Since having my little boy I have been amazed at the range of things parents will disagree on - breast or bottle, traditional or baby led weaning, sling or pram - the list is endless. One topic that comes up very frequently is screen time. How much, if any, should we let our toddlers watch?
From my perspective as a Speech and Language Therapist, TV is no substitute for playing with your child. Interacting and socialising with others is how children learn social communication skills and develop their understanding and use of language. There is significant evidence which points to the important role that pretend play has in supporting language development - this is the kind of play where you might pretend to cook food, plate it up and serve it to teddy, all the while talking in simple terms about what you are doing.
I try to ensure that N has a variety of activities to stimulate him each day. We might play with his toy animals, kitchen and puzzles or build towers and throw and catch a ball. We might get out some paint or playdoh for messy play. We might go to the park for a run around and a swing. We might meet friends at soft play, or a music class, or swimming. Or we might sit down and read books together.
Does that mean that I don't let N watch TV? Not at all! In fact, I would really struggle without it. But, I try very hard to limit the amount of TV he watches. On a nursery day he rarely watches any at all. On my days off, he usually watches for 20 minutes or so whilst I am getting dressed and ready for the day, and maybe another 20-30 minutes whilst I am making his dinner in the evening. He absolutely loves the Little Baby Bum nursery rhyme videos on youtube, so I usually stream them through the TV for him and he will sit happily watching. The benefit for me is that he isn't clinging to my ankles whilst I am carrying pans of hot water, or getting himself tangled in the wires from my hair straighteners.
On some days though, I am exhausted and let him watch a bit more - none of us are super-mummies, we need a break sometimes, and TV is brilliant for that.
But I do think that there is such a thing as too much TV, and I wouldn't recommend having it on all the time, even if it is just in the background, Likewise, I don't particularly recommend banning it altogether - technology is a huge part of our lives now, and our children will be exposed to it eventually regardless. I have the same view on computer tablets - I just introduced N to the ipad in the hopes that he might enjoy a few apps on our long haul flight next month. I don't want him glued to it the whole time, but again, learning to use IT equipment is fairly essential these days, and he will use those skills as he grows.
How much screen time do your little ones have? And what are your thoughts on this issue?
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