top of page
  • Hila Bahari

Screen Time with Children

Updated: Jul 22, 2021

What you should know and what to do about it.


American Academy of Pediatric (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) suggest “no screen-time before 2”. ⠀⠀ Did you know that a newborn's brain triples in size between birth and 2 years of age? Real life interaction is the most important and effective form of learning for your baby, more interaction from you=more learning.

"Children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers to develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Because of their immature symbolic, memory, and attentional skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers." (AAP)

When it comes to learning, children under the age of 2 need to touch and feel things, and more importantly see the faces and hear the voices of those they love the most. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Remember that phones are no different from TV, they might teach toddlers to swipe at a screen, but many studies show that these skills don't translate into real-world learning. Now, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't video-chat with a relative every once in a while or even daily (research shows that even playing peek-a-boo via FaceTime has the baby interacting rather than just watching a screen). ⠀⠀⠀ Many evidence based research suggests that excessive screen viewing before 2 may have lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, and short term memory. It can also contribute to attention and sleep disorders which we see a lot more of in the recent years.

Some parents may say, "But my baby likes it!" While your baby (referring to 12 months and younger) might stare at the bright colors and motions on the screen, the brain is incapable of making sense of it. It is Important we remember that children are programmed to learn from interacting with other people and real life motion/speed. It is important to note that the speed of image on the screen is way faster today than what it was when we were kids which is also a concern. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Now.... life happens, especially during a pandemic and current events. We may not follow these guidelines as we used to or at all.

Make sure you are aware of these and always incorporate just as much, if not more play time and physical activities for your little ones. Take the time to learn what you are showing your toddler.

Try inding better and less overstimulating shows, maybe even yoga for kids or more old school shows might be a better choice. We want slow paste and no vibrant colors. Shows like cocomelon that annoy us the parents, are overstimulation and are not the best choice. I recently came across Jericca from Raise Wildeflowers and she explains this a lot more on her page. She also has a freebie where you can learn a lot more about "better screen time" check it our here. (Note, this was edited in July 22nd).

Try to make screen time purposeful when possible. Personally, we went from zero screen time to 1 hour a day and some days 2 for my almost 3 year old when the pandemic hit. Was I happy about it, no. Did I need that break?! YES!

I wanted to further provide you with some ideas and ways to help your child play more and use the screen less. Because what is all this info going to help with if I can't help you find a solution, or better yet a "plan".

This information is available for those interested in minimizing screen time.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • Replacing screen time will take time, so start small. Cut down one session of the day at a time. If there is one first thing in the morning, start with that one. Why? Watching TV changes brain waves and slows the mind. The morning is PRIME TIME for littles in terms of energy and allowing them to play, run, or explore will help set the tone for the rest of the day (we actually tried this because that was really the only time my son did have the screen, it made SUCH A HUGE difference).

Create the right space for your child to play in. Here are my top 3 tips for that:

1. Create a “yes” space- a safe and comfortable one for your little one. If your child is allowed to do pretty

anything in the space you provide and there is no danger, you are less likely to intervene and they are more likely to play better independently in that space.

2. Minimize the clutter- Keep the space neat and inviting to play. Less is more, allow your child to play comfortably by not overwhelming their space with too many toys or other items. Your child is less likely to become overstimulated with no clutter around them.

3. Implement a toy rotation system- Keeping out only 20% of your child’s toys at a time. Display toys in a way that your child is able to reach them and play with them independently. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ • If your child is used to unlimited screen time, independent play may not come as naturally to your child because they have relied on the screen to do that for them. Be patient with your child and help them discover their own creativity. You may set up a few items for a pretend restaurant and allow your child to lead the way. You may need to step in and play with your child a bit more the first few times.

Remember, It’s okay to take baby steps and it’s also okay to not make any changes at the moment. Knowledge is power.

Screen Time Alternatives for Babies:

Sensory books like “Never touch a…” or high contrast cards

Sensory bags or bottles - water or gel, add some objects like pompoms, water beads, flowers, shimmer and let your child enjoy touching or watching the items move around.

Mobile is very helpful with younger babies, at times my babies would lay in their crib with the window open while the tinylove mobile was on and they explored it for over 30 minutes at a time.

Music - My kids loved music from birth and it always kept them calm during floor time.

Sensory floor - Stick different fabrics or items like bubble wrapper to the floor and allow your child to touch and explore. This was a hit for us. You can see it in this highlight.

Muffin Tin - Place various (random) objects in a metal muffin tin and let your child explore. Babies love the “in and out” concept, the sound and the different items in one place. (this is best with 4+months).

House objects in a basket - Collect random items and put them in a low basket for easy reach. A Brush, a remote, a ball, a block, a Tupperware a wooden spoon. Options are endless just make sure to avoid any choking hazards.

Audio story works for all ages, find a good one and your kids will be hooked. Lots of mamas also record themselves saying stories and play that for their kids.

Screen Time Alternatives for Toddlers:

Sensory play or water play can be messy or not, always place an easy to clean mat under and set the rules and prep your child before you begin with the activity. More ideas here.

Scavenger hunts can be indoors or out. You can add an “I spy” to the mix. Your child can do the hunt alone and come to you when all the items are found if playing at home.

Arts - make sure to get mess free items like washable markers.

Choose toys that are open ended, I have a ton of options on my amazon shop.

Obstacle course - Pinterest has so many fun ideas for this one.

Pair toys for longer lasting play, magnetic tiles with animals for instance to create a farm.

Screen time games like Osmo can be fun and useful but with constant limits because we still want to encourage creativity and movement.

Find educational shows, yoga or interactive ones for times you must opt for the screen.


** Some of the links above may be affiliate links, which means Mamaguide will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. When purchasing from these links you are supporting my work and allowing me to keep producing free content.



  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon
bottom of page