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Doctors say babies and toddlers should learn from play, not TV



American Academy of Pediatrics recommends shorter TV and screen time

The temptation to rely on media screens to entertain babies and toddlers is more appealing than ever, with screens surrounding families at home, in the car, and even at the grocery store. And there is no shortage of media products and programming targeted to little ones. But a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there are better ways to help children learn at this critical age.

In a recent survey, 90 percent of parents said their children under age 2 watch some form of electronic media.

On average, children this age watch televised programs one to two hours per day. By age 3, almost one third of children have a television in their bedroom. Parents who believe that educational television is “very important for healthy development” are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time.

Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as “educational,” yet evidence does not support this. Quality programs are educational for children only if they understand the content and context of the video. Studies consistently find that children over 2 typically have this understanding.


Educational toys for your baby. 


Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves. Young children learn best from—and need—interaction with humans, not screens.

  • Television viewing around bedtime can cause poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules, which can adversely affect mood, behavior and learning; 
  • Instead of screens, opt for supervised independent play for infants and young children during times that a parent cannot sit down and actively engage in play with the child. For example, have the child play with nesting cups on the floor nearby while a parent prepares dinner; and
  • Avoid placing a television set in the child’s bedroom.
According to Dr. Brown, “In today’s ‘achievement culture,’ the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play—both
with you and independently. Children need this in order to figure out how the world works.”


Enrichment activities for all ages.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.