Many medical and infant development experts discourage television viewing for infants under age 2. Certainly one-on-one direct interaction is far more valuable than a half-hour in front of the TV for any baby. Sometimes busy parents are tempted to set baby in front of a favorite video or TV show just so they can get something done for 30 minutes. The obvious drawback to this approach is that parents can easily fall into the trap of increasing this TV time until, before they know it, baby is watching 2 hours of TV or videos every day. Most experts, and parents, would agree that this much viewing might actually be harmful to baby’s development.
When you do allow baby to view TV or video programs, involve yourself as much as possible to make it more stimulating and developmentally beneficial for baby. Here is how:
- Sit baby on your lap and view the show together. This way baby feels more connected to you.
- View shows that use music and song as much as possible. Sing and clap along with baby. It’s better for baby to hear your voice singing and see your clapping than to watch the characters on TV.
- Get moving. Stand or sit up with baby so you can move and dance around to the music. This helps baby focus more on you instead of the TV.
- Point to and label the characters and pictures you see on TV. Find matching objects around the house to compare.
- Play peek-a-boo by covering pictures on the screen.
- For older babies, programs that ask kids to respond by choosing or finding an object, or repeating phrases and singing along are better than non-interactive shows.
- When you do leave baby unattended in front of a show, stay connected by talking to baby during the program, singing along, and asking baby questions about what he is seeing.
Every parent needs a break during the day. There are plenty of other ways to keep a baby busy than the TV. Here are some alternative activities you can use instead of the TV to keep baby occupied for extended periods of time:
- Music. Babies don’t always need visual stimulation. Sometimes music alone will entertain a baby, especially if you sing along so baby can hear you moving around the house.
- Baby swings. A simple automatic baby swing is sure to keep most babies occupied for a while.
- Musical mobiles. The movement and music of a mobile fascinate many babies. Flashing colors and lights may also help.