Pick the Programs
Back in your child's toddler and preschool days, you had plenty of awesome choices like Sesame Street, Dora the Explorer, and Blues Clues -- shows you knew were conceived to be a learning experience for a little kid. But now that she's a little older, the options are pretty lame in comparison. There are lots of programs that look like "kids'" shows, but just because something is animated or featured on a kids' channel doesn't mean it's great viewing. "A large part of children's programming requires an appreciation for irony and sarcasm that's developmentally beyond most 6- to 8-year-olds," says Pamela Paul, author of Parenting Inc. So the key is to skip those shows and look for ones that offer material that school-age children will find interesting. My favorites for the 6- to 8-year-old set: Iron Chef, This Old House, pretty much everything on Animal Planet, and, best of all, MythBusters. I'm not suggesting that your kids will be as enamored of these shows as mine were at this age; the point is to know precisely what different programs are about and to select ones you've prescreened.