I’m not ashamed–I let my toddler watch TV. (Ok, sometimes I do get ashamed in the face of the Mommy wars, especially up against the holier-than-thou, “well I’m glad you found a way that ‘works’ for you” moms). It’s not like he sits in front of the TV all day long. But, I do let him have screen time. And, I’m ok with that. Rhys is two and he definitely has favorite shows and movies and I let him watch them. I have my reasons.
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Why I Let My Toddler Watch TV
He’s learning academics
Rhys has been learning a lot actually watching TV. I try to let him only watch educational shows like Nick Jr. or Disney Jr. or PBS Kids shows. These teach a lot of academic lessons, such as numbers, patterns, shapes, physics, science, letters, and more. To me, it’s no different than learning apps, especially since a lot of these shows are interactive, asking the young audience to answer the question and help them out. Although Rhys can’t really pronounce them correctly, he is recognizing certain letters and can count up to five (“uh, ooh, ee, or, ive”). He has even begun to repeat episodes and retell movies to us, even with his “half-words” and grunts. He will mime actions that has happened and show different emotions that happened in the show. His memory is expanding with this–Rhys will retell something he watched days before.
He’s learning social cues
I love sharing my Disney-filled childhood with Rhys. He has learned so much from these movies. Songs will always catch his attention and he loves to “sing” along with songs and have me sing to him. He also has started to learn musical cues–when the music gets heavy and scary, Rhys will go “uh-oh”, and he can tell facial emotions from characters and will imitate a smile, a laugh, a scream, or crying. We love having Rhys watch Daniel Tiger with the repetitive songs for learning social skills. We actually use a few of those songs with him…it really helped a few times with baby sitters or leaving him for nursery–“Grownups come back”– and finishing an activity–“That was fun, but now it’s done.” He also learns humor from shows. When a character crashes or gets dizzy, they roll their head. Now, Rhys, when he gets dizzy, or “crashes” into something, will roll his head and go “woah woah woah.” It’s super cute!
He’s talking more
Although Rhys has always been ahead of average when it comes to physical and mobile milestones, as well as comprehension, his verbal skills are far behind his peers. He really only has about 5-10 “real” words that he says properly and pronounces correctly. However, a few months ago, we found an hour and half long nursery rhyme playlist on Youtube (he never watches the entire thing in one sitting!!!). In the past few months, he has been trying to talk a lot more. He “sings” along with the nursery rhyme songs. He can say “aze” for Blaze and the Monster Trucks, and uses a lot more “words” strung together.
It calms gives him some space
It takes Rhys a little bit to properly and happily wake up in the morning and after his nap. Letting him watch a little TV allows him to compose himself. Sometimes, it’s also the only way to quell a tantrum, after all other resources are exhausted.
It helps him to eat
Yes, I let him watch TV during lunch. Rhys has always done the worst with lunch, but letting him eat lunch on the TV tray on the couch helps him to eat more. We try our very hardest to avoid TV during snack times and breakfast and dinner.
It helps me
Yes, sometimes I let the TV be the babysitter. Which mom hasn’t done that at one time or another? First, I try to get Rhys involved with toys or coloring before resorting to the TV. I blog from home as well as do some freelancing and virtual assisting, and sometimes, I really need to focus on a deadline, especially since I try not to work on the laptop once Justin comes home from work. There are also times when I feel like absolute crap due to this pregnancy or the migraines that I periodically get where it’s quite the struggle to actually get out of bed. The TV is definitely on more often than not on those days. Thankfully, those days are few.
Again, I want to emphasize RHYS DOES NOT WATCH TV ALL DAY NOR AM I CONDONING THAT! Rhys is not obsessed or addicted to TV and no kid should ever be glued to the TV. There should definitely be limitations to letting young children (actually, any child) watch TV.
Tips to Letting Your Toddler Watch TV
Have set times for the TV or limit the amount of time
I try to only have the TV on for the 30 minutes between Rhys waking up and breakfast, during lunch, and then maybe a family movie before bed. Some days are much better than others and some days are worse. But, as long as you have a goal of limitation, that is a huge step. When the TV time is done, it is done. Don’t give in. I typically use the excuse “it’s broken and we have to wait till Daddy comes home to fix it.” Yes, it’s a little white lie, but then Rhys will get occupied with something else and completely forget about the TV for the rest of the day.
All things in moderation
When a show is over, it is over and the TV goes off. Be firm. Get your child interacting in something else. Make sure you are still reading to your child every day! As a mother and a teacher, I cannot emphasize this enough!!! Reading is the most important thing you can do for your children! We try to read a lot of books right before bed, as well as interspersed throughout the day. Whenever Rhys asks me to read a book, I put whatever I’m working on down and read to him. Make sure they get plenty of outside time–kids needs to run around and be active. Make playdates–they shouldn’t get all their interactive and social learning from shows. They need to actually learn in person. Play with your children. The TV is should not be a substitute for you.
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Watch with them and interact with them
I’ve read that watching TV can limit toddler’s progression and speech…well, Rhys is learning better with the shows he watches because they are interactive. I will sit sometimes and watch with him. I’ll ask Rhys questions about the show–what a character is feeling, which character is which, what shape they are asking for, what number are they showing, what just happened, etc. It makes Rhys think more and process what he has just seen better.
Be picky about what they watch
I love Nick Jr, Disney Jr, and PBS kids. Not only are they completely age appropriate for Rhys, but before each show, the network will tell parents what their kids will learn in the show. I don’t let Rhys watch regular cartoons. If I’m going to let him watch TV, I want him learning from it. I also allow him to watch Disney animated films because I grew up watching them. They are great stories and have morals to learn.
I know this isn’t for every parent. I know that many parents don’t let toddlers (or kids) watch TV at all. However, this is what works for us. If you are going to be judgmental, keep it to yourself. We are all trying our best as moms.