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Toddlers and Television

Toddlers & The Tube

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

Ok, so seriously, I don’t think you’ve ever given out advice that I don’t agree with. And so I am hoping you might be able to help me out with this one:

I am the SAHM of one adorable just turned two year old boy with another baby on the way. When he was a little older than a year (probably around the time he switched from two naps to one and I lost the ability to shower during that morning nap), I introduced a little bit of TV. It was usually a half hour of Sesame Street in the morning while I quickly showered and maybe another half hour or so in the evening while I attempted to get dinner on the table. All was well – he half paid attention, half played on the floor with his toys while the TV was on, and when it went off? He didn’t really notice. Fast forward to today: Now he is old enough to know that the TV and DVDs are an option and verbal enough to ask for them. When we are out and about, obviously, it’s not an issue but when we’re home, particularly after nap time but before dinner, it’s all he wants to do. Last night, for instance, every five minutes, he brought me the remote and asked for a show. I would say something like, “No, no TV now. Why don’t we play fire trucks instead?” Five minutes of fire trucks and he was bringing me a DVD. And after each “no” from me, we had a mini-tantrum. ALL. EVENING. LONG.

So my questions are: Is this a phase we’re going through due to his age which will eventually get better as he can understand some “rules” around when he can watch TV (i.e. you can watch one show after breakfast and one show before dinner, etc.)? Is this something you went through with your boys and came out the other side? What guidelines do you set for your kids in terms of when and how much TV they can watch? (Or is setting any sort of “rules” just setting me up for TV being a forbidden thing that he wants all the time? My parents were pretty lax about the TV but I remember having friends who weren’t allowed to watch, say, MTV at their house and that was ALL they wanted to do when they came for a sleepover!)

Any advice would be MUCH appreciated.

Getting sick of the daily TV tantrums

Oooh, toddlers and television! So complicated! So polarizing! So very much a consensus-free zone.

We’ve got the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations (no TV at all under two years! no more than an hour or two from then on because everything bad is TV’s fault!), but I’m the first to admit those recommendations are really hard to follow in the real world, unless you pledge to become a TV-free household and/or never have a private moment to yourself again. But then you’ve got people who still seem to think that plopping babies in front of Baby Einstein all day actually does make them “smarter.” And then there are the folks somewhere in the middle — the ones who TRY to keep TV to a minimum but are maybe secretly ashamed at the number of times they’ve just gone and exhaustedly used it as a babysitter or taken the path of least resistance. FINE. I WILL PUT BLUE’S CLUES ON IF YOU JUST STOP WHINING ABOUT IT. AT LEAST IT’S EDUCATIONAL, RIGHT?

Guess which group I fall into. Guess!

First and foremost, OMG, yes, the tantrums and the whining and the begging. My kids freaking love TV. In all its forms. They love cartoons and DVDs and video games and can navigate their way around YouTube with alarming proficiency on the iPad. As someone who was raised with very (VERY) strict rules and limited TV time, I’ve struggled with the issue you mentioned at the end of your letter: I don’t want TV to be a big forbidden thing (since whenever I got access to it I would basically go crazy and binge on whatever crap was on for hours and hours), but also, yeah: GO READ A BOOK, YOU COUCH POTATOES.

We personally don’t have hard and fast rules, mostly because when we tried that, I was the problem. I just couldn’t remain consistent, because sometimes I just NEED the TV to be on. When your kids are old enough to wander freely around the house and circumvent your child-proofing efforts, or if you have more than one kid and need to keep them both happy and in one spot and not beating the crap out of each other, I’ve sadly never found anything that works as well as the stupid television. I can leave to shower, make meals, clean, take conference calls in the other room, etc., and can be reasonably sure they will both be in the same safe spot when I return.

So…we’re squishy. Or maybe just “flexible.” Not that it’s a non-stop marathon or anything. Video games are limited to playing one level or 30 minutes, whichever comes first. The TV stays off during the  day (unless you’re sick, or Mommy is) (heh). Non-educational shows (like Spongebob or Ninjago, the stuff Noah is getting more into) are more strictly limited than say, a pre-dinner Dora/Diego double-header. You are about 99% likely to hear “no TV” from me during the week if you ask; weekends and days off are generally more relaxed and I’m more apt to indulge. No one other than Mommy or Daddy is ever allowed to turn on the TV. You must ask permission, and throwing a tantrum over being told “no” gets you a time-out. TV is a privilege, and it is one you can lose very quickly.

These are more school-aged-kid strategies, of course, but I’m listing them because YES, kids DO LEARN that TV is not an all-the-time all-you-want thing. Even if you aren’t maaaaaybe as consistent as you think you “should” be. It’s a bright shiny novelty to your son now, and while I’m not going to lie and tell you that the love affair with TV and DVDs will be anything but a lifelong thing, he WILL figure out that it’s a Sometimes Treat and learn to deal with that crushing disappointment. Eventually.

Some tips in the meantime, that I think worked pretty well for us:

1) Ditch the DVD cases.

They are too enticing and fun looking. We store all our kids’ DVDs in one of those CD/DVD zip-up binder-book things, which is kept in a storage bench full of boring stuff like spare USB cables and throw pillows. The cases are kept in a box in the basement in case we want to travel with a few movies or pass along ones the boys no longer watch. If you have DVDs displayed out on shelves alongside things like books and toys, it’s understandably hard for your child to grasp why they aren’t allowed to treat them like any other “anytime I want” option. While we might see some foot-stomping when we turn down a general request for the TV, tantrums are harder to avoid when your child is bringing you an actual DVD that they’ve suddenly become passionately in love with and want more than anything ever. (Keep remotes hidden up and out of view as well — you’ll be SHOCKED at how quickly “bringing Mommy the remote” turns into “I know how to turn it on myself” too.)

2) Use the desire for your own selfish purposes.

You can “earn” TV in our house as a reward, absolutely. And I also barter with it. Want to watch a show but the living room is a mess? Okay, we can watch one show IF you clean up every toy first. Or if you take a bath and get your pajamas on without any fighting or tantrums. First we’re going to do (insert majorly undesirable task/activity), BUT THEN we’ll watch a cartoon. Bribery? Eh. I consider it a massively effective incentive program for not driving Mommy insane.

3) Favor shows that include interaction, and watch them together.

A LOT of preschooler shows are written to “involve” your child in the story and action. Everything from characters asking questions and pausing while your child answers, to encouraging kids to get up and dance and do this and do that. The problem then, with only using TV when you’re off doing other things, is that your kid may not actually DO any of the interactive parts but just sit there staring slack-jawed. By actually watching one of these shows TOGETHER and having your child follow YOUR “get up and dance and make elephant noise” lead, you can absolutely turn TV into a great playtime activity instead of passive entertainment. So if you’re not really getting much out of him during those 10 minutes of half-heartedly playing firetrucks, it might not be the worst thing in the world to put on a show…but stay engaged with him during it. Play along with the game, hit the pause button and ask him additional questions, go over the top with your SWIPER NO SWIPING! mania — instead of simply turning it on and wandering off to check your email.

4) Suggest reenactments in lieu of reruns.

A two-year-old might be a tad young for this, but going forward it’s very likely your son will get fixated on a particular movie or show and probably even a particular episode. When he asks to watch it AGAIN, offer to act it out with him instead.  Or draw it, or build it, or whatever you can think of. Make your own map for Dora; tape pawprint “clues” around the house. Make Elmo out of Play-Doh and color your own crayon Elmo’s World backdrop. Ezra prefers dramatic play, so I can usually get him to act out Wonderpets with me instead of watching another episode, while Noah is our Lego maniac so I prompt him to build his own version of show/movie settings and characters. It’s a less disappointing redirect than trying to steer your kid into something completely non-TV related.

5) Sometimes, just go ahead and indulge.

Since I don’t want TV to get too highly exalted and coveted, or to ALWAYS be a “if I do X, I’ll get Y” thing, we have regular chunks of time where yes, you can watch TV just because. Once a week, we have a family movie night. We alternate who gets to pick a DVD and we all watch it together in a social, non-electronic-babysitter way. We make cookies or popcorn (and you can eat them in the living room, OMG), get a fire going, dim the lights, all of that. First of all, this is really fun for all of us (though Jason and I are probably a little too keen on buying/renting EVERY kid-friendly movie out there just to keep from getting bored of the same movies over and over again), and I really think it put a stop to that frantic begging for TV all the damn time, or at least the weeping and moaning at being told “no.” No shows tonight, guys, but tomorrow! Tomorrow is movie night! Yay!

But seriously: We are far from perfect experts about this topic, so I would LOVE to hear anything else you guys do in regards to television, AKA both the worst and greatest thing to happen to modern parenting.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kim Kas

    February 24, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    My girl will be two in a month, and never a day goes by that we don’t hear, “Watch Elmo?” or “Watch Clue?” or “Watch Gabba Gabba Gabba?” She, too, has only recently started getting upset when she can’t watch something she wants to see. We totally do everything Amy mentioned, and I think it’s all excellent advice. I was planning on making Blue pawprints tonight to stick around the house, and I know my LO is going to love it!

  • Becky

    February 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Our family is recovering from an awful soul sucking stomach bug that basically ended up having us let our toddler watch non-stop TV for four days? or thereabouts.  We were that sick that we just let it go.  OMG, getting her off is torture.  I swear, it’s kid crack or something.  Now we’re finally not watching it any more (and eating and sleeping fairly regularly), but it was a hard few days of temper tantrums.  

  • Corie

    February 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    My husband and I are terrible about always having the tv on for background noise, even if we’re not really watching it. It’s so bad that our 20-month-old son knows that the tv is supposed to be on, and he always “tells” us to turn it on if it’s off. We only watch shows for him for an hour or so in the mornings on the weekend while we’re trying to wake up a bit (our son is an early bird and likes to get up around 5:30 or 6:00 every day, weekends included) and most of the time he’s only half watching. The rest of the time, we stick to shows that Mommy and Daddy want to watch. We also keep remotes up high in our house, because someone is obsessed with them and winds up constantly changing the channel when he gets his hands on one.

  • Jessica

    February 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    My kids (3 and 1)are at daycare during the week so tv then is limited to one show after the baby goes to bed. It is the older one’s special treat. Weekends involve a lot more tv, two shows in the morning as I or my husband struggle to wake up, and one before dinner as well as after the baby is in bed. We have been recording classic Disney movies and watching those on the weekends to break up the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Yo Gabba Gabba, Super Why monotony. But a movie like Dumbo is only 70 minutes so it is not really adding more tv time.

  • Jeannie

    February 24, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    My son (5) has all but abandoned tv in favour of the all powerful iPad, but it’s just replaced one begging with another. When he was young I was super strict: he had now shows before 2, and then at 2 only super short ones (think youTube Sesame Street clips) always parent-supervised. And then we graduated to toddler shows, maximum one 20 minute show a day.

    I say all this not to pat myself on the back but to acknowledge that I think I went too far. Being that strict was just *hard* on all of us.

    Now I just base his screen time on circumstance. He gets less time if he’s behaving badly. He gets more if he’s behaving nicely and when we’re sick / exceptionally busy. We use screen time as the reward for almost everything. And you know, given he’s in school now, it evens out to an appropriate amount each day — 30-60 minutes a day during the week, longer on weekends.

    All to say: you’ll soon figure out how much is too much for your kid, and how much *you* need to stay sane, and those amounts fluctuate day to day. As long as *most* days fall into generally recommended limits, I wouldn’t worry about it. And the occasional overdose day will even out with a day you guys go out and watch nothing.

    As for the begging / whining … No suggestions! It’s inevitable! But I do admit that my son losing his cool over being allowed a screen is a sure sign he’s had too much, and he knows now (after LOTS) of repetition!) that tantruming is the best way to no iPad that day — or that week.

    Good luck! There’s no right answer — just trust your family sense!

  • Christine

    February 24, 2012 at 11:25 pm


    I’m just LOL’ing because that is me with DS. Sometimes, as soon as he wakes up and makes it to the living room it’s, “Boos Coos peease?” Oy.

  • JCF

    February 24, 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I was super strict when my oldest was younger, but now I have a 4yo, 3yo, and 19mo, and I have loosened up quite a bit.  We have gone through similar issues with kids begging for TV.  It is hard.  On an average day, we don’t turn the TV on at all during the morning, but while the two younger kids nap in the afternoon, I let my oldest watch 30-60 minutes of TV so that I can have a bit of a break, since he doesn’t nap or go to school.  I’ve also realized that, despite not needing a nap, he does keep it together better in the evenings if he’s had an afternoon rest.  The only way to accomplish that with my super active kid is to put him in front of the TV for a bit.  He just does not rest otherwise.  Generally, we don’t turn the TV on after that, which means that the two younger kids don’t see any TV on most days, although I sometimes use it if I am having a particularly hard time getting dinner made in the evening.  Basically, we’re flexible, but we have a general routine with TV.  I think that helps the kids know what to expect when, but it gives me the flexibility to use it as a babysitter or reward on occasion as necessary.  

    He is old enough now that he can understand consequences.  He doesn’t get to watch TV if his behavior hasn’t been good.  We do a reading, math, and handwriting lesson every day (total time is about 30 minutes), but those things must be done before the TV comes on.  

    The TV has also been a great motivator for the two older kids.  I had a hard time getting them to poop in the potty during potty training (both of them.  One year apart. I almost lost my mind). I started making an episode of Dora, Backyardigans, etc. the reward for pooping in the potty.  It worked like a charm.  

  • Jo

    February 25, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Argh, I’m already struggling with this – I’m on maternity leave with my 6 month old, and I go a bit mad if I don’t have the tv on for background noise…OTHER ADULTS TALKING, PEOPLE, even if they are not talking to me! We try to get out and about but there’s a bit of a shortage of baby groups in our area and I don’t want him to be cooped up in his buggy for long periods so we stay home a lot, or visit friends locally. He plays and I play with him, but the tv is on in the background whenever we’re in the living room. I’m sure this one will bite me on the ass at some point but so far I would really struggle to give up the background sensible talking!

    • FrancesVettergreenVisualArtist

      February 26, 2012 at 1:10 am

      If you’re listening and not watching, that one is easy.  Radio, or podcasts…usually better, anyway.

  • IrishCream

    February 25, 2012 at 9:13 am

    My 18-month-old gets to watch a half-hour show two or three times a week, in the late afternoon time when i have to make dinner or hop on the computer for work. We stick with PBS shows only, mostly Caillou because it’s so slow-paced. Occasionally we go wild and watch Sesame Street. When my second arrives this June, I can see watching one show becoming a daily or almost-daily event, but I’m pretty strict about content; I have strong ideas about what’s age appropriate from a developmental standpoint. I haven’t found any Disney shows that fit the bill, and only a couple on Nickelodeon. I’m REALLY looking forward to family movie night when my girls get old enough!

    In terms on whining and teasing, my daughter does sometimes have a tantrum when her show is over. She asks for more, I say no a couple of times, and then ignore all further requests/whining/heartbroken sobbing. She winds down pretty quickly and then I can redirect with a book or whathaveyou.

  • Annie

    February 25, 2012 at 11:52 am

    First of all– NO JUDGEMENT from me! Do what works for you! We’ve actually taken a more conservative approach toward TV for the whole family. We don’t own any TVs, our kids don’t see us watching TV, and our kids only watch videos when they’re too sick to play. We do have laptops and Netflix, and iPhones. When my son asks me a question about bats, I will usually pull up a couple of short video clips on my phone and show him. And when we’re at others’ homes we let up on the rules a bit if a group of kids is watching something. I will say, my son does hear the siren song of the TV, and we may have made it a Forbidden Thing. So I totally get Amy’s point about binges down the road. But right now, I have a creative kid who invents stories, characters and plots from his own imaginings, who can entertain himself really well, who doesnt beg for crap he’s seen on commercials, and who doesn’t whine for TV. Like everyone, I still have really tricky moments of the day when I need to get something done and the kids need to just sit quietly somewhere and be occupied. I don’t cook every day of the week, but when I do I cook in the morning when both my kids seem to be at their sweet spot for playing well independently. I also have a collection of activities that arent always out with their toys (playdoh, scissors and glue, gak, weird kitchen tools) and I pull out some of that stuff if I need to grab a quick 20 minutes of time. My husband and I do watch a couple of our favorite shows from the week in Friday night after the kids have gone to bed, so we aren’t against TV, and there are some shows out there that are well done and fun ones for kids! We just felt that while our kids were so little (1&4) and their brains were growing so quickly, we’d try to have TV be as little a part of that as possible. And again, NO JUDGEMENT from me!

  • Candace

    February 25, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Annie, no worries your response wasn’t judgmental…it just details what you have chosen to do in your house 🙂  I struggle with the TV issue as well.  Normally we are way too crazy trying to get out the door in the morning and go to activities but when my little one does actually settle for a morning nap my older son can watch two shows, maybe.  By the second one he is pretty much ready for something else to do.  Then by evening I try and let them watch TV so  I can make dinner but no one is into it.   So sometimes, awful as it sounds I wish they would just SIT AND WATCH! LOL.  But other days it is all I can do to get my 2 year old away from the silly screen.  We have to physically leave the house to stop the tantrum, so that’s what we do. We go on “nature walks” “turtle hunts” and stuff like that, or we go to the park in our wagon and mommy blows bubbles on the way.  I have to be SUPER entertaining but many times it does take just leaving the house, and the TV, behind.  At least at this age.  I am just now learning to use it as an incentive, and boy this is genius 🙂 I think what Amy does is awesome, and I will totally pack away the boxes.  My one year old is into breaking DVDs and this is a GREAT tip!

  • Elizabeth

    February 25, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    My kids get almost no tv (maybe 30-60 min/week?) but not really because of a philosophical decision on my part. I would LOVE to have an electronic babysitter occasionally. What I’ve found with my 5 & 3 year old, however, is that their behavior when the tv goes off is so attrocious that it’s pretty much not worth it. If I remember to have a Big Discussion first about how long the tv is going to be on and how we’re going to behave when it goes off, then MAYBE I’ve got a shot at avoiding an hour of crankiness, sulking or outright tantrumns. Usually not. And then I say, “If you can’t keep it together when the show is done, then you’re not watching tv for a week.” So much for my babysitter. Overall what’s happened is they’ve gotten pretty good at entertaining themselves playing while I’m cooking or whatever. Our big downfall is when someone has stomach flu and I really, really want them immobilized for hours. I let them watch a lot of tv, but I pay for it for days, if not weeks.

  • kimm

    February 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    My little 11 month old LOVES clips of kids dancing, and sesame st. clips on computer- we watch 5- 10 min in in morning and 10 in the afternoon. He loves cats more than anything, so we watch them and babies on youtube- he is an only child for another 8 months, we may up everything then:)

  • Olivia

    February 27, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I’m much like Corie, with always having the tv on for background noise so it’s really hard for me to limit tv watching when I am such an addict myself. Right now, my almost 3 yr old in in daycare full time so that creates a limitation, but on the weekends it’s kind of bad. I also use the tv when she wakes up early while I get ready for work, and she gets to watch a couple of shows in the evening while I do other chores/cook dinner. It’s going to be difficult, but I’m really going to have to change my ways when she is no long in daycare this summer.

  • Alissa

    February 27, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I believe my kid is the weirdest kid around.  I can’t get him to watch TV.  At all.  He freaks out if I turn the TV on.  He will watch videos (of himself, or of places we’ve been), so now I make sure I take lots of videos and then string them all together in to one 10 minute movie.  He can handle watching those.  But seriously.  What three year old hates the TV?  Besides mine??

    • tasterspoon

      February 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      I swore to abide by the no-TV-till-2 rule, but every now and then I’ll be completely out of new ideas for playing and/or just want to sit for a while, and I’ll pop on Signing Time (they were on PBS last fall so I DVR’ed a bunch). And occasionally my husband will put on a football game. Mostly it’s a failure because my 15-mo says “Hello! Hello!” to the person onscreen and when they don’t respond she seems so disappointed it breaks my heart. Maybe we’ll make it to 2 after all. But she does like to look at clips of herself on the camera.

  • Shelly

    February 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    With my oldest I was the TV Nazi.  No television at all until he was two.  That meant only music on while he was awake.  I was also the music Nazi.  Only classical, Oldies, or toddler tunes were allowed.  My nannies lived for nap time so that they could experience the real world.  At two we moved to 30 min of TV in the morning – that was because he woke up at 5 and that allowed me to nap for 30 while we watched a show in bed.  The rule was one show and tv time was over.  Very consistent.  He also didn’t have a long attention span and that was all he could handle before he was bored with it.  At three we moved to 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes before bedtime.  Did I mention that I was a single mom and had only myself and him to deal with as far as meals, housework, laundry etc.  Two people are not hard to take care of.  Then I remarried and had another baby.  We are still pretty good about only two shows a day but we will supplement whenever we need more time to get something done.  The baby – loves the TV.  I would love to do the no TV till 2 with her but I have no clue how to restrict her from watching something when her brother is watching his allowed shows.   I am no longer the holier than thou no tv nazi.  I give up. Do what you gotta do.  The only assvice that I have is that a consistent routine of TV or no TV does make things a little easier.  My son is used to hearing TV time is over and doesn’t fuss. He knows that additional shows are a treat and or a privilege that he has earned not a given.

  • Heather (Laptops to Lullabies)

    February 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you SO much for this timely post. My husband and I have been wondering lately if our almost-21-month-old is watching too much TV.

    I’m eight weeks away from having our second child, and sometimes I let him watch TV because I’m too tired/massively pregnant to do anything else. 

    When he does watch it, I try to make the most of every single second — shower, respond to work email, etc. — so that I can focus on him as soon as the show is over. He does throw tantrums because he wants to keep watching, which gets very tiresome, but I just really don’t want him to be a total vid-iot.

  • Natalie

    February 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t have any kids, but I have to say, stashing the DVD cases sounds like a GENIUS idea! I never would have thought of it.

  • Jules

    February 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    My husband and I are of different minds when it comes to TV and the baby. My parents were very lax with TV time and my brother and I ended up obese, inactive, TV-addicted pre-adolescents. My husband, on the other hand, had a very active childhood because his parents strictly limited his TV time.

    Now my husband is a total couch potato and prefers to have the TV on all the time, every day, whether he’s watching it or not. I don’t really want our son (10 months old) to get too accustomed to the TV because I don’t want him to turn into a total couch potato. Unfortunately, my husband gets extremely defensive when I bring it up, saying “He’s way too young, he doesn’t even notice it!”

    Whether he does or not, I don’t want to establish having the TV on ALL day, EVERY day as “normal” thing. I’m definitely appreciating the timeliness of this article and all the different responses!

  • JenVegas

    February 27, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I’m in Camp Corie also, I grew up with TV and have always had a TV on for company. I know I don’t necessarily want to raise my kid that way but I also don’t want him to grow up feeling like he’s missing out on some cultural experience. He’s home on Mondays with his dad, Tuesday is WFH day with me and then he’s in daycare 3 days a week. So I feel like he gets enough good interactive, active time that I’m trying not to feel bad about the amount of TV he watches with me on Tuesdays or during the weekends. Plus it’s winter here in Chicago and he’s only 15 months old. There’s not a lot to do with him right now and everyone else we know is hibernating. Once spring sproings here I’m hoping to be able to take him out to play more, go places, see things and hang out with people vs. electronic devices. Dear Lord let Spring come soon.

  • Margaret

    February 27, 2012 at 6:28 pm

    We don’t have a TV, but our 2.5 year old son is pretty obsessed with our various computers. He’ll sometimes watch nursery rhyme videos or Muppets clips on YouTube (especially when I need to cut his nails!), but far and away his favourite is pictures or vidoes we’ve taken or our family have posted online. I feel better about the screen time when it’s photos and home videos – is it that much different than looking through photo albums? And it helps him stay connected to our extended family (who are all many time zones away).

    A limiting device that works for us is “one computer, one book” – he can watch one video or look through one album, then it’s time to read a book. I swear he sometimes purposely chooses the shortest book he can find, though!

  • MR

    February 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    My now 3.5 year old watched almost no tv at all until I was pregnant with her sister. Working full time and being pregnant wiped me and towards the end I had a massive amount of prodromal labor. My older dd started watching more and more. We kept thinking it would slow down after the baby was born and things calmed down after the first couple months. Well, our baby ended up having a heart defect and needed open heart surgery at 4 months. As a result, my older dd still watches more tv than I’d like. But, we are still recovering from the heart surgery, all the other things that happened around the same time, teething, etc. She watches a little in the morning while I get ready for work if she gets up too early, and nothing until we are cooking dinner. How much she watches after that depends on how tired we are that day. She is still ridiculously smart, loving school and thriving, and incredibly active. So, I don’t worry about it. This is how we are getting through this time. It is the best I can do right now, so there is no point worrying about it. It will naturally change as she gets older. In the meantime, she is a happy, well adjusted kid, so I can’t complain. I worry that my now 9 mo old is starting to actually watch it, but this is just something we will have to play by ear.

  • Paige

    February 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    I don’t really have any advice to offer, but when my siblings and I were growing up, the TV was on ALL THE TIME in our house. I can tell you how old I was based on what shows came on after the 6pm news. Oh, Night Court and Wheel of Fortune? Yep, I was 9. The funny thing is now I have little to no desire to watch TV. I haven’t had cable in years, and my circa 1996 television is used mainly to watch workout DVDs. The shows I do really like, I watch at my boyfriend’s house. So I can agree with your thinking about not wanting TV to become a forbidden thing. I had it all the time growing up and now I don’t want it at all!

  • andrea

    February 28, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    tv was absolutely a Forbidden Thing when i was kid – we had no cable, one two tvs in the whole house, and both were locked by my parents. you know those two little holes in the tv’s power plug? my parents put a little lock through them and that was that – no tv! …until we found the key. ha, kids can be sneakier than parents! but then they’d hide it again, until we found it again. it was kinda fun. 😉

    still, i grew up watching *maybe* two hours of tv a week max until i was a teenager and gotta say, sure i went thru some tv binges when i was older and could but now, we don’t have a tv (well we do, but with crummy reception since we don’t have cable. we just use it for watching dvds.) and i don’t miss it too much.

  • Melissa

    March 1, 2012 at 11:02 am

    We don’t have a TV. We do have Netflix, a digital projector, and computer. The kid (almost 4) had no TV until 2 because I was a bundle of postpartum anxiety and thought I.must.follow.all.the.rules.

    Now we have movie night once during the week and she can watch something from Disney or Pixar. Or she can choose a couple episodes of Dora or Blues Clues or whatever. Then we do another movie night on the weekend. Weekday movie night allows me to fold laundry or take care of other stationary chores while sitting with her and watching.

    The Sa movie night makes for a nice evening. We do bath and PJs first, let her eat dinner in front of the TV, and then into bed. It is a night without bedtime whining because we’ve made clear that whining=no movie night next time. That means a stress-free evening for the husband and I after she’s in bed. We have wine, eat dinner after she’s asleep. Date night in, if you will.

    Like one of the other commenters, we tend toward not too much screen time because the more she watches the more she wants and the harder it becomes to turn off. And I only have so much energy to deal with the whining.

  • Emily

    March 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm

    I will rightout admit that I have 1 child and I’m in the ‘no tv before 2’ camp. Except that sometimes I have to shower while my child is awake, so I do use YoGabbaGabba during those times. Which, hopefully means 30 minutes or less a week. I try really really hard to get up and shower before my child gets up. I am not pregnant and exhausted though. I am scared of being pregnant and exhausted and having to entertain a child as well. Sounds hard – I don’t judge you for that at all.

    My daughter is 17months old and if it’s getting difficult to entertain her, I head outdoors. In the snow, in the wind – whatever. Because I just think it’s better. and she loves the outdoors and will hopefully continue to love it more than technology forever and ever, amen. During dinner when she’s whiney (that’s the dreaded ‘witching hour’ we all get, right?), I just try to involve her. I put her on the counter to play with fruit, I talk to her, I sing to her, I let her be in the kitchen with me. But I grew up without TV. So, maybe it’s easier for me?

  • Christina

    March 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    I’m in the absolutely no TV until after 2 y.o. camp. Sorry, but I do think it’s related to the many developmental/attention problems that abound today. After 2 it’s on a VERY limited basis (DVDs on road trips, “real” sickness, etc.)

  • A

    March 6, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I think TV is bad for kids, especially when it’s on 24/7. That said, I think it can be a useful tool and I have NO JUDGEMENT for those parents who use that tool.Sometimes you do what you gotta do. I have a 6, 4 and 20 month old. My 4 year old watches Sesame Street every afternoon while I put the baby down for his nap. We have “Movie Mondays” when my 6 year old comes home from school. We will also do a movie on the weekends Anything they watch is either a movie or something I’ve recorded (I love the DVR!) and DH and I only watch TV when the kids are asleep.

    I have other parents (including my parents) tell me that there is nothing wrong with letting the kids watch more TV so I can get a break. What I’ve found is that the more they watch, the worse their behavior gets. OMG the WHINING! And the TANTRUMS! We relax the rules from time to time because of sickness/bad weather/Mommy needs to make dinner and you guys are driving me NUTS!. but sometimes it’s not even worth it for the behavior that comes afterward.
    Every time I think I’m being too strict with the TV I see my friend who not only has the TV on all day, her kids have their own TVs in their rooms (the oldest is 8) and it may be coincidence, but her kids have no idea how to entertain themselves and go crazy unless the TV is on, then they sit slack-jawed for hours. My kids are imaginitive, creative, and can play for hours on their own. I don’t judge my friend though, she’s practically a single mom raising 4 kids, she’s doing the best she can and I commend her for it, TV or no TV.

  • A

    March 6, 2012 at 10:50 am

    For some reason there’s a smily face instead of saying her son is eight, I have no idea what happened! Sorry!

  • Diana

    March 6, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I was the 1st time mom who secretly thought that I was an awesome parent because my precious snowflake didn’t watch any TV before 2 (except a little Wheel of Fortune and the Today Show, but they don’t count because they aren’t kids shows and she didn’t watch it straight through, right?) Yeah, turns out she just isn’t that interested in TV so we could have it on without feeling like it was a problem. So now I have a 5 month old who is already obsessed with TV and will fuss and turn herself until she can see the screen so it has to be off while she is in the room if we want to stick with the “no TV before 2” rule. We still plan on limiting TV exposure but mostly be making sure it is off unless we are actively watching and we won’t have it on for background noise anymore.

  • Beth

    March 6, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    My 20 month old son has to do twice daily breathing treatments for asthma.  He HATES the treatments, so the only way we can get him to sit still is to watch videos or TV.  In the morning, we watch some YouTube videos – Sesame Street songs or number/alphabet songs.  In the evening, he usually watches Jeopardy b/c that’s what DH and I want to watch.  

    On weekends, we’re a little more lax with TV – we’ll let him watch some sesame street or curious George, but try to limit it.  He often loses interest after 10-15 min and we turn it off, only to have him beg for it an hour later.  Sometimes we give in, sometimes we don’t.  There are a lot of battles I’m willing to fight, but a little TV isn’t one of them.  

  • Kory

    May 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I have a 2.5 year old daughter and she LOVES TV! She is the smartest, most intelligent and respectful little girl. She is extremely friendly and is always starting new friendships at the park. As a 24/7 SAHM the TV has saved my sanity many days. We are a fit family and don’t sit with a bag of Doritos watching the tube for days on end but I will gladly admit…We LIKE TV! I sacrifice any shows I want to watch for the brain building educational children’s shows and it seems to have paid off. She has learned so much from her favorite shows and her vocabulary is amazing! We play Superhero’s/Dolly’s, do crafts, color/paint daily, make meals together, picnics, parks, sandbox, garden, kickball, throw catch etc. I think it’s ultimately about how much quality time you spend together that offsets the TV. So for us it’s an educational tool! Not a bad thing. Decide what works for you, pick & choose your battles wisely! Sometimes constant power struggles all day aren’t worth the stress on the both of you. Just change scenery! 🙂 Good Luck from one mama to another…