After a long, stressful day at work, I drive back to pick Yehia up from the nursery. He’s had his nap, a snack and is super excited to see me after spending so much time apart. I shower him with kisses and hugs and we drive back home. But the minute I step into the apartment, the nagging starts. ‘Mama upp!’ ‘Cubby Cubby’ (Come here), and ‘open’. I laugh at how adorable he is, but I can’t even get him his lunch meal ready because he wants to be carried around everywhere I go. I try to get him to settle down so I can feed him; but he’s all excited, restless and wants to play with all his trucks and cars. Thoughts of all the other things that I need to do before I hit the sack race through my head and it looks like I’m never going to head to bed before 2AM. Yehia still won’t eat. He’s still running around, jumping off the couches and spilling all sorts of things on the couch and carpet. I finally give up and pull out my secret weapon: the remote control. I hit the ‘play’ button and Mike Wazowski’s voice beams through the TV’s speakers and just like a magic spell, Yehia is in his seat eating his lunch quietly. Aaahhh the RELIEF!
Like many other mothers, when all else fails, I turn to my favorite baby-sitter; my 52-inch LED savior: the TV. But after noticing that Yehia completely tunes out when he watches TV that I can’t even distract him for 10 seconds, things had to change.
What can too much TV do to your baby/toddler:
- Children who consistently spend more than four hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight.
- Excess TV can also delay speech and brain development for babies and toddlers.
- Kids exposed to various acts of violence from TV may develop aggressive behaviors and fears of a scary world, or develop notions that something bad might happen to them.
Toddlers and preschoolers have other, very important developmental work to do. However, when they’re glued in front of a TV set, this cuts down on better brain-engaging activities that they could spend their time on; such as building blocks, painting, running around or interacting with parents or other people. These activities pave the way for children to get to the next stages of learning.
What the experts say:
After doing some research, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) findings indicate that:
- Two-thirds of infants and toddlers spend an average of two hours everyday watching TV.
- Kids under age six watch roughly two hours of screen media a day.
- Kids and teens (ages eight to 18) watch nearly four hours per day watching TV and another two hours on computers, smart devices (phones, iPads, tablets, etc)
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of two should not watch any TV and toddlers aged two and above should not watch more than 1 – 2 hours per day of age appropriate, quality TV programming.
Even if it keeps them quiet and occupied when you need a moment of peace and quiet, or need to get some house chores out of the way, excess TV time gets in the way of exploring, playing and interacting with other people. Lets get real though; you can’t not have them watch TV all together, so here are some tips that even I’m trying out right now to help limit TV time and still keep my sanity.
- Choose age appropriate cartoons: Pick out violence-free, slow paced cartoons that are easy to absorb. Things like Oswald, Jarmies: less plot and fast-paced random events to give them time to understand and make sense of what’s happening on screen.
- Be very selective with what your child watches. Never turn on the TV and wander off. You never know what’s up on TV next when their show or movie is over. It also helps to set a timer on the TV for it to automatically turn off once their show is over. This could help them understand that TV time is over and now its time for some other activities.
- Try and avoid kids tuning out completely when watching TV by talking to them and explaining what’s happening on TV. Name animals, colors and shapes in front of him so he/she are also encouraged to talk, interact and ask questions.
- Set an example as a parent by not spending too much time in front of the TV yourself. We are our children’s role models, so whatever we do, they will want to take on and when they do, acknowledge and reward it.
- Try distracting them from TV by doing other random things around the house if you have no plans to go out. Get down on the floor, play with cars, trucks, building blocks, color, read books together, paint or even let them splash in the tub. The more engaged in activities they are, the more settled they are at night and all ready to get tucked in.
I’m sure you may have some more tricks up your sleeves. I would love to hear some of your thoughts about this and how you’ve managed to limit TV time for your little ones. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comment box below!