Tips for Limiting Screen Time Before Age 2

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Today I am thrilled to have a fellow Occupational Therapist and mom Sarah from OT Potential sharing some tips for limiting screen time with your kids.

Tips for limiting screen time before ages 2 from an occupational therapist and mom.

Before we had our kiddo, my husband and I were committed to being “no screen time” parents. Once the baby arrived, things got more complicated.

Now our toddler is nearing two, and our aspirations have switched to limiting screen time as much as possible.

Along the way, we've been through a process of trial and error to find the tricks that work for our family.

I wanted to write this post because screen time can be a sticky subject between parents. The conversation rarely gets to the point of sharing practical tips regarding screen usage for fear of stepping on each other's toes. Wherever you are at on the screen time spectrum, I hope you will find this post simply an invitation to talk about strategies that have worked for you.

Before our baby was born, we sold our iPads
Screen time was something my husband and I had talked about a lot before the baby was born. I'm a blogger, and my husband has an online business—so screens, unfortunately, are integrated into our lives. We talked about our own social media usage and tried to take steps to curb it.

We also tried to limit the number of screens we had. Selling the iPads left us with phones, a computer, and a TV.

When nursing, I listened to audiobooks and read
When your little one is an infant, nursing seems to be the most challenging time when it comes to screen time. This time highlighted for me how accustomed I was to having a noise going.

During the day, I listened to audiobooks or read a book while nursing. I have particularly fond memories of the books I got to read during this time.

At night, I often read a book on my phone. The night is a tricky time because the illumination of the screen makes the phone particularly tempting.

If we have another child, I hope just to be able to relax and enjoy the bonding time of nighttime nursing. For whatever reason, I just wasn't at that point with our first child.

Eventually, we put our TV away
During the first winter when my kiddo was cognizant of the TV I felt like we could use the TV in little spurts. I had several bouts of mastitis, and this helped us through those long days.

Then all of a sudden our kiddo became obsessed with the TV. He would ask for it all. the. time. Fifteen minutes was no longer enough. He was a nightmare when something got shut off. So we decided not to fight the battle of healthy TV consumption—instead, we just put the TV away in a closet.

We are both movie lovers, so we had to give up nighttime movie viewing in our entertainment center, but now we can feel like college students again, by watching TVs on our laptops.

We have gotten our TV out on a few special occasions when we've had company over.

We put up the record player instead
For us, the record player was a great alternative to the TV. It now lives where our TV used to. I get to enjoy listening to the radio and records throughout the day. My son has his own collection of records that he enjoys. He likes to have them going, but just listening (versus watching something) gives him the freedom to continue exploring and playing.

We focus on no screen time in our home
Restaurants, friends' homes, basically everywhere have screens. I met up with a friend yesterday, and she showed our son how to play some games on her phone. It was a cute bonding experience. When he goes to my parents they always watch part of a Disney movie.

I'm a believer that at this stage of development, what happens in the home environment is the most important in my child's development. So I just focus on that.

We've talked to our regular sitters about limiting screen time. They are great about it. The conversations about this have been way easier than I anticipated. When we have a sitter, who we don't use that often, we don't get too hung up about screen time.

We also go to a small group once a week through our church that provides babysitting. The kids play half the time and watch a show half the time. This falls into the special treat category.

Checking my phone
This is currently my biggest area of growth. I try to be discrete about it, but I definitely check my phone throughout the day.

I know some women who zip their phones into pouches during waking hours. I would love to start instituting that habit!

In Conclusion
Wherever you are with screen time, don’t afraid to try new strategies. Don’t feel bad if they fail. We are encountering this parenting challenge without guidebooks and wisdom cumulated over generations. If you have had tips and tricks that have worked for your family, please share them below to serve as an encouragement to other parents.

Sarah serves as the occupational therapy expert for She also manages, a website for occupational therapists.

When she is not writing, Sarah can be found hanging out with her family, enjoying the great outdoors, or frantically trying to finish her book club assignment.

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Tips for limiting screen time before ages 2 from an occupational therapist and mom.

Heather Greutman, COTA

Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with experience in school-based OT services for preschool through high school. She uses her background to share child development tips, tools, and strategies for parents, educators, and therapists. She is the author of many ebooks including The Basics of Fine Motor Skills, and Basics of Pre-Writing Skills, and co-author of Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

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