Playing to Learn: How TV Can Help With Your Child’s Development


The World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of one hour of screen time for children under the age of five may be wishful thinking, especially now that children are spending more time indoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But not all screen time is bad.

Dr Tshepiso Matentjie

According to Tshepiso Matentjie, a psychologist and play therapist based in Little Falls, Roodepoort, Johannesburg, television shows can be harnessed for play therapy.

But what exactly is play therapy – and how can it help your child when watching TV is a static activity?

Through the use of media such as storytelling, puppet and sand play, drama, music, dance, painting and drawing, and board games, play therapy helps children tap into their natural ability to express their feelings to communicate and resolve problems, and is most appropriate for children aged four to 12 years.

“Raising children is amazing but can often come with a number of anxieties – not least of which is the constant worry about your child’s well-being,” says Thabisa Mkhwanazi, Executive Head of Marketing at MultiChoice South Africa. “What we’ve tried to do with the DStv School of Laughter is provide a safe space for children and parents to choose from a range of age-appropriate content that is entertaining and educational for them both. As a trusted partner for parents on the journey of raising children, it is these moments – the emotional bonding over humorous shows or the discussion over a new discovery – that what we strive to generate in millions of homes every day.”

DStv believes in the positive impact play therapy can have on children and through the children’s content available on the platform, DStv’s School of Laughter is built to ensure that children are not only entertained but also reap various developmental benefits while enjoying their favourite TV shows.

“It’s important for the parent to know the content of the show first and recognise how its themes can mirror the lived experiences and emotions the child is going through,” says Matentjie. “Watch the programme with your child then engage in an interactive conversation about the story. Use the five Ws and H (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) questions to help them process, learn and express new skills.”

Matentjie also adds that it is of utmost importance that the discussion ends on a positive note so your child is left with a sense of hope and optimism. Through this process, your child will develop positive social and problem-solving skills and coping strategies to effectively deal with both positive and negative experiences.

With schooling currently being interrupted as a result of the national lockdown regulations, DStv, which has 15 channels dedicated to children’s programming, is committed to bringing the very best educational content into the homes of South Africans. Through compelling and relevant shows, children will be exposed to creative ways to continue their development outside of the classroom.

“TV is a fun and interactive teacher that can be recorded, paused and replayed to repeat the experience and reinforce what has been learnt previously,” adds Matentjie.

DStv’s array of shows encourages open-ended questions and interaction through built-in silences. These types of learning resources are invaluable as they supplement the training gaps of teachers and parents.

 Catch the best developmental programming for your child on School of Laughter by visiting

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