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Turn Off the TV, Turn on Your Imagination

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no TV watching for children under age 2 and two hours or less per day for children over 2. Studies indicate too much television can lead to obesity and aggressive behavior, depending on the content.

As a parent, I know that TV shows can easily distract a rambunctious toddler or a fussy baby with flashing colors and music. But I no longer feel guilty when I snap off the TV because I’ve discovered a few affordable activities that will entertain little ones while sparking their imagination.

• Shake It Up.

Making musical instruments out of household products wouldn’t seem to keep a 2-year-old busy for long, but to my surprise, my 2-year-old and twin 9-month-olds smile and laugh, while shaking these little rattles. I make mine out of plastic empty Gerber cereal snack cartons. After opening the cap and filling it with beans or rice, I tape the cap back down. You can also do this by placing beans or rice between two paper plates, then staple together.

• Clean It Up.

Get a small bowl or pot and fill it with water and tear-free baby wash. Drop several clean sponges for your child to grasp. Let him wipe a window, wall, or table with the sponge. My children like to screech and dance while splashing around. The best part, the spills eventually evaporate. (Make sure you keep a close eye on them, though, since a child can drown in several inches of water.)

• Camp It Up.

My favorite activity sparks everyone’s imagination. Drape a large sheet or blanket over four chairs. Place toys inside the tent, as well as a flashlight. Have everyone crawl inside and take the fun from there. Pretend you are camping, or hiding out in a cave — the possibilities are endless.

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