"Viewing Guidelines"
General guidelines for children's viewing needs at different age

by Martha Dewing

20 months - 2 years: Toddlers relate best to music, movement and color. They love nothing more than watching youngsters like themselves engaged in familiar activities like walking, singing, laughing and simple finger plays. Romping animals and silly muppets work well, too.

2-5 years: Preschoolers are developing a sense of who they are and the parameters of their world. Exploration and lots of questions help them to make sense of what's around them. Because life's fast pace often seems confusing, familiar, evenly-paced videos are most meaningful. Remember that this age group is still sorting out what's real and what is pretend. Successful videos have uncomplicated stories with simple, rhythmic language and humorous real life situations. And, of course, music - lots of music.

When kids are learning to communicate with words, monsters and superheroes who express their feelings and desires with a punch or zap are to be avoided. For the moment skip scary wolves and witches, too. By the time a child is 4 or 5 years old, mildly frightening stories like traditional fairy tales can be empowering, giving them a sense of bravery for having stuck with it. Still, it is reassuring when a scary video has a happy ending.

>5-8 years: Programs with themes that combine independence along with a sense of security appeal to this age group, i.e. going on a journey and returning home proud of one's accomplishments. They enjoy fairy tales and fantasies, family musicals, inspirational stories and non-fiction. Along with gaining physical competence and developing gross motor skills, comes an interest in games, rules and sports.

On the one hand, many kids may think they are old enough to watch more sophisticated videos - maybe even adult fare. Do keep in mind that they still enjoy cuddling in a lap to watch a tape that has a balance of intrigue and comfort.

8-12 years: This age group needs more challenging stories with clear plots, well-developed characters, logical settings and conflict that makes sense within the overall story. They identify with real life situations about kids their own age and older. Stories with characters resolving conflicts or examining important life questions help bring clarity to their ever-changing world. They enjoy stories with an element of fantasy, science fiction and slapstick humor. Non-fiction videos about sports, magic, cartoon drawing and special effects in movies are appealing. Other families and how people live interest them, along with new hobbies and causes like the environment and endangered animals. While this age group knows what's real and what's not, they often question whether a story really happened or not.

Martha Dewing: Publisher, Children's Video Report


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