5 Smart Strategies for Balancing Toddler Screen Time

Reviewed by Asif Nadeem

Recently updated on May 24th, 2024 at 05:31 am

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Key Takeways
  1. Structure Screen Time:
    • Set a specific evening time for toddler screen activities to maintain consistency and provide a break for parents.
  2. Find Age-Appropriate Content:
    • Opt for safe platforms like YouTube Kids or Cbeebies to ensure age-appropriate and secure screen time experiences.
  3. Experience Digital Together:
    • Engage with toddlers during screen time, exploring educational apps together to build trust and relationships.
  4. Don’t Worry Too Much:
    • Focus on overall well-being, asking key questions about sleep, health, interactions, outdoor play, and digital learning.
  5. Encourage Independent Play:
    • Foster creativity and satisfaction through gradually increasing periods of independent play as an alternative to screen time.

The first few years of parenting can be described in one word. EXHAUSTING. 

The sleepless nights, trying to be sane during the day, and the never-ending housework sums it all up.

No wonder we are addicted to coffee (and some of us limit it because we were told it could reduce milk supply, oh dear)

Trust me: I’ve been there.

It is hard when you have been awake all night and trying to get things done during the day. They say rest when the child is napping, but the problem is who will do the other housework.

Sometimes, Mom needs a break!

During those hours, we turn to screen time for our little ones, right? Don’t feel guilty or ashamed.

I will show you how to limit your toddlers’ screen time and find inner peace in those minutes.

Whenever we think of screen time, we tend to believe it is about getting rid of the screen, but then what?

My toddler is still full of energy, bored, and needs entertainment. I am stressed, tired, and need some rest.

Instead of focusing on no screen time or limited screen time, let’s find the right balance for our kids.

5 simple ways to balance your toddler’s screen time:

1. Structure screen time

Our toddlers need a structure in their day. They need time to sleep, play, eat, and spend outdoors. The same can be said with screen time.

You can choose what time of the day would best fit into their schedule. For instance, the evening, after outdoor play and when I prepare dinner, is the best time for me to switch on some nice nursery rhyme on TV for my little one.

I will confess this is the time of the day I can detach myself for a moment and enjoy being me, as my daughter is being entertained by “Wheel on the bus” that she constantly insistst on listening to.

2. Find age-appropriate content

It would be nice to leave your little one alone in front of the screen. However, we have all read the horrors of screen time, like freaky things popping up during a YouTube show.

To be able to do this, you need to find age-appropriate content. Instead of relying on YouTube, use YouTube for kids ( a platform made especially for children).

There are some parental controls that you can set in place for YouTube for kids. But again, remember, it is never 100% secure on Youtube, kids

I suggest not using YouTube and turning to safer options like Cbeebies, where you are sure there can’t be any inappropriate content slipping through.

In fact, here are 8 alternatives to YouTube for kids

Don’t forget to check out the personalised Anxiety kit and growth mindset kit for children

3. Experience digital together

Eventually, your toddler will grow up, and you might turn towards the iPad or the internet. Plenty of educational apps are out there to keep the little one busy.

But to explore the app’s educational stuff, you will need to experience it with your child. It can never be educational unless you genuinely know the app’s content.

Browsing together also allows you to discuss safe internet use from a young age. It helps in building trust and relationships with your child.

Any app can be labeled as educational,so do not just buy it because of what it says.

Please read the reviews beforehand, watch YouTube shows about the app, and, most importantly, try it out yourself before giving it to your toddler.

4. Stop worrying about screen time too much

Digital media and devices can be a place for creativity and problem-solving. Instead of focusing on the amount of screen time, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my toddler sleeping enough?
  • Is my toddler physically healthy?
  • Is my toddler having plenty of face-to-face interaction and connecting well with family and friends?
  • Is my toddler spending time playing outdoors?
  • Is my toddler having fun and learning new things using digital media?

If you answer YES to all of the above, you are doing fine, Mama.

You can even check these11 free apps to get your kids outdoors this summer

Join our E-parenting Community to meet other parents and discuss all about parenting with a screen.

How to limit toddler’s screen time :

Now, if you think your child is getting too much screen time, try the below alternatives:

1. Encourage Independent Play

One of the best ways to distract toddlers is through independent play. Try the tips below :

  • Combine a few toys, for instance, magnets or blocks, and get them to play
  • Start with playing together with your child and ask them questions
  • After a while, tell them, “I’m going to cook now. I will continue playing once I am done cooking”.
  • Start with 10 minutes of independent play, then increase it over time.

The best thing about independent play is that your child will be satisfied with the time spent alone. They get to be more creative and do things they enjoy.

Oh yes, don’t forget the cute self-expression they do when they are playing alone. I love the funny noises they make.

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2. Try other media.

I find that my toddler gets bored of screen time after a while, so I switch to books next.

I also have toys with sounds and lights but no screen. She loves pressing the buttons to see the lights and hear the music.

You can try these types of activities before turning to screen time.

Sometimes, I play nursery rhymes on the speaker, and my toddler dances until she gets bored or tired.

If she still needs entertaining, I take out the pots and pans and let her make her own musical sounds.

Lastly, don’t forget to have plenty of picture books. They keep my toddler occupied for a long time.

Now your turn

Ready to create the right balance for your kids? Remember the following tricks :

  • Structure screen time
  • Find age-appropriate content
  • Experience digital together
  • Finally, ensure your child gets plenty of rest, face-to-face interaction, and outdoor play.

If you need to pause screen time, then do the following:

  • Encourage independent play
  • Plan for alternatives to screen time. For instance, books, toys, and other fun sensory activities for your toddler.

Now share with us what has been your biggest struggle with screen time. Is there any other way you set limits? Share your thoughts.

Here are other tips to keep children safe in the digital age : 

Cyber Flashing: The new online safety threat on your kid’s iPhone

Ten things you can do right now to keep your children safe: Easy and clever online safety tips

Three dangerous places for children to be online : 3 places kids should have limited internet access

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Parven founded Kids N Clicks after obtaining her MSc in Corporate Governance from the London School of Economics. She worked as a business studies and digital marketing lecturer. Internet Matters recognizes her profound knowledge of online safety, dubbing her an Internet safety expert. At Kids N Clicks, Parven keeps abreast of the newest apps. Drawing from her teaching background, she fervently promotes screen-free activities for students and encourages introspective thinking through journaling, games and writing prompts.

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