1. Set some TV time limits. By this I don’t necessarily mean “you can only watch for an hour” or “one episode and that’s it.” Keep an eye on them. Are they staring at the screen like a zombie? Then it’s time to shut off the TV and direct them to another activity.
2. Check what they’re watching for yourself. Always make sure that what your kid is watching is appropriate for them. This doesn’t necessarily mean the guidelines the show/movie has been given, because not every kid is the same. If your little one is more mature, let a PG movie slide every once in a while (let’s get real, we didn’t get those innuendos when we were kid’s either, and we turned out fine). If they’re easily scared, certain shows might be a little spooky for them. For example, peanut is afraid of EVERYTHING. There’s a show on Netflix called “Super Monsters” about a monster preschool where the kids go at night and turn into monsters. It took a few months for her not to be terrified. They’re adorable little monsters for goodness sake! Moral of the story, make sure what they’re watching is appropriate for THEM, not just kids their age.
3. Keep an eye out for patterns. and react accordingly. Are you noticing your kid would rather sit with the tablet than color or play outside? Time for some restrictions. Don’t make it sound like they’re in trouble though, because they don’t really know better. Direct them to something else. Take a drive to the park, play outside, or let them get messy and paint. Do something they don’t normally do, so they feel like they’re not even missing it. A pattern I noticed in mine was that we allowed her to use my tablet while she sat on the potty to keep her sitting long enough to do her business. The other day she had sat with my tablet for TWENTY MINUTES. She then stood up, we got her redressed and she ran to her room. She came back literally two minutes later and said “mommy, I go toilet.” So naturally, I got excited and sat her back on it… until she asked for the tablet AGAIN. I have a 20 minute kid’s timer set up on it, so I told her if there was nothing in the potty when the timer went off, she wasn’t getting it back next time she sat on the potty. Sure enough, it was empty. So now she can’t have it until she does her business.
My little one loves to watch TV (and by “watch,” I mean plays with her toys and looks up at the screen every 5 minutes). While it is a popular belief that all kids’ TV is garbage, many of the shows on Disney Junior or Nick Jr. are actually educational. If they aren’t teaching kids cognitive skills, they’re teaching social skills, which in my opinion is more important. I’d rather have a kind child than one with Mensa-level IQ. Here are her favorites and what they’re teaching little ones.
Super Why! (PBS Kids and Netflix)- teaches literacy skills. I have never pressured my soon-to-be two year old into looking at her alphabet, but she knows ALL her letters. Pretty sure I have Super Why to that for the fact that she is always “spelling” things, and points out letters everywhere we go
Boss Baby: Back in Business (Netflix)- teaches social skills within a family unit (while they are a traditional nuclear family, the principles of honesty, kindness, and love are obviously applicable in any family).
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Junior)- Yes, I had to include this, because it really does do a great job of teaching social skills and math. Kids are learning about shapes, numbers, and being friends.
Nella the Princess Knight (Nick Junior)- teaches confidence, kindness, and empathy, which are skills that honestly need to be introduced earlier in life.
Fancy Nancy (Disney Junior)- This is a new one about a little girl who just loves being fancy. At first I thought “ugh, I don’t want her watching this, this kid’s a freaking snob!” But it really teaches acceptance, kindness, and empathy, which trumps the fact that she’s almost stereotypically girly.
Muppet Babies (Disney Junior)- teaches social skills in a preschool/daycare setting. I can’t help but be reminded of some of my more difficult (but adorable) students when Animal is running around the room.
Llama Llama (Netflix)- If you are a parent, no doubt you know all about Llama Llama and his Red Pajamas. She loves this show, but I have to try really hard and get past the fact that everything is sunshine and rainbows. It teaches about friendships and emotions, but I think it might be the worst for giving kids unrealistic expectations when it comes to socializing with other kids. For the most part, the kids are the best behaved little things ever and are always looking out for each other.
Sesame Street (HBO, unfortunately)- of course the old standby which, fun fact has been around since 1969! She loves all the characters, and it’s teaching her letters, numbers, how to be a friend, and use her imagination.