It’d be pretty ridiculous to sit and type a rant about limiting toddler screen time. All parents know that they shouldn’t be using the TV as a babysitter but the amount people choose to allow their little ones to sit in front of a screen varies massively. From the liberal to the conservative, some toddler screen time is inevitable in our modern, digital lives.
How much is too much?
The general consensus from health care professionals is that babies should have no screen time whatsoever until they are two. It’d be interesting to know how many parents stick strictly to this guideline. I know we didn’t. However, my girls had and still do have very limited time in front of the TV. Sometime after their first birthday, they were introduced to a Peppa. The five minute programmes were just the right amount of time to hold their attention and useful for bribery and rewards.
In our house, we offer and encourage physical play, games, puzzles, jigsaw over a sedentary lifestyle. It’s no secret that young children need to be exploring the real world, testing their abilities and using their imagination in order to get a good grasp on reality. Their early learning journey will be very much shaped by these experiences and so in my opinion it is vital to get them engaged in activities that will challenge them away from a screen.
Recently, my girls turned three and as their personalities and temperaments develop, it would be easy to hand them a device to keep them busy or distract them. The advice for ages 3-5 year olds is to have a maximum of 1-2 hrs a day. We are trying hard not to become reliant on screen time and don’t encorporate it into our daily routine, so for now we definitely don’t use this amount. Two hours a day seems quite a jump up but this does need to include all forms of screen time not just watching the TV.
When they do watch television, it is rarely alone. Even our reliable friend Peppa can raise interesting questions. A few times a week, I will watch two episodes of their choice from our prerecorded lists. This way, I have control over the content and we also avoid adverts. This is definitely a perk of not watching live TV, especially in the run up to Christmas.
We have also been using Disney films as a reward for staying in bed all night. If they get three ticks, they can watch a film. We have read almost all of the Disney books and so they are loving working their way through the films too. Realistically, they only manage to achieve this about once a week.
Purposeful screen time
By linking toddler screen time to the real world, we hope to give it more purpose. One way that this has been most effectively has been using video calling. My girls understand that their grandparents live quite far away and so we keep in close contact through FaceTime. Unlike a regular phone call, they can join us for dinner or bath time. This use of screen time only enhances their lives.
One of my best friends lives on the other side of the world. By video calling her, they have learnt so much about day and night. Almost daily they will ask “Is it night time for Suzi?” or “Can’t the sun see Suzi?”. It amazes me that they are grasping this difficult concept and I know it’s only because they have a real life connection that they understand.
Age appropriate gaming
Recently, Jess and Emily have been introduced to gaming. Daddy loves his PlayStation and is an avid gamer. Before they were born, we discussed what we thought would and wouldn’t be appropriate for them to see. Luckily, there are lots of games that they can interactive with and we’d rather they did this than passively stare at a screen.
Open world adventure games have been fun. Daddy will take direction while the girls tell him where to go or what to do. All the time, they are talking, interacting and sharing their ideas. The magical settings have also been good for building their vocabulary. Mario Kart is another favourite. The girls take turns to select the course, character and kart. As Daddy races, they wipe their arms frantically when he gets splashed with mud and blow at the screen when Mario shrinks. These silly actions keep them involved and it’s a nice bonding time.
Answering all the questions
Youtube has been a great resource for answering their questions. The other day, they wanted to know where porridge came from. I found a 2 minute clip and it was perfect. We’ve looked up ‘Do swans fly?’ and ‘What are beignet?’ By doing this, I’m showing them it’s ok if they don’t know something and that we can find it out together.
Of course I know my careful approach to toddler screen time is just delaying the inevitable. As soon as they are at school, I’m sure it’ll be much harder to restrict. For now, I’m trying to keep digital play as just a tiny fraction of their experiences and where we do use it, to make it count. I’m sure there are some tech savvy toddlers out there but I’m not worried. Given the choice of being able to switch between apps and navigate the Sky menu or build a den and make a mud pie, I know which I’d want my girls to be doing.
How much screen time do you allow your preschoolers?