I'm a godfather/honorary uncle to a number of preschoolers. They get excited about my visits and mostly prefer to play with me. However, during my longer (8 hours to few days long) visits they will eventually ask to watch TV at some point.

I wouldn't say they are watching TV excessively, or ignoring me. Generally they spend most of their time playing with me, even if TV is an option; and if given a choice between turning off TV or having me leave they would choose to turn off the TV and keep me. I know they prioritize me higher in general. However, they can still get sidetracked by TV for a while, and when that happens I get sidelined. Sometimes I can encourage them to play with me instead, sometimes they turn down my invitation to play to watch TV instead. Yes I could simply tell them to turn off the TV or refuse to turn it on, but I don't like forcing them to play with me when they actively are requesting something else; it's not like they're getting too much screen time when I'm around.

I'm not that upset that they sometimes choose to watch TV, I know they still value me. But when I only get so much time with them I want to do the most good I can to help mentor and guide them during that time, and I feel like I'm not doing much to help them grow as kids when they're watching TV.

How can I get the most out of the time when kids are asking for TV?

That could be convincing them to play with me over the television, or helping to interact with them while they're watching TV so I can still be doing something to guide/mentor them during that time.

  • Do you choose the programming they get to watch? This is probably the key factor.
    – Rory Alsop
    Jul 8, 2019 at 14:35
  • Preschoolers are going to get distracted like that. 8 hours to a few days long of only interacting with you and you alone is going to be hard for them to do. Kids need breaks from the adults too.
    – user20343
    Jul 8, 2019 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


If you want to enjoy time with them that includes some screen time, you can gently lower the prohibition of 'talking during a movie' and invite them interact with you by singing along with the songs, dancing when the characters do, pretending to be the characters, etc as the specific movie allows.

You might also want to engage them in thinking harder about their media by asking them questions. Asking about the characters emotions or motivations, and asking them to predict what is going to happen next or restate what just happened on-screen can even be educational, as they learn to engage with the story rather than just watching passively. Some examples that I have used with my toddler:

  • Does [character] look happy, or sad? Why do you think that?
  • Would you rather be friends with this character, or that character?
  • Why do you think [character] did that?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • What would you do if you were [character]?
  • Who do you think is [at the door | in that car | calling]?
  • If you were one of these characters, which one would you be?
  • What just happened?
  • Why does [character] feel [emotion]?
  • Was what [character] just did a good choice, or a bad choice? Why?

Here's some more information on how to watch tv with kids in a way that brings more value to the experience: https://childmind.org/article/benefits-watching-tv-young-children/

  • Just posted as well. Solid answer, +1. Jul 9, 2019 at 16:36

Kids like TV. It gives them a kind of stimulation that you can't always match. Let them watch some without you believing that you're missing an important opportunity to teach them helpful life lessons.

My children got more screen time than recommended today, but all of it (yes, all of it) was with me sitting and watching with them, so we could discuss anything that might be good to discuss. We didn't discuss everything, but we discussed anything that I felt (or they wanted) to discuss. We watched some great shows together, and remember especially The Simpsons, which their friends were not permitted to watch (a great show in the beginning.)

How to get preschoolers to interact with me over the TV?

You ave tried engaging them, and don't want to turn off the TV. So I suggest you join in and use what you see as a teaching moment if one presents itself.

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