Many parents spent the time before they were parents saying “we won’t use screen time” or “my child will never be allowed to use a tablet.” We all say a lot of things before we become parents only to have our expectations flipped upside down faster than the Fresh Prince.
While we aren’t saying babies and kids should have hours of screen time or be handed a phone the minute they can sit up unassisted, there is something to be said for the assistance it can bring parents in some of our most trying times.
That’s why we’re giving recommendations for quality educational YouTube programming for baby learning!
Benefits of Some Screen Time
Part of the screen time benefit comes from your child being interactive and engaged with the content. The interactive component actually involves engagement with you as you both relate to the content on the screen.
With joint engagement, there is a social benefit. You’re there to reinforce the content and provide scaffolding for any questions they may have. This can be as simple as saying “Oh, that’s a puppy” or “How many animals do you see?” For infants, this can even me pointing to yourself when the show says the word “mommy” or “daddy.”
Entertainment is an added and acceptable benefit too! Programs with simple but relatable social stories have shown benefits for children.
A less talked about benefit to screen time (but widely known by veteran parents!) is how it can encourage children to get through an event they dislike. For example, maybe your fifteen month old hates getting her hair brushed or you’re trying to buy an extra five minutes while waiting on the doctor at a well check. If not relied on too heavily, a few minutes of screen time can help serve as a crutch to decrease stress, impatience, and whining (for the baby as well as you…am I right?).
How Much Screen Time is Okay?
Okay, we’re not getting on a soapbox here. We know hours of screen time is not recommended for kids. However, it may not be a realistic standard for many families to ban screen time if they need to grab a minute or two to wash dishes or help older siblings with homework.
For toddlers ages 2+, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time to 1 hour. While phone time isn’t a great idea for kids under the age of 3-4, you can show them the content on a larger viewing medium such as the television screen or large computer screen so you can watch it as a family. They also place an emphasis on what kind of screen time you’re exposing your child to. Hence the list of educational gems we’re about to share!
Screen Time Tip!
Downloading YouTube Kids is a lifesaver. It’s a colorful, easy-to-use app that makes finding your favorite videos a breeze. Plus, the parental controls are helpful in making sure all the content is appropriate for the little one. They won’t be set free to roam the actual YouTube app and can save you a lot of worry.
This channel is actually linked to the second pick on our list because of one video in particular. This channel is home to one of the Treeschoolers earlier programs that was originally marketed as a separate program for infants. Baby Signing time is a great introduction to sign language with infant-appropriate content.
These signs are simple enough for both of you to pick up quickly and they can bridge the gap in communication before your little one starts rattling off words.
- Baby Signing Time: https://youtu.be/0uK1YiHNFtU
Treeschool- Preschool and Kids Songs
This channel is nearly unbeatable when it comes to educational content. For infants learning new words daily, this is a great option for integrating sign language into their practice. Not only is sign language beneficial to developing the language centers in our brains, this teaches your little ones a means to communicate before they’re physically able to produce words.
Rachel, the host, covers content for infants up to preschoolers. Her lessons include basic signs such as “mommy”, “daddy”, “milk”, “more”, etc. While she covers the signs for barnyard animals, colors, and plants for older kids.
This channel is also a great example of joint engagement. As a parent, I found myself learning and practicing the signs right along with my infant. We practiced the signs in our normal routine and learned new signs each time we tuned in.
Top-rated videos from the Treeschoolers:
- Happy, Healthy Me- https://youtu.be/4Kog27loaus
- The Rainbow Song- https://youtu.be/xRs_cZjH6Kw
- Leah’s Farm- https://youtu.be/74wFPwsG_QA
It’s hard not to associate the name Einstein with anything other than genius. And while we’re not saying watching this program will automatically score your baby some intellect, the introduction of classical music can, at the very least, have a calming effect. Their videos also integrate animation with real children and can provide some variability in the engagement.
Popular Baby Einstein Picks:
- Baby Einstein Baby Mozart Music Festival- https://youtu.be/_HbEejSqE9Y
- Baby Macdonald- https://youtu.be/xbMF6zBzaKI
- Discovering Shapes- https://youtu.be/Qayhdzj1M_Y
Sesame Street has been a long time favorite of parents for many reasons. It’s one of the most educational options you can find on television and they have great segments for their YouTube channel as well.
You can find short videos teaching letters, numbers, daily routines, songs, and even the basics of meditation. These can be great options for older infants and toddlers whose language is just starting to take off.
Plus, kids are always entertained by the bright colors and textures on the puppets. It’s a little bit of “real life” entertainment blended with puppets that give them (and you) a break from the overly bright animation of most cartoons. Plus, many parents enjoy seeing their favorite celebrities perform some classic kid songs.
Popular Sesame Street Videos:
- ABC song- https://youtu.be/783EsrHchXA
- Feist Sings 1,2,3,4- https://youtu.be/fZ9WiuJPnNA
- OK Go Three Primary Colors- https://youtu.be/yu44JRTIxSQ
From personal experience, this one is great to throw up onto the television while you vacuum or tend to another sibling. The content is simple but engaging for young viewers because it doesn’t overwhelm them with too much stimulation.
Aside from colors and ABC’s, the channel’s main characters (which are babies named “GooGoo” & “GaGa”) also lead nursery rhymes and singalongs.
Popular BabyFirst TV videos:
- All of the Colors- https://youtu.be/BXDAFo_dCMs
- GooGoo & GaGa Baby at the Park- https://youtu.be/xVr5YOJStGs
- Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star Harry the Bunny- https://youtu.be/piVNjVGqv6k
Mother Goose Club
Mother Goose Club fits into the entertainment niche of these videos, but that’s a great reason to watch it! These videos are musical, bright, and cheery. Often the actors perform simple dances that your baby can move and groove to. Older kids can even jump up and copy the movements.
These videos also encourage joint engagement by teaching you and your baby songs you can sing on your own later. As a parent of two, I can say that being able to sing a fun song during tough times if often a valuable tool in the toolbox. Think about getting shots or after your baby falls and skins their knee…Sometimes a few rounds of “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” is all it takes to go from screaming to laughing again.