I Allow My Toddler To Watch TV

Yes, I let my toddler watch TV. There are actually some positives to it, and I'm not ashamed.

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.

Yes, I let my toddler watch TV. There are actually some positives to it, and I'm not ashamed.

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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.

Tayler from The Morrell Tale.com

Tayler is a work at home mom. She does free lance articles and dabbles in graphic design and virtual assisting for bloggers. She spent 3 years as a history and English teacher. Her passions are her husband, two children, history, reading, nature, and her Savior, Jesus Christ.

  • CoCo

    All things in moderation. Way to take a controversial stand. I am not a mom yet but am frightened of the mommy warriors but feel like I will take a stance similar to you.

    • Thank you, CoCo. Moderation is key in all things. Of course, there will be bad days, but there will be days that no TV is watched!

  • Desiree @ Macke Monologues

    We allow Marcus to watch tv as well, not a whole lot. But some evenings I just need something good and educational to keep him occupied while I make dinner!

    • Exactly! Haha! Rhys loves to “help” with dinner or chores too, but sometimes, that “help” is actually HINDERING and I need him distracted.

  • Mrs.AOK

    YES!! I think all things in moderation isn’t bad AT ALL. I let my kids watch tv when they were toddlers, and they’re fine. Like you, I tried to keep it educational. My kids are 8,10, and 14 and they’re doing just fine. My eldest is in NJHS, Debate, and softball, so I think we’re okay there. 🙂
    Kudos to you mama! You know your child best. 🙂
    XO
    http://www.mrsaokaworkinprogress.com

    • Exactly! As long as they are learning and you take an active part in your child’s life and especially growth, development, and education, then they will turn out just fine.

  • Rachel Golden

    I love this post! So often you hear certain moms condemning tv for toddlers and young children, but I really don’t see the harm in it every once in a while. The shows really can be educational. It’s just about the amount of exposure and making sure they get adequate amount of reading and things like that as well. It sounds like you really have your act together 🙂

    • Exactly. Reading is really important to counter-balance it and to try activities to keep stretching their attention span.

  • Abe totally watches TV. TV time is usually in the afternoon, after naps and before dinner when I’m in that “when is my husband coming home this day has been exhausting” stage of the day hahah.

    • Hahahaha! We have those days, too! Especially since I typically fall asleep with Rhys and while pregnant, naps don’t always help me to feel better…

  • When my daughter was young I chose not to have TV, or Video Games.. Two things happened when she was older it seemed that she made up for lost time by watching lots of television… And when getting an eye test her hand eye coordination was not up to the norm for a kid her age…

    • That is very interesting about the delay of hand-eye coordination! But, I bet she has some great hobbies she still likes?

  • Danielle

    Sadie is a huge tv lover. She also loves to wheel and deal with her tv time allotment, “One more show mom, one more!” With her finger held up… But she is smart, nice, and happy so I am cool with it. Like you said, moderation!

    • Hahaha. Rhys tries that too, sometimes!

  • I’m very surprised that there are people who think kids shouldn’t watch tv at all. It’s a bit unrealistic in our world, and I think it’s kind of ‘wasting’ a very useful learning resource if you have it. I had a very outdoorsy childhood and grew up traveling the world–and I have fond memories of the hour before Dad came home while Mom was cooking dinner that she would let my siblings and I watch Mr. Roger’s, Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, or Kratt’s Kreatures (my sister and I wanted to name our future kids after the Kratt brothers: Chris and Martin). When we got older, Gilligan’s Island became our show of choice, and we would do any amount of homework or chores in record time in able to be able to watch our daily episode. 🙂 Happy memories with my siblings.
    We definitely use the television for our kids. Oh sure, we also take them swimming, to the park, to the library, practice all school skills every day, read stories, practice housework skills,…but the TV is a great resource. We actually don’t have TV service, so they watch DVDs, and my Mom LOVES educational dvds, so she’s amassed a great collection. I’m in the habit of ‘assigning’ the kids to watch movies related to something we’re learning about–particularly with Bible stories, I find that the visual memory of watching the cartoon version of a Bible story after reading the Bible story, they can remember and repeat the story and lessons from it much better than from listening to me telling it to them alone. Other times we’re learning about the Great Barrier Reef and I assign them to watch Finding Nemo. haha! It just adds fun. I even use computer games in school, too! I’ve never seen kids so excited about reading as when they are allowed to play “Teach Your Monster to Read.”

    • I remember those shows as a kid! That is actually why my mom loves Daniel Tiger for her grandkid–it’s the brain-child of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood.

      I actually used a PBS series to teach the Revolutionary War to my 8th graders–>Liberty’s Kids. Just about every lesson had at LEAST a clip from the show…it does a great job engaging the kids and teaching them the concepts!

  • Lori Lyons Luhrman

    What a great post! My daughter is almost two and also gets some TV time during the day. I totally agree with you that there are great educational shows out there that can really benefit kids’ emotional, social, and verbal skills. Daniel Tiger’s “Grown ups come back” is also a staple song in our house! Ha, thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks! I think, as long as we are smart about what our kids watch and when and how it can benefit them, it’ll turn out fine.

  • My daughter watched some TV and play outside some, and played in her room some, and played with her friends some…I let her choose her own activities and I found she did a great job of balancing them!

    • Balance is the absolute key!

  • Heather Gullett Denniston

    There is so much amazing educational TV opportunities out there. i totally get what you are saying. Set times are a must though. 🙂

    • Thanks, Heather! Definitely setting times and boundaries are a base need with TV time.

  • Debra Hawkins

    In moderation for sure, technology is great and we should use it – balance is the key!

    • Exactly! You just summarized my entire post!

  • OurFamilyWorld

    There are many educational shows for the little ones. Watching tv allows them to learn, but it should be in moderation.

    • Exactly how I feel about it!

  • Kim

    I don’t mind that my toddler watches tv. He still runs around so much & there are educational shows to watch.

    • Yes, as long as they are still running and being active and not couch potatoes!

  • TheMummyToolbox

    oh I do too! We have had to limit it recently because we all started to get slovenly but overall there’s no problem with it (in my opinion!)

    • Way to pay attention to your family’s needs!

  • Rebecca Bryant

    My son watched TV as a toddler adn still has fun outside. He is very active adn learned much from educational shows.

    • Yes, exactly, Rebecca!

  • I love this!! Some tv can be so good for kids, I know for my son it really helped him to hear words he was learning used in shows when he had a delay.

    • I’m glad to know that it hasn’t only helped my son, but other kids develop, too!

  • I won’t have a child for several years lol but when I do I plan on letting them watch some tv especially some of the shows I grew up watching as a kid like Magic School Bus and classic Disney films. I agree with you in that I think there’s a lot of educational value there and I agree on having limitations with it as well! Great post 🙂

    • Yes! I loved Magic School Bus and because I loved the show, my mom bought the books and it helped to ignite my love of learning!

  • Kori

    I have no qualms about letting my toddler watch TV. Some of them are pretty educational and some I don’t mind watching with her, either.

    • Yes! Watching WITH your kids also show them that you care about their interests and you are still interacting and being present with them!

  • Carolyn Fennell

    I let my daughter watch some too. They learn so much so I don’t mind, sometimes I just need to get things done without my helper. 🙂

    • Hahaha! Yes, sometimes we need a break from “helping”

  • Jesenia

    Moderation is key. My toddler doesn’t like watching TV, but loves YouTube Kids. She has learned a ton from several educational videos, so I don’t mind at all.

  • Tara Holland

    My kids watch educational tv and they are great. I think t depends on the shows and making sure the parents don’t put them in front of it just to babysit them.

    • Exactly! Some shows are great and it should NOT be used as a babysitter.

  • CourtneyLynne Storms

    I let my kiddo watch tv too…. she learns so much from tv that it boggles my mind why people are such haters

    • I know! I mean, I know there have been studies on it, but typically studies are only one sided: like the whole argument that video games cause emotional disorders and violence, but people completely ignore the studies that show that it helps increase hand-eye coordination as well as instinct and learning about story elements.

  • Katriza Luna

    I always feel so guilty but I do let my kids watch TV and they actually learn quite a bit of GOOD stuff too! I think its mostly about what you let your kids watch

    • It’s sad that we are caused to feel guilty. That is why I hate the Mom Wars!

  • Nicole Escat

    I allow my toddler to watch TV too but I don’t feel guilty about it. I know that he learns something from it and besides, I choose what he will watch.

    • I’m glad that you don’t feel guilty about it! None of us should have to feel guilty about letting our toddlers watch tv!

  • Theresa

    I sometimes do, but I try to make sure it’s educational! Apps are fun too… There are some really good programs out there for toddlers.

    • Some apps are really great!

  • Allison Lancaster

    I love this. I allow mine to watch TV too, it gives him some quiet time and also me some time to get things done–no shame in my game! I do limit it and try to make sure it’s educational.

    • Exactly! Quiet time for the win!

  • Becca Wilson

    I also allow my children to watch TV. I have noticed the difference in that they interact better with others and with them speaking as well.

    • Interacting better with others is always a nice plus!

  • Amanda

    I allowed both of my kids to watch TV. They are bother teenagers now and are in all advanced classes. My daughter was actually reading before she entered kindergarten thanks to the awesome shows on Nick Jr. Honestly I enjoyed watching them too 🙂

    • I think, as long as parents are invested in their children’s education, then that’s all the matters!