For many years, the American Academy of Pediatrics set a clear and simple ceiling on the amount of screen time children should be allowed – no more than 2 hours per day, and not at all before the age of 2 years… (oops!… guilty!) Luckily for me, The AAP has recently released major updates to these guidelines. Not only have they changed the way that they define ‘screen time’ – where ‘screen time’ used to refer to all time spent on the computer or in front of the television, using a tablet or a smartphone etc. , only actually relaxation/entertainment screen time counts towards the guidelines set by the AAP. This could be normal children’s television programming, Netflix, entertainment clips on Youtube etc. as opposed to practicing multiplication on a mathematics website or watching a special on a favorite dinosaur on the history channel.
They have also changed the guidelines with regards to the age that children can start benefiting from ‘quality screen time’. Infants and toddlers under the age of 18 months are encouraged to use screens to communicate with loved ones that may be far away. Skype-time with Granny or cousins can be a fantastic, stimulating experience for a young child. Other types of screen time are still a no-no though..
Between the ages of 18 months and 2 years, the AAp is recommending snippets of high quality screen time, and short bursts of age appropriate educational videos, but still nothing longer than ten or fifteen minutes in front of the television or computer at a time. They recommend that the majority of a toddler’s day be spent doing ‘creative, unplugged activities’.
Children between the ages of 2 and 5 years old get a little bit more ‘wiggle room’, but not much! The AAP recommends only an hour per day. Luckily, most kids this age don’t sit around for long anyway, 😉 which, as it turns out, is wonderful, because the AAP encourages parents to make sure that their children have active lifestyles.
After the age of 5, the AAP ups the screen-time limit to 2 hours per day.
As i mentioned before, the AAP does make a distinction between ‘screen time for entertainment purposes’ and ‘screen time for educational purposes’. ‘Screen time for educational purposes’ can have many benefits, but only if it is handled properly by you, the parent. It is important to co-view any educational material with your child, so that you can help them understand it. That way, you can explain any parts that they may have questions about, and take it further, carry the information out into the real world and show your child how the information applies to the world around them. By doing so, your child learns that information, and education, is a real, living thing – and they become excited about the process.
So, what now? Where are the best places to to start looking?
1. Starfall is a fantastic educational site for young children learning their ABC’s or starting to read (as young as 2 years old for letter recognition play). The simple, colorful activities making learning fun, and there are even a few baby sign language lessons to make things interesting. There are even songs to sing and themed activities for special occasions!
2. Word World PBS Youtube Channel is a great Youtube channel for kids that are just starting to read. This channel has a super selection of videos all about words and spelling. Intrigued? C-H-E-C-K this out…
3. cbc.ca is a super cool Canadian television channel and website just for preschoolers (similar to the American PBS Kids). There are lots of fantastic games and videos – our favorite is definitely the art machine!
4. The Yo Gabba Gabba Youtube Channel is another fabulous Youtube option for preschoolers… The characters are amazing, it’s got great music and, on top of everything, it’s educational! Kids learn all about life and the little things with Brobee, Foofa, Muno and the rest of the gang.
5. Boowa and Kwala has a gigantic selection to choose from… No, really, over 800 different games – you might want to spend some time going through them all to find your favorites. We like the sorting games and the shapes games the most, but there are coloring pages, songs, stories and even an interactive map to explore as well!
6. Fisher-Price is not only a fantastic toy manufacturer – Yip, they have a super website too! The site provides educational games and activities that you and your little one can play together online. There are alphabet coloring pages, games to learn the animal noises, shapes, numbers, ABCs, and more.
7. Houston Zoo Youtube Channel features all kinds of cool, educational animal videos. Perfect for kids that love animals or love going to the zoo! What is your child’s favorite animal? We love how gentle the giraffes are.
8. pbskids.org – A fantastic selection of games – although the menu can be a little frustrating at times (the screens change super quickly). If you’ve got lightning reflexes – this one’s worth a look.
9. Science Bob is the coolest ‘geeky’ site around! It’s the go-to spot for all things science, with plenty of experiments to try, research tips and even a Q&A section.
10. National Geographics Kids Youtube Channel is a fantastic Youtube channel, offering your child (and yourself) plenty to choose from! There are hundreds of videos, covering everything from dinosaurs to wild animals, travels to foreign lands and space exploration! The clips are short enough that even toddlers can follow along without losing interest, while still packing in lots of great information.
11. Got an astronaut in the family? Then you need to bookmark this one! nasa.gov has some great space and engineering themed games and activities, as well as loads of images all the way from ‘outer space’!
12. Scratch is a free online tool designed by MIT to help kids learn programming. All the games are designed by kids for kids, and your child has the opportunity to rate it and give advice on where improvements could be made. This is actually aimed at children a little older than toddlers (6 years up to adult 🙂 ), but the concept is so cool, i just had to include it on the list! Head on over there and take a peek for yourself.
13. ABC Ya full of educational games for preschool to grade 5 (age 4 – 10 ish), all of it designed by teachers. There are loads of games, and most of them are truly educational – letters, numbers, decision making games and plenty more!
14. Little Baby Bums Youtube Channel is great for all your nursery needs. No wonder they have almost 9 million subscribers! ABC’s, 123’s and lots of animals songs – perfects for your little ones.
15. Do you have a budding chef in the family? Then http://www.spatulatta.com/ is a must! This site isn’t anything like the others on this list, we had to mention it because it sneaks in so many fantastic educational life skills – nutrition, measurement, responsibility, and safety. Spend some great quality time with even your littlest one, watching videos, choosing and planning recipes, and getting creative in a fun culinary way!
There’s no getting away from it… Screens are everywhere! But that doesn’t mean that ‘screen time’ needs to be mind-numbing or boring. 🙂 I hope you find something your family loves!
Please, if you know someone with young children, remember to share this list with them too, and don’t forget to check out the rest of my weblog http://brightnbrainy.com/ (brightnbrainy.com). Thanks!