We break down the American Association of Pediatrics’ Screen Time guidelines and list some great screen-free options for you.
The fight is real. In normal times (if anyone can remember what that was like) we were pretty strict with screen time for our 3 year old. One Daniel Tiger episode per day was basically the limit, but with the full effect of the COVID lockdown, we spent a lot more time at home and our kids spent a lot more time in front of screens.
If you’re worried about how much screen time your child is getting, you are not alone. Part of that fear comes from not knowing exactly how much screen time your child should have. Fortunately, the American Association of Pediatrics has guidelines for healthy screen time limits for children. We have broken them down for you by age below:
Children under 18 months
Video chats only. Babies learn best from two-way conversations with real people, so limit your baby’s screen time to video calls with loved ones. Grandma will appreciate it.
Children 18–24 months
Use quality programming and apps with your toddler. Don’t let them use media by themselves. Tip: Check out Storyline on Youtube to read children’s stories read by actors like Betty White and Angela Bassett.
2 years and older
Up to 1 hour of high quality programming. What makes a program valuable? It should be non-violent, educational, interactive and promote healthy social behavior. PBS Kids has been a point of contact for decades and for good reason. Try watching programs and playing games with your children.
If possible, replace screens with interactive activities like playing with toys or games and reading books. Set healthy limits on screen time by setting media-free times (like meal times) and keeping screens out of bedrooms.
There are SO MANY options for screen-free fun. Here are just 3 great options:
- Go Outside – Children need at least 1 hour of physical activity every day, so take an outdoor walk, bike ride together, or throw a ball around. It will make you both happier. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, give your child space to explore nature on their own
- Art – Give them art materials so they can experiment and create. We love the activities on Oh Creative Day
- Cooking – Use a basic food recipe to teach your child a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives. Start with something simple, like sliced apples with peanut butter. Here is a helpful guide from Living Montessori Now
What do I do if I have to do something?
We get it. Sometimes you have things to do and the easiest way to keep your child occupied seems to be to park them in front of a device. Here are a few tips:
- Use Screen Time wisely – Plan your Screen Time activities while keeping the above limits in mind
- Encourage independent play – children can and will play alone with practice and encouragement. Break out the open toys and dramatic game props and give them space to play on their own
- Set a timer – Tell your child to play alone until the timer runs out. Children do well when they know what to expect. Setting a timer helps to set a clear start and a clear end to “working hours”.