TELEVISION channels for children these days are filled with programmes claiming to be educational while still remaining fun and exciting for the child to watch.
However, not all these shows are what they claim to be, and parents still need to vet what their child watches on television.
Yet, how does one choose what makes suitable “edutainment” for a young child?
Hi-5 World executive creative director Julie Greene says that “edutainment” is when a show is able to captivate, entertain and enlighten a child with “educational values”. She cites the popular Australian children’s TV programme Hi-5, as an example.
When deciding what might be suitable, Greene believes parents should look at the show’s content and their child’s learning style.
“I believe at the preschool age, the parents are very much the gatekeepers of what the children watch. They should do so because there are many elements that are of no value and are negative,” she adds.
“The parents need to watch the show together with their child and not just turn on a channel and allow their child to sit there because, even if the channel is for children, it’s not necessarily something that is going to be suitable.”
Greene also says the TV programme Hi-5 is “fun for parents to watch with their children,” as the parents can sing and dance with their children and the cast on the show.
“The child will naturally join in when the adult does it (sing and dance), I think it makes the learning potential much stronger and effective,” adds Hi-5 House scriptwriter Dr Catherine Martin.
She adds that parents can engage with their children while watching the show by asking questions to draw their attention to certain concepts or lessons in the programme.
Dr Martin says screen time for young children should be kept to a minimum.
“There’s no hard and fast rule, but I think for children under the age of two, watching for about an hour, should be enough.
“Parents should be picky when they choose what their children are watching to ensure it has value,”
Dr Martin thinks parents tend to keep their children occupied by using the television because they, like all others, need a break from their children.
“Another reason is that parents want children to get something out of the programme and to be entertained by watching something they enjoy,” she says.
“Kids just get pumped up when they see Hi-5 on-screen, it’s colourful, fun, vibrant and very interactive,” she says, adding that this contributes a lot to the child’s ability to learn from a television programme.
In Malaysia, the newly opened Hi-5 House of Learning (Hi-5 HOL) incorporates the educational theories from the hit TV series into a curriculum using movement, music and creativity for preschoolers.
“What we aim to do is to holistically provide good foundational skills to children who are going to stay with them through their whole lives,” Greene says.
She adds that the school does not carry out traditional rote-learning where filling out heaps on worksheets is the norm.
“Instead, lessons might involve playing with language ideas or focusing on a sound of aspecific letter in the alpabet.”
Hi-5 HOL offers age-targeted programmes including pre-nursery, nursery and a series of enrichment activities for children with different inclinations and interests.