An infant's brain triples in volume in the first two years of life. In order for children's brains to develop in the best possible way, parents should focus on encouraging these three activities:
- Interacting with people - This includes activities like talking, playing, singing, and reading with parents, siblings, and other children.
- Handling objects in their physical environment - This includes activities like playing with mud, splashing in water, and picking up cereal.
- Solving open-ended problems - This includes activities like building with blocks, trying on shoes, and sorting and stacking toys and other objects.
So how do media fit into these needs of infants and toddlers?
Television and Movies
Because no one can influence what happens on television screens, this kind of media does not offer opportunities for interaction. There is very little research evidence to suggest that watching television is beneficial for children of this age.
Since 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics has specifically recommended that parents avoid all screen media exposure for children under the age of 2. Despite a great deal of controversy, many experts support the AAP recommendation, based on the research to date.
A few studies have suggested that television viewing before age two may be harmful to children’s development. One study showed that when children were in a room with toys, they played less with the toys when an adult television show was on in the background (see this study). In other studies, the amount of television children watched at home predicted lower IQ scores and reduced language skills.
However, one recent study found that watching educational children's programs like Dora the Explorer, Arthur, and Blue’s Clues was related to better language development (see this study).
- See tips for using television safely
Although there are many products that offer lapware and educational computer games for young children, most children under two do not have the fine motor skills to be able to operate a mouse. There is little research evidence that computers are beneficial for children at this age.
Music is great for children under two, especially instrumental music and songs with simple lyrics. Music can also help young children with memory-building skills. Getting to know classic sing-along songs is a great task for memorization.
© 2004-2008 Center on Media and Child Health, Children's Hospital Boston.