It can be tempting to pop bub down in front of the television just quickly while you jump in the shower, or to hand them your phone with a video line-up while out for coffee with your girlfriends, but experts warn against the use of screens for babies under the age of 18 months old as they are learning major developmental skills which they primarily gain through interactive observation and practicing the activity themselves. Screen exposure in babies can impact their brain development, causing delays in language support, literacy and corresponding cognitive assessments, meaning screen learning can impact neural network paths. This is due to them passively receiving the information rather that actively through interaction. Increased screen time can also impact their sleeping cycles particularly with evening viewing.
As parents we need to be mindful of our own screen time interactions and how they may be affecting baby. The content of what we are watching can be distressing to new eyes and ears, and we may be inadvertently creating poor habits such as eating in front of the TV or using mobile devices at the table.
Instead of relying on screens, we can look at ways to entertain babies in a way that enhances their learning development. From about 4 months old, babies begin to learn the ability to entertain themselves, meaning you can prepare an entertaining space for them using toys, textures and other visual aids for when you really do need to reply to those few work emails. For the rest of the day, you can engage bub in ways that don’t require a screen at all including reading, peek-a-boo, outdoor exploration, singing and dancing.
When you read to your baby, they not only are enjoying the bonding time with you, but watching and learning from you and your words, expression and movement. Whilst a TV presenter can read a story, they are unable to present the dedicated one-on-one interaction your baby needs to learn and by singing and dancing together encourages emotional expression as well as assisting literacy and social functions as they work out how to sing along with you.
If you find that you absolutely must have some sort of screen operating, aim for something educational and ensure that you are watching together in a way that won’t impact their sleep or development, talk about what you are watching with them and create an interactive experience that will help create a balance between real life and screen time.
One of the best ways to entertain babies is through reading to them, creating an interactive experience by involving them in the process touching the pages and discussing the story: even if they can’t verbally communicate with you their expression and happiness will show engagement.
Mizzie Likes to Help Bella-Boo Touch & feel books help to support cognitive function and sensory development thought sight and touch. There are two delightful books to chose from ‘Be Active’ and ‘At the Beach’ which both have sensory elements on every page for your little one to explore, stimulating colour palette to help with concentration and made for little hands to hold and play with.