Toddler Screen Time: Make it Count

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 Peppa. The five minute programmes were just the right amount of time to hold their attention and useful for bribery and rewards.

Bribery with Peppa

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.

TV Time

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.

Reward screen time

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 also 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.

Building a den

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?


toddler screen time pin

13 thoughts on “Toddler Screen Time: Make it Count

  1. Some really good ideas here for useful screen time. My daughter probably has a bit too much at the moment! It’s difficult finding a balance, when she gets home from preschool she wants to flop on the sofa and watch TV, which is fine sometimes but not ideal long term.

    I look things up on YouTube too – she’s always asking how things are made so we often look it up together!


    1. It’s hard to not let the occasional bit of tv turn into routine

  2. Some great ideas here. I’ve been feeling guilty at the amount of screen time my 2yo has been having recently due to us having been poorly over recent weeks with different bugs/coughs etc. This post has made me realise that I really need to get a grip on it now while I can still control it. #AnythingGoes

  3. I agree that screen time should be meaningful. We were really good with our eldest but the younger two have had increasingly more when their older brother/ brothers get to the stage of watching a film, for example. It hasn’t become a routine for any of them though, and none of them rely upon it for entertainment, so I hope we’ve done something right! Thanks for sharing with #Blogstravaganza

  4. My daughter’s 6 and has used a tablet since she was a toddler. If you’re sensible with timings and what they watch then I don’t see a problem with it at all. My daughter is so tech savvy! #Blogstravaganza

  5. Love the ‘meaningful’ screen-time ideas you’ve put forth. I often ask my son to choose a topic (space/ tigers/ human body etc) and we watch a short Youtube video on it. Check out this website called – informative videos on a range of topics!

  6. I agree that some screen time is inevitable, but I think if managed properly it can be enjoyed and they can learn from it! We are quite an outdoorsy family so TV is often watch from the planner in our house too, as we’re never in when it’s live! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx

    1. Thanks, the stats are quite shocking but it’s so hard to resist. I’m limiting as much as possible.

  7. Technology is a huge part of the world these days, but I agree it’s important to think about what we’re exposing children too at such a young age. My two year old uses the ipad but only when he’s exhausted himself playing and needs a rest.

  8. This is a great post and you have some great ideas i have six children and each have been massivly different.
    My first were twins and I would put them infront of baby Einstein crom 3 months old. They love TV and playing on the computer but I also always made sure they spend alot of time outside and involved in sport. I always made sure there was a good balance.
    I followed this through to my next two.
    My fifth baby (now two) has never enjoyed watching TV which is seriously frustrating.
    I think parents know what is right for their children. If plonking them infront of the TV or Tablet for a coupke of hours helps you get stuff done or just have some peace to recharge….who is anyone to judge!? Xxx

  9. I recently just spent £13 on an app for my iPad that is the same as what they are using at school to teach the kids phonics. It was the best £13 I have spent. Little Man loves singing the songs and playing the games and it’s assisting with his learning as well. His teacher was even impressed and then realised why he had been coming along so well in school. I think a lot of people assume screen time is all about watching cartoons when really there is so much more available, it’s just knowing where to look. Thanks for joining in at #TriumphantTales, do come back Tuesday!

  10. My children have phases so sometimes they want a lot of screen time but other times they won’t go near their tablets for weeks. It all balances out #triumphanttales

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