Parenting: Weening kids off too much TV

March 4, 2011 12:09:30 PM PST
The standard rules are pretty clear when it comes to toddlers and television. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV until your little one is two. But in talking to friends, everyone knows this, but it is impossible for most families to keep up with the television blackout.

At first, it seems the baby is oblivious to the tube. Then all of sudden you're confronting what's going on in my household: A little one pointing to the TV and insisting you turn it on, pitching a fit if you don't move fast enough.

As cute as it is when he sings out "Puzzle Time!" along with Moose A Moose, television's deleterious effects are obvious. He goes slack-jawed, even ignoring the peas and pears he loves arrayed across his high chair. We knew it was time to say goodbye to so much "Thomas and Friends" and "Yo Gabba Gabba." But how to do this without triggering a baby meltdown?

The parenting site Baby Center reinforces the idea it's easier to not create the habit than kick it. "It's a lot easier to relax your standards later than it is to wean an 18 month old from a three-times-a-day 'Dora' or 'Blue's Clues' habit," the site advises.

But if you've already crossed that bridge, here's what they advise you do:
- Limit the viewing. Break it into 15-minute blocks. "Much more than that, and your toddler's brain can shift to autopilot," BabyCenter warns. Even once the child hits two, no more than an hour a day of TV is advisable.
-Watch programs, not television. Don't let TV be wallpaper, with your kid watching cartoon or show after show. Watch one episode or two of a program you like and then turn off the tube. Another option recording shows or picking them from your On Demand, controlling what pops up as possible viewing.
- Go for the quiet. Look for simple shows that encourage your little one to make sounds, learn words, sing out and dance. Stay away from too much frantic activity or anything violent. The fast paced stuff is too hard for him to follow, leaving him confused and stupified as he tries to figure out what's going on
-Watch along with your child. Keep an eye on what he is seeing and never let TV become his sitter. As well, join in, helping him learn words or interact with singing and dancing.
-Use the lesson. Take a show's theme about words, letters, numbers or concepts and see if you can extend it to books or activities you share with yout child. For example, uses the example of using a Sesame Street show featuing the number three to read a book on counting or counting three things in the room.

Good luck!

Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on