There's No Such Thing as No TV

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I once read a response on a message board that said something like, Every mom uses TV to occupy their kids, even infants, so she can accomplish things around the house. Any mom who tells you that her kids don’t watch TV is obviously lying. For a bit of context, the comment was in response to a MOT who was feeling guilty about letting her babies watch a little TV so she could do things like eat a meal or prepare bottles. And lots of other MOTs responded telling this mom that she shouldn’t feel guilty. They had all done it and their kids were just fine. I did not know the mother who started the thread, but I really felt for her. That first year is tough, and we all do what we can to survive. But that one comment really hit me. Because my kids (still under one year at the time) had never watched TV.

Very early on, my husband and I had had a brief discussion about not wanting our kids to watch much TV. Notice I said much. We were/are not completely against it. Before they were even born, my husband had purchased a ton of kids’ videos (from Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street to Magic School Bus and Bill Nye the Science Guy) from a local video store that was going out of business. And just weeks after Tiny and Buba were born, we bought a whole set of Baby Einstein videos at our local twin sale, because I’d heard what lifesavers they could be. Yes, our pediatrician had told us that the AAP recommends no TV for kids under two, but even he said a little bit here and there (content appropriate for babies, of course) was fine if I needed a break.

But weeks and months went by and those videos stayed tucked back in cabinet. And for their entire first year of life, Tiny and Buba watched zero minutes of TV. Not one TV show, DVD, or even a short cartoon on You Tube. And the simplest reasons as to why is because we’re just not big TV watchers ourselves. In fact, I don’t actually know how to use the 3 remotes that go with our TV and DVD player. So it just didn’t occur to me to sit the kids down for TV time.

But I haven’t really shielded my kids from TV either. We’ve been to playdates at a friend’s house where the TV is on, and we once had to take Buba to see a specialist, and there was a movie playing in the waiting room. The kids were definitely curious, in these situations, but not so interested that it kept them from playing as usual.

So here we are, 4 weeks away from the second birthday, and I’ve been thinking more and more about all those videos we have, as well as all the TV programs I’ve heard of for the toddler/preschool aged child. Buba and Tiny have been giving me some previews of that terrible two behavior I’ve heard so much about, and I’m beginning to think that a little TV time might do us all some good. And that it might be time for me to get a tutorial regarding how all those remotes work.

But before we jump in, I’d like to know how you handle TV watching with your kids. How do you set parameters around TV viewing and what are your kids’ favorite shows?

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31 thoughts on “There's No Such Thing as No TV”

  1. My almost 3 year old boys watch Sesame Street most mornings (Saturdays they watch Rick Steve’s Travel with daddy). We started that about a year ago when their baby sister was born and I needed that break. Now I use the time to get ready and do a few things around the house. Sometimes I sit on the couch and cuddle with them too. That is about all the tv they get during the day, unless we’re going crazy in the afternoon and we all need a little down time–that is usually when they haven’t napped and we are trapped inside–rare. Sunday’s they don’t get tv in the morning b/c of church so my husband started letting them watch a movie or short video after nap. That’s a recent development and they know it’s a special deal.
    .-= Joanna´s last blog ..Dancing–again =-.

  2. My two got sick and SUPER clingy around 14 months, and to be able to hold them both comfortably, I sat us all on the couch, and put on Sesame Street. We were able to cuddle and I talked to them about what was on the screen. It did in fact save my sanity that week.

    Now, well, I love a little Sesame Street or Yo Gabba Gabba while I’m making dinner. I try really hard to limit them to 15-20 minutes daily, but sometimes if we’re having a rough morning, I might put it on then too.
    .-= Bekki´s last blog ..Game On! =-.

  3. We didn’t want TV during the first 2 years but that’s not how it has worked out.

    0-12 mos: maybe one hour, in the whole year. it was just never on when they were awake.

    12-18mos: maybe 10 hours total- this included the TV being ON in the background while we watched college football and the kids ignored it. We tried a BabyEinstein DVD at some point (so we could put a piece of furniture) and that did NOT go over well – made them cry – and we never got the dresser put together that day.

    18-20 mos – we instructed our nanny that TV was OK, but not more than 1 kid program a day (25-30 mins). We both work and our nanny also keeps our house up so I thought it was only fair. Still, though, she maybe turns it on only 2-3 days per week.

    20 mos – current (22 mos): they are “allowed” 1 kid program a day IF NECESSARY. Some weeks, they might watch a program M-F. Other weeks, none. On weekends, they might watch another 30 min program because I am not as skilled or patient as our nanny getting it all done.

    Current Parameters:
    -no more than one 25-minute program a day (usually before lunch, but after a visit to the park), and no more than 3-4 times a week.
    -DVRd programs (that we select) only. No “live” TV (too many commercials and product placements)
    -Allowed shows: Dora or Diego, Sesame Street, Handy Manny, Dinosaur Train, and Backyardigans. They mostly like Dora and Backyardigans. They almost never sit through a whole program, but it’s AMAZING how much we can get done in that 25-30 minutes. AMAZING.

    I’m all for using the TV in moderation, but it’s definitely not a daily part of their lives, nor is it a daily part of ours.
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Trouble =-.

  4. I put on a TV show to distract my 2 while I’m prepping meals. Honestly though, its works for about 4 minutes and then they have completely lost interest. The only show they *like* is Yo Gabba Gabba, so some day we wacth that. Its 20 minutes and they pay attention to about 10-15 minutes of it.
    But we are big TV watchers. When the babies were younger, I would TV all the time with them in the room. Mostly the Today Show or the news – nothing I had to really pay attention to. To a certain degree, I think it made them tune out the TV. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it is what it is. Being a SAHM, I could not take all the quiet of being at home with two kids. Maybe because I grew up in a house with a TV on ALL THE TIME, its hard for me to sit in silence. I certainly do not have the TV all the time, and lately keep it off as the kids play has become more and more interactive and focused. So, in that first year, they didn’t watch a lot of TV but they certainly were exposed to it.
    .-= Nicole´s last blog ..Children’s Museum, Finally =-.

  5. First, favourite shows:
    Backyardigans (The music geeks in us love them too.)
    Wonder Pets
    The Upside Down Show
    Handy Manny
    Mickey Mouse Club House
    Full length Disney movies (Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Cars)
    The only TV channel that we watch is Noggin, except for switching to the Disney Channel for Mickey Mouse. I love that Noggin has no commercials.

    We don’t watch TV at home on weekdays or during mealtimes. (I relaxed on the second rule for a time, and it was awful, so I became stricter again.) On one weekend day, the girls will often choose a full-length film, and that is the only TV they’re allowed that day. If we’re not out and about, they may watch two half-hour shows on the other weekend day.

    Their daycare allows a half-hour of TV at the end of the school day, for the kids who are there past 5:30. I’m not totally happy about that, but I love everything else about the center, so I don’t worry about it too much.

    We always talk about the show that the girls have watched, discussing the characters’ motivations and the lessons that can be taken from the story. When it comes to episodes and movies that they’ve seen multiple times, my daughters love to act out the scenes as they watch them, so it’s a pretty active activity.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Jessica Day =-.

  6. wanted to add two things to my first comment:

    1. we listen to a lot of music of different genres. I’m a music whore. We have some calmer music for quiet play, but listen to everything, including country. From Beyonce to Ravel. this morning’s request during breakfast was (Johnny Mathis’) Jingle Bells. But like the TV, we don’t have music on ALL the time.
    2. I have no idea how to be concise.
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Trouble =-.

  7. I use the DVR to control the amount of time I let them watch TV, as well as the content. If I didn’t do that, I have a feeling I’d let them watch way too much just because it keeps them quiet & happy while I’m getting things done. Our favorites are Sesame Street & Little Einsteins.
    .-= Alli´s last blog ..Beautiful Blogger Award =-.

  8. My boys are 22 months old and have never watched TV in our house. It’s been on in front of them at restaurants a few times and at a friend’s house for dinner one time, but that’s it. We, however, watch a lot of TV. As soon as they go to bed, we turn it on and watch all our DVR shows, but then we unplug the TV at night when we’re finished so even if they hit the buttons during the day it doesn’t come on. Definitely having the TV not even plugged in during the day helps. Also, we are usually in the playroom and we don’t even have a TV in there. Both my husband and I didn’t watch TV until we were at least in grade school, so I’ve never seen Sesame Street or Muppets or Mr. Rodgers (nor do I want to :) so I think we’re going to keep up the no TV policy even after they are two. I was actually surprised the other day when talking with my mom friends. I was the only one who stuck with the no TV until two rule, so I can see why the moms on that thread thought that everyone was using TV with their kids.

  9. We just started adding TV to our routine. We did so to avoid the “crazies” before dinner when they are tired of being in the playroom. It also strteches dinner from being at 5:20 to 5:45 pm which helps us get them to bed after. We pop in a video and sit on the couch with them or they stand in front of the TV (what’s up with that?). It’s been Brainy Baby but it is driving me crazy so we just got some Sesame Street on DVD. Our limit is 20-30 mins a day, exceptions for truly horrible behavior or sick parents who need breaks. It also lets us get dinner ready for them.

    My kids are almost 18 months old for what it’s worth.

  10. My girls didn’t watch tv until they were 15 months old. We really do try to control it now and limit how much they watch. At almost 3 years old, they know what they like to watch and will beg sometimes – to which I respond, “I am ignoring you now.” I really don’t mind them watching Sesame Street. Barney and Caillou are their other favorites. They have picked up some helpful things – such as sharing is good – but I really have to limit it or they will watch it all day.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Could it have been the play pizza sauce? =-.

  11. We do watch TV, and have for a while. For one, I only DVR the shows that I find palatable (NO frigging Dora or Caillou is allowed!!!). That not only allows some control over which shows they watch, but also means I can have a few saved and not worry about what time anything is on.

    Typically they watch one show first thing in the morning (used to be post-breakfast, but I find they eat better if I let them drink milk in front of a show and then eat breakfast after… maybe it gives them a little extra time to wake all the way up?). In the late afternoon I will sometimes turn on one more show so that I can have time to cook dinner. I also think it helps them get some space-out time and get out of each other’s faces. But if we’re out and about, sometimes there’s no show in the afternoon.

    Sometimes I cave and put on an extra show here or there, but usually I limit it.

    Favorite shows:
    Backyardigans
    Curious George
    Dinosaur Train
    Sesame Street
    Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (I blame my dad, who brought them a DVD of it for Thanksgiving…)

    They do ask for it more than I allow them to watch, but there generally isn’t a tantrum when I tell them it’s not time to watch a show. I figure they’ve got good attention spans and we make an effort to get out of the house, socialize with other kids, and be active. So some TV isn’t going to be the end of the world.

    And you should hear them recount entire episodes from memory. It’s incredible what they remember, and the things they connect. Daniel was talking about a Stegosaurus having plates on his back, and said something about the Cretaceous time period. Thanks, Dinosaur Train. :-)

  12. Jeez, I’m going to be THAT mom that used TV to entertain her kids. Oh well…they know and respect the limits.

    Most days, they watch Blues Clues after breakfast. I also use a DVR to control the content, and turn it off immediately after the show is over. If we aren’t able to get out (we live in a state that gets LOTS of snow) in the morning, they *may* watch a second 20 minute program in the morning.

    In the afternoons, they may get a third program towards the end of the day as I’m wearing down, and I frequently watch Ellen while they play in the same room.

    All in all, no more than an hour per day, and my kiddos are 17 months old. Our favorites are Blues Clues, Yo Gabba Gabba, Dora and Sesame Street. Also Vege Tales.

    The DVD players in the car have saved us on many longer road trips, and even some short ones.

    Before I’m criticized, we eat every meal as a family with no TV only conversation, and I read to the kids for probably a grand total of one hour per day, too. We also do work with flash cards, have a craft session every day and I play on the floor with them frequently. Both of them are verbally advanced, with my daughter speaking in almost full sentences (not that you can always understand her.) Yes, her first word WAS “backpack”, but you gotta take what you can get.

  13. Favorite shows:
    Word World
    Dinosaur Train
    Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
    Dora

    Our tv is on in the morning to watch Good Morning America or Ellen then usually off until 4:30 so I can cook dinner and pick up from the days messes. We turn it off around 6 for dinner, bath and bed. I love having the DVR tsp the kids can watch their show. I am not big on having the tv on all day even if they only watch it here and there.
    .-= Staci Dauphine´s last blog ..Who Dat Saying Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints? =-.

  14. I need the TV. I get 20 min in the morning after the kids get up to get showered ,dressed, their clothes together for day care and take down any wash that can run while at work. The Wiggles on NIck JR. give me that time. I have B/G twins 16mons. I put them in the pack and play in my room with the TV on and I can do all those things in 20 min.
    They also get 20-30 min at the end of the day after dinner when waiting for Mommy to get home, on her long day, to put them to bed (Daddy needs a break at 3 hours alone with the kids.)

  15. Hmmm, interesting comments. My girls (who turn 2 this Sunday-yay!) don’t watch TV for the simple fact that I live in a jungle on a remote island, and there is no TV signal here. I always assumed everyone else was letting their kids watch TV and I was totally missing out- guess I’m wrong! We are, however, all about the videos- Sesame Street, Backyardigans, and Elmo. I usually let them watch one of the three for a half hour in the morning so I can drink my coffee in peace. They love it, I have no remorse.
    .-= Jungletwins´s last blog ..The Return of One-Eyed Pirate Mommy! =-.

  16. My girls have always watched tv. We are big tv watchers in our house, and so its always on. They don’t sit in front of it or anything, but it is on, or the radio.
    In the am, we sit around, have coffee, read the paper the girls have milk and cereal. We start the day with Mickey (huge hit) Then we just leave it on and if they stop to watch, ok by me. After naps we do Yo Gabba Gabba…there really isn’t any set schedule for tv. They don’t ask for it to be on, they don’t sit and not play when its on, and until that happens I think its fine.

  17. My boys are 28 months old. We only watch DVD’s at our house (I think they learn more when they watch the same program multiple times). We watch:

    Baby Einstein (this was really big until about 20 months and then they lost some interest…but lately they like it again. I really like baby Einstein and find if I watch it with them, that it’s a great teaching tool)

    Elmo / Sesame Street – They are Elmo-fanatics

    The Wiggles

    Thomas (of course)

    I haven’t been too strict about TV watching but we try not to watch too much. Mostly I will put something on for them in the morning so I can at least have my coffee. Some mornings they’re interested, other mornings they are off playing. Otherwise, I just wait for them to ask for something. Mostly they don’t ask…they’re too busy. And then we usually put something on just before bed to wind down.

    When they were sick (and Iwas sick) in November, I was worried that we were watching WAY too much TV…but that changed once we were all feeling better. So basically I go with the flow and it works (for now).

  18. We have been really strict about TV. Our nearly 4 year old daughter didn’t watch until she was well over two and now she sees on average 30 minutes a week in the form of a video. I’ve read too many books about the insidious nature of marketing to kids that I am just not comfortable letting her watch “regular” tv programming. Plus, we don’t have cable and my husband and I aren’t big TV watchers anyway so I don’t think it has been that appealing for her. I’m hoping my twins will be much the same.
    .-= Samantha´s last blog ..Goodbye =-.

  19. I am addicted to TV, but so far our girls (15 months) have only seen a few football matches (my partner is a huge fan of a british team). They’re actually not that interested. We tend to put them in their cribs when we clean up, or let them careen around the living room if there are two of us to watch them. But I don’t think that a little TV now and then is going to do any harm. It’s all about moderation, I think.

  20. I think my girls were about 10 months old and I remember calling my office-mate in tears because I caved and put them both in the pack-n-play and put in a Baby Einstein DVD that we got as a gift. I took a long shower, shaved my legs and blow dried my hair. But I still felt SOOOO guilty. My co-worker told me to get over it.

    Now that I have twins +1 and still work full time I could not LIVE without Sesame Street in the AM. I put that on and they are good for the entire AM while I get ready, get the baby ready and then I usually get them dressed for day care in front of the TV because I get less of a fight that way (they are 3 and tantrums are frequent these days).

    Most of the time they play without the TV on but there are days (mostly recently with all the snow and the cabin fever) where I just can’t take it anymore and I ask if they want to watch a movie. To clarify, Sesame Street is the only live TV program they watch. Everything else is on DVD. Their current favs are Angelina Ballerina and Barney. I HATE Barney but someone gave us a slew of DVDs and they LOVE it. And I have to admit….it’s pretty educational. I was sold on it after they watched an episode where the kids were helping Barney clean up and when I shut the TV off both girls got up and started singing and cleaning up their toys!!!!!!

    We don’t have a time limit. It’s a situational thing. Some days they watch WAY too much and other days they don’t watch anything. It depends on how fried I am, if anyone’s sick, etc…..

    Don’t fret. I was raised watching Saturday morning cartoons and I graduated at the top of my class from college. It didn’t damage me and I watched completely NON educational crap like Tom & Jerry!
    .-= Marnie´s last blog ..remembering Tuesday… =-.

  21. i think it can be harder to monitor tv time when you have older children. our younger boys like to press the buttons on the tv and have recently become obsessed with ‘in the night garden’. but my 6 year old wants to watch the older kids tv and its difficult to stop them watching too (not that they watch, but they are playing in the same room). how do you handle this?

  22. My kids didn’t watch any TV until they were almost 3. My husband and I don’t watch much TV ourselves and our TV is upstairs (with bedrooms downstairs) so they just never saw it. They were always good nappers so I had a break when they napped. Once they dropped their naps, we started doing about a half hour of TV in the afternoon so they could have some down time and I could have a break. I wanted to limit how much TV they watched, but not turn it into some forbidden (and thus extra attractive) thing. No commericals tho! They watch videos/DVDs and Sesame online and sometimes funny things on youtube (that I have screened first). We also have a DVD player for the car, but we only use it on long trips. Now that has been a life saver since we have made monthly trips to NYS (6 hours each way) for the last year. Scholastic makes some really cute animated stories of their favorite books which I love myself. I don’t like Dora, Diego, Thomas etc. tho the kids do watch Thomas sometimes. Spot the dog is good too – really simple and they find it funny.

  23. My boys (age 29 mos) LOVE to watch Thomas the Tank Engine and so we own many VHS and DVD of Thomas. I think it has actually improved their language skills as they can say lots of words from the shows. I am “THAT” mom who probably allows more TV than most. I also have an older son and they end up watching what he watches and I’m just not sweating it, they are happy well adjusted – talking well- and mostsly are still playing while the TV is on. To moms out there who feel guilty about that 30 minutes or so of TV- my advice is Lose the guilt! You deserve that 30 minutes so don’t sweat it.

  24. I’m one of the TV-using moms, usually for 30 min here and there. It gives me a brief break to work out and shower while my 15mo girls are in their pack & play and to put one down for a nap without being distracted by the other. One twin is more into TV than the other. My girls liked Baby Einstein during their first year — now they are most entertained by the Baby MacDonald and Neighborhood Animals DVDs — and they like Nanalan on the PBS kids station. Also the opening credits for Yo Gabba Gabba, and if one girl wakes up too early, I know that Blues Clues is on at 6 am.

    Now, I do NOT like how much TV they see when they are at my in-laws’ house. It’s on all. day. long.

    I know what the research says. But I also know that I both need and deserve to work out and take my 7-minute shower in peace.

  25. My 19 month old girls watch some Sesame Street and Baby Einstein about 30 minutes/day, but sometimes an hour. We don’t have the TV on at other times of the day [we don’t watch tv] so I don’t really feel bad, honestly. It helps me most days to be a better mom. Most of the time they watch 15-30 minutes before dinner only while in their high chairs because I simply can’t safely/timely prep dinner with them running around or hanging on me.

  26. We didn’t watch any TV during their first year, mainly because we didn’t have cable. After that our viewing was limited too mainly DVDs (Dora and Sesame Street were top picks for my daughters). Due to my husband’s current job we now have free cable. I’ve had to work really hard to make sure we don’t go on TV overload, mainly because there are so many shows they never knew existed. It’s easy to get caught up in “I’ve never seen this one before.” Fortunately my daughters are easily distracted by other activities, so it has been a major issue… yet.

  27. I definitely set limits on TV time, but let my kids watch from about 10 months on. At first 30 min or less, but once they were a 18 months or so we went to an hour.

    I’ve found working into our routine works best, so that they don’t keep pestering me for it all day long. For the longest time, that meant my oldest got to watch in the morning when I put my twins down for AM nap (which meant my little ones didn’t really watch until 18 months or so) . Now that all 3 are watching, I still usually do it at the same time, in the AM. They either watch one longer show or two half hour shows.

    Our favorites are: Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers, Maisy Mouse DVDs & Signing Time for the little ones, and all those plus Sid the Science Kid, Dora or Curious George for my 3 year old. We sometimes get DVDs from the library with old or new favorites we know from books. We don’t watch anything with commercials yet. Hoping to keep it that way.

    I think TV is a great tool to use, to help get some “down time” (sanity time) or to get stuff done, shower or tend to younger sibs. But also not necessary, at all. I’m all for pulling the plug occasionally to “reset” expectations….
    .-= Kristin from Intrepid Murmurings´s last blog ..A Post About Puke =-.

  28. Hot topic! I’m putting my two cents in just because I think it’s good for moms to talk about this honestly. Although I have to admit, I usually downplay the amount of tv my boys watch. They are two years old, and started watching cartoons around 18 months old – started at 10 minutes a day, and am now at about 45 minutes a day. Yes, it is probably too much, but as some other posters mentioned, it helps me to keep my sanity and to mother better the rest of the time.

  29. My husband and I don’t watch TV (though we do rent and watch DVDs), so it wasn’t hard to keep it off when the kids were awake as babies, and we’re still doing this now. My 3-YO twins have never watched videos or TV beyond snatches of the Super Bowl and the World Series (because their dad watches these every year), plus the occasional ambient TV in other people’s houses, church nursery, restaurants etc. I don’t stress about ambient TV–they’ve never asked to watch at home, and when they do, my answer will be “We just have different rules.” My plan is to keep it that way until they can read to themselves (age 7?). Then we’ll start to let them watch educational stuff and age-appropriate movies. Why do we do this? The research points toward neutral-to-negative influence from TV, and I think just subjectively that TV (especially ads but also shows) destroys brain cells–so much of it is so stupid. Also, I find with little kids that it’s much easier to just go all or nothing with things–either something is allowed or it’s not, it’s done or it’s not (sort of like car seats; they’re just done, and never questioned; wish I had done this with sugary foods!)–eliminates arguing and whining because they don’t know they have something to whine about! When they’re older and (hopefully!) more reasonable, moderate TV will be fine with me. I, too, am a Gen X-er practically raised on bad TV. I did fine in school etc., but I often wonder if I’d be more creative and less scattered if my formative years had been spent playing outside rather than parked in front of Scooby Doo and the Brady Bunch.

  30. I am trying to hold out on TV until my babies are 2. My 4 year old watches tv almost daily, which is too much in my opinion, but also admittedly a good way to keep her occupied while I am taking care of the babies and can’t focus on her completely.
    .-= nonlineargirl´s last blog ..A Friend =-.

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