What’s the Right Amount of TV for Toddlers?


We’ve all done it: plopping our toddler in front of a video so we can cook a decent dinner, take a work call, or grab a much-needed moment of peace. When used sparingly, TV can be entertainment for our kids and a lifesaver for parents. But too much screen time can have a lasting impact. In fact, a new study shows as little as one extra hour of TV daily can jeopardize your wee one’s success in the kindergarten classroom—giving them everything from a shorter attention span to a greater likelihood of being bullied. Luckily there’s a simple solution.

How a child behaves in kindergarten is actually a powerful predictor of his or her future success. So what can parents do during the early years to assist kids to flourish in school? To help answer this question, Professor Linda Pagani of the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine children’s hospital looked at just one factor—the connection between screen time and success in kindergarten.


By keeping preschoolers’ TV time below the recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents may dramatically improve their children’s experience in kindergarten.


Her team studied the kindergarten performance of 991 girls and 1,006 boys in Quebec, whose parents had been reporting their television viewing behavior over time, as part of the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. Out of the data a pattern emerged, showing that at 29 months of age, even one hour a day beyond the recommended limit of TV watching reduced language and math skills, attention spans and physical prowess, and even increased a child’s chances of being mistreated by classmates once they hit grade K.

Though it all sounds pretty dramatic, the solution is fairly simple. By keeping preschoolers’ TV time below the recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents may dramatically improve their children’s experience in kindergarten. That means no television during infancy and no more than two hours per day beyond age two. Just remember you’ll be setting your kiddo up for greater success at school.

The next time you need 15 minutes to yourself, consider these non-screen ways to occupy your preschooler:

  • Ask them to draw a picture for you and not show it to you until it’s done.
  • Have Play-Doh at the ready, along with cookie cutters and plastic knives.
  • Offer a pad of Post-it notes with instructions to draw on each one then stick them to the nearest wall to create a museum.
  • Put on a children’s audiobook. It’s media, but kids have to use their imagination when listening.


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