Playtime Better Than Tube Time for Youngsters
In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that unstructured play best nurtures brain development in infants and toddlers. The AAP discourages TV and even educational videos for this age group.
Even though parents can find a number of "educational" TV and video programs aimed at infants and toddlers, the AAP says no evidence backs up the claim that such programs help children learn better. Moreover, the AAP says, youngsters who have extensive exposure to TV and video are at risk for language development delays when they start school.
Far better than TV or other media, free play helps young children think creatively, solve problems, and develop reasoning and motor skills, the AAP says. Kids who are encouraged to play learn how to entertain themselves.
"In today's 'achievement culture,' the best thing you can do for your young child is to give [the child] a chance to have unstructured play -- both with you and independently," says Ari Brown, M.D., a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media. "Children need this in order to figure out how the world works."
Here are specific recommendations from the report, which was published in the journal Pediatrics:
- If you choose to let your child watch TV or videos, you should set limits on viewing time and have a strategy for managing use.
- When you don't have time to actively play with your child, you should encourage independent play with you or another adult nearby. For instance, you can give your child nesting cups to play with on the floor near you while you fix dinner.
- You should keep a TV out of your child's bedroom. TV before bedtime can cause poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules, which can lead to mood, behavior, and learning problems.
- Keep an eye on your own media use. If you have the TV tuned to a program you want to watch while your child is in the room, both of you will be distracted from meaningful interaction.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.