

Honestly when we are home the tv or the radio are usually on all day. Not that it actually gets watched but I am ADD and can't do silence.
Silence is more distracting than anything for me.
When the TV is on it's almost always educational.
EDITED to add
When my kids say they are bored I tell um to go find something to do.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Visalia on

I have two boys, 4 and 5, and they watch a lot of tv. Sometimes 4 or more hours a day. (you asked for honest) It's videos and shows from Netflix, so they don't get commercials. Of course some days they don't watch anything; it kind of goes in spurts. If it's a new show, they watch it over and over for a while, then they stop asking to watch and start playing it. It's like the tv gives them ideas for play, and I honestly don't mind this.

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answers from San Diego on

I'd say on a regular basis my kids get 2 hrs of screen time in the morning and then 3 hrs of screen time in the evening. I have a 5 yo boy who is very active and very smart. He prefers to be on the computer. My 3 yo daughter prefers to watch tv or dvds. I homeschool my son 3 days a week and he attends a charter school 2 full days a week. On homeschool days our schedule resembles this:

7-8am wake up, snuggle time and breakfast with Daddy
8-9am tv or computer time while Mom and Dad get ready
9-11am homeschool stays on. For some reason having that distraction helps my son to focus better on his school work, especially the worksheets. I turn it off during reading time though. I usually give my daughter "homework" during this time as well. When she is done (usually 20-30 mins) she will ask to watch a dvd in her room on the portable dvd player or go play in her room.
11-3pm outdoor time...park, errands, museums...anything to get us out and moving. I hate being indoors all day and my kids are the same. The only time we stay indoors all day is if it's raining hard (we will play outside in light rain) or Mommy is really sick (we will still go outside if the kids are sick...they like to ourside even if they are sick).
3-5pm is Quiet Time. They can either play together, play independently, but they must be in their rooms. And if they have behaved well during the day they can earn special priviledges like extra computer time or dvd time during their quiet time.
5-8pm dinner and family relaxing time. The tv is usually on.
8pm good night.

Most of the time during screen time they are half playing games or watching tv and half running around the house playing. My daughter will watch her dvd for about 20 mins, then come outside and run back and forth across the living room for 20 mins, then go back to watch her dvd. My son will play computer games for an hour then create a fun game with whatever is lying around the living room for 30 mins then go back to playing his game. So it's not like they are just sitting there doing nothing during their screen time.

the computer games that DS likes to play are mostly educational:
He also likes to play Dungeons and Dragons Online and watch You Tube videos. I have to say at first I was totally against him playing DDO with my hubby (yep,hubby plays too). But I now see that this game really challenges his brain. He is in Kindergarten, but in order to play the game he needs to read all the instructions and signs in the game. He can read most of them. but what he can't he always asks us "what does this spell?" or "How do you spell this?" And it challenges his brain to strategize and plan ahead.

For those times that he is "bored", I like the Bored Jar that another mom suggested. Are there activities that you don't normally allow that he can earn by good behavior, completing his chores, etc. that he could do during quiet time? Instead of just telling him to entertain himself during quiet time, this would give him something to look forward to. Or maybe each day you could give him a "kit" to make something with during quiet time. One day it could be a marble, a string, a marker and a cardboard box. Tell him has 30 minutes to come up a creation. Set the timer for him to see. At the end give him lots of praise and then take a pic of it with your phone and tell him you are going to send it to Daddy/Grandma...anyone who will respond back with praise for him. Then show him the message that they send back. My son LOVES it when I text message a pic of his creation to Daddy at work. My hubby will usually either call back to talk to my son or will make a big deal about it as soon as he gets home from work. My daughter likes it when I send a pic to my sister so she can show it to my Dad (my daughter is a self proclaimed Grampa's Girl). As I stated before, I will also let my kids earn extra screen time during quiet time for good behavior during the day.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

My 5 year old has ALWAYS watched A LOT OF TV, but it was programs in which I approved of and feel benefited her. She's smart, got tons of imagination, is able to play for long times independently, loves to read, draw, color, create things, etc. I would say about 2 hours a day is the average - not including Family Movie Times.

As long as you know what your child is watching, feel the programs are beneficial to learning or social skills... I don't see anything wrong with allowing them TV time.

Sometimes I'll read a book or go online when she's watching TV, and always listen or interact with her when she wants me to see or try what's on TV.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I think that is common. My 5yo has quiet time every day in her room. She doesn't nap but her brother does and we like a quiet house. We are pretty lucky. My point here is that she will play by herself for one to two hours. SOMETIMES we will tell her she can have quiet time downstairs. If she starts to bother us with 'I want to plaaaaayyyyy with someone' we tell her that we can put her upstairs. She learns to play.

My 2yo, however, can play by himself for a good 30 min. I love it. They play best together though.

My husband is anti-tv. Now that he stays at home, we usually only have movie night on Saturday night. Kids pick the movie. I, however, let them watch TV on Sat and Sun mornings depending on when they get up. We usually watch until 8am, so usually an hour.

When I stayed at home, I would also let the kids watch an hour or so in the afternoons so I could get things done. Doesn't happen now though.

I would play with him for a half hour and then set boundaries. HE has to play by himself for awhile because you have to get things done.


answers from Norfolk on

My son's always been fairly creative.
At 3 yrs old he was building Daddy traps out of pillows.
At first I'd play with him a lot. The first few Lego projects we built I showed him how to follow the instructions/pictures, find the pieces, etc.
And we built our share of forts with a few chairs, blankets, pillows, maybe a cardboard box if we had one on hand.
Soon (around 5 or 6) he was building things on his own and so proud to show me what he built.
He'd combine Legos, building blocks and his Matchbook cars/trucks to build little towns.
I let him watch some Scooby Do or PBS shows, but we've never been big TV watchers.
Of course once he could read (really he got good at it 2nd half of 2nd grade), he's never been bored since then. I always make sure he has plenty of books to read.



answers from Los Angeles on

I have an at-home preschool. We begin each day planning out "What We Are Going To Do Today". EVERYONE takes an active role in planning our day. This allows them to look around, see what's available, think about what activities they like doing, and they learn to decide for themselves how to fill their day. They also learn how to negotiate with one another, "We can do this first, and then we can do that" or "We can do this today, and that tomorrow". It works out really well in our school environment, and many families have told me that their children have become much more independent at home - finding ways to entertain themselves. A simple step for you and your son could be that you ask him at the beginning of the day what he would like to do during the day. Let him choose and go with it. Have fun! B.



answers from Spokane on

My 4 year old watches about 2-3 hours of tv per day, less on preschool days.

As for activities, help him get creative! Give him things to paint, cut, glue, colour, put together. Puzzles are great to do on his own, and you can check in to see if he needs a little help now and again. Also, play doh keeps my kids occupied for hours.



answers from Las Vegas on

My child, who was going eat only healthy food, never watch TV and not talk back is currently watching the Disney Channel with a chocolate granola bar telling me to 'shhhh'!! I don't let him watch tv in the morning before he goes to school. I also try to limit what he watches in the after noon but I'm not usually very good at it. He's actually pretty good at entertaining himself but only for a few minutes at a time. I am not a big fan of many cartoons so we pretty much watch a few toons on Disney and Sprout. LOVE Sprout! I've also found that he's just as happy when he's playing with toys to watch the same thing a zillion times in a row. He actually doesn't seem to be paying much attention but seems to like the idea that it's there if he wants to watch it. I feel like I have totally failed at my original plan but I also realize my original plan was CRAZY!! I am not going to be able to prevent him from wanting to watch tv but I can still choose what he watches. I feel pretty good about it actually. My step kids were all watching The Simpson's, South Park and Family Guy since they were 4 or 5!
If he's watching something interactive then join in. When they are counting on Mickey Mouse count along with him. Talk about the shows he watches. They all have some sort of educational or moral tone to the story so you can talk about the theme. Ask him if he feels like he's a good 'sharer' after watching a show about that subject. Talk about the healthy food on a show and if he would like to make a new vegi dish. There are lots of ways to make the TV experience useful instead of putting him in a tv coma. My step-daughter literally stopped everything when the cartoons were on and you couldn't get her attention. As soon as a commercial came on she'd break free of the 'spell' and pick up where she left least until the commercial was off. It used to REALLY creep me out! I'd love to tell you that I don't use the TV to entertain him while I cook dinner but that's just not realistic. I didn't watch TV growing up. We didn't have cable and only had 1 TV so I ended up watching lots of boring PBS stuff and game shows! My hubby watched TV every waking hour. We're both smart people who read and like to do all kinds of interesting things. I really don't think the TV really mattered very much, although I stomp him at Wheel of Fortune since I watched it every day!!



answers from Los Angeles on

My almost 5 year old..asks every morning..."what are we going to do today?" they like to know what's son watches some tv..but he's on the computer more..l buy educational games.."Kid Pix" is great.."Thinking Skills"..he loves a game called Spore..its for 10 and up but he has mastered it and now we bought him Spore Galactic Adventures...he loves Lego's.. and robots..we just got him Mecha Godzilla..had to call around to all the vintage toy shops for that one..
he loves to be read to..l take home homework from his preschool and we work on that w/ crayons..
He actually says he likes homework..l think he likes it b/c we do it together..we also have Wii..sometimes he plays tennis or bowling.
That's all l can think of right now




answers from Los Angeles on

My daughter is only 2 and will be 3 soon. She doesn't need me to guide her playing and plays independently, but she does need me in the room ("Mommy, you've got to see this!). I think all kids are different, though. The amount of tv she watches depends on a variety of things. If she's sick and supposed to take it easy, I let her watch a lot more because I can only read to her for so long and it becomes difficult to keep her in bed. Some days she doesn't watch television at all (1-2 days a week). Those are typically busy days where she has gymnastics and comes with me to run errands and then we visit with friends. Some days she watches a movie, so about 2 hours. I'd say on average she watches an hour a day. I don't have a problem with t.v. because she doesn't zone out in front of it. She's typically singing or dancing along with it and learning a lot. She learned most of her simple letter sounds from Leapfrog Talking Letters factory and the alphabet forwards and backwards from They Might Be Giants Here Come the ABC's, counting singly and by 2's from They Might Be Giants here come the 123's, etc. TV can be a tool if you know how to use it. I don't really limit the amount of time, but I do limit most of her tv watching to educational tv. I'd say she watches a disney or non-educational movie every two weeks. She also does a toddler yoga dvd with me sometimes.

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