Use Television Positively!

There are a wealth of excellent educational programs on television (particularly on cable) that can be used to broaden your children's experience of the world. Watch Animal Planet to see how elephants live. Visit the bottom of the ocean on the Discovery Channel. Visit China on the Travel Channel. Watch Arthur or Reading Rainbow on PBS! Don't just look at the listing for the "Big Four." Read down through your cable guide carefully.

Don't assume that your kids will only be interested in new programs. In our experience old movies (especially those with color and spectacle) appeal to today's children, especially elementary school age and older.

Try musicals like Oklahama or Godspell, try great classics like The Ten Commandments or Gone With the Wind or The King and I or The Sound of Music. You may be surprised at what will hold their interest. Talk to your children about the movies afterward, ask them what they liked, what questions they have. Build object lessons out of characters' success and failures.

Try old comedies, introduce them to silent films. A great family activity is to watch a silent film and make up your own dialog and music. Give the kids kazoos and bongos! Don't be afraid to let them watch old films that might be considered "politically incorrect" today. The Little Rascals are still thigh-slapping funny, and some of the episodes featuring Buckwheat will provide an opening to talk to your children about the stereotyping of blacks.

If you have a digital camcorder and a computer that features video editing, make your own family movie together!