Guilt-free TV: 10 enriching shows for under fives

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  Published on Wednesday, 19 May 2021

Guilt-free TV: 10 enriching shows for under fives

Library Home  >  Parenting & Family LifeArts, Crafts & Activity Ideas
  Published on Wednesday, 19 May 2021
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‘Excessive screen time’ has ranked as the number one child health concern amongst Australian parents in 2021.

According to the latest Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) national poll more than 90 per cent of parents think screen time is a big problem or somewhat of a problem in the community. And although we can blame the pandemic for an increase in screen hours, the RCH poll suggests that too much screen time is a persistent problem, with parental concern about it sitting at a similar level five years ago. 

With this worry, also comes guilt.

Many of us feel bad about letting our kids watch too much as we try to balance work, child care, chores and life, but we’re pleased to report that there are ways to select quality screen content and press ‘pause’ on parental guilt. Here’s how.

What TV shows are recommended for young children?

There’s evidence that too much screen time can be detrimental to young children’s health, but this doesn’t mean that screen time, per se, is bad for over twos.

In moderation, digital content can be used successfully in the early learning environment, and there’s a selection of recreational shows that are well-researched, educational and enjoyable to watch at home.

The Guardian reports that good screen time reflects children’s lives and expands their horizons (instead of just dishing up ‘more of the same’), and the experts they’ve spoken with recommend the following TV shows for under fives:

This funny and educational series involves members of Duggee’s Squirrels club learning, playing, adventuring and earning badges for new skills.

  • Bing (on ABC Kids)

This series reflects children’s real-life experiences and shows a rabbit dealing with various troubles and his reactions to them (e.g. missing toys, shyness and jealousy).

This puppet-powered show features fluffy monsters working together to solve problems in a kind, funny and fast-paced way (e.g. planning a party or perfecting a magic trick). It’s created by the makers of Sesame Street, a show which has been shown to have its own benefits for generations of preschoolers.

This award-winning animated series was inspired by the classic American kids’ series, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, and the experts explain that young Daniel Tiger’s adventures tie in strongly with children’s social and emotional developmental stages.

This lovely animated series stars a five-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. It was created by writers, voice artists and crew who are on the autistic spectrum themselves.

This chirpy show teaches complex reasoning and problem-solving skills as Joe and his young viewers work out ‘what Blue wants to do.’

This animated series encourages numeracy skills with the help of 10 small superhero numbers who live in a couch!

The experts also recommend:

  • JoJo and Gran Gran

This series is based on the real-life experiences of the writer, Laura Henry, and it’s the first animated preschool show out of the UK to have a black family as its central characters. There are also JoJo & Gran Gran books to enjoy in Australia.

This is a calming show that teaches children mindfulness and breathing exercises, narrated over imagery of the natural world.

  • Pip and Posy

This TV series is based on Axel Scheffler’s big, bright range of books about toddler life.

If you have a schoolchild, The Guardian provides screen recommendations for older kids, teens and the whole family, and it’s worth remembering that TV shows aren’t the only quality on-screen content to consider.

Educational gaming can have positive effects for children, and video calls with family and friends can support children’s language and communication skills (even as babies and toddlers).

How much screen time should your child be getting, and is flexibility ok?

Even the highest quality screen content shouldn’t be binge-watched by young children, and the Australian government recommends:

  • No screen time for under twos,
  • Less than one hour a day for ages two to five, and
  • No more than two hours of sedentary recreational screen time per day for ages five to 17.

These recommendations are in place to help safeguard our children’s health, but sticking to them isn’t always easy. Competing demands in our family life mean we sometimes rely too heavily on screens to entertain our children when we’re working from home, housekeeping or simply needing a break.

To remedy this, neuroscience educator and child development expert, Nathan Wallis, recommends that parents put some ‘conscious thought’ into screen time and have a plan, ‘Because otherwise you just fall into this cycle of giving [your child] the screen more than you want to, and then feeling really guilty about it.’

In support of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you:

  • Choose your child’s content carefully, with a focus on positive, educational and trusted sources,
  • Make a plan, set limits and stick to routines around screen time,
  • Watch content together as ‘screen buddies’, so you can see how your child responds to it and bond over entertaining episodes, and
  • Model good screen use yourself.

Ensuring that your child gets up and moving also helps to counteract concerns about screen time.

RCH paediatrician and acting poll director, Dr Margie Danchin, says, ‘Our lives are saturated by digital screens, and it can be difficult to reduce screen time for children when so much of their education and recreation activities are on these devices, particularly [last year] with home learning the norm. However, if we continue to encourage physical activity and time outdoors, we can reduce screen time.’

At the end of the day, the power is in our hands to choose quality content and establish healthy screen time routines for our children. Young children need clear boundaries and rituals, and as your child gets older, it’s important to teach them how to manage their screen time more independently.

The experts suggest that you can cut yourself some slack if a pandemic-related lockdown increases your child’s screen time – and your stress levels.

Common Sense Media’s Polly Conway has told The Guardian that, ‘Everyone should give themselves a break from screen-time guilt. It’s ok if you pause your usual screen time rules. You can let kids know that things will go back to normal once this situation is over.’

In this case, try to focus on what your child watches and where, rather than how much, and give some of the recommended shows a go. Good luck! 


The Guardian

The Department of Health


Further reading

Online safety for under fives

Educational apps for kids

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 13 May 2021

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