I have two toddlers, an 18 month old and a nearly three year old and my nearly three year old (as active as he is) has always had a love of sitting and chilling while watching something on the television. I don't have a problem with this because I know that we do not have the television on very often in our house so a little bit here and there to relax is fine by me.
My problem has been knowing what is appropriate for his age group and what I actually want going in to his impressionable young mind and developing imagination.
I have found the best solution up until this point has been to show a selection of dvds that I have watched and made sure are suitable. Our selection includes Play School, Elmo, Baby Einstein, Winnie the Pooh, Wiggles, Barney, High 5 etc.
I made a discovery this week that I wish to share. On the ABC in the mornings there is a variety of programs, many of them I really like but some just seem too weird in my opinion. I'm sorry Anne Wood (creator of Teletubbies and Boohbah) but those Boohbah creatures and that show In The Night Garden, which comes on before Play School, are both quite bizarre in my opinion...and even Sesame Street (at the risk of sounding exactly like my mum 25 years ago) has its moments where the characters get angry with each other and argue etc and I'm just not sure whether a small child can really understand the dialogue and make sense of all of that (or needs to for that matter) BUT my discovery was this, on the following websites, you can access the ABC kids tv program and see ahead of time what is on and at what time- I don't ever buy a tv guide. I just jump online if I want to know something SO it has made my life easier because now I know what time Play School starts without having to subject any one in our house to that 'In The Night Garden' show which is shown directly before it, I can see when Bob the Builder is showing etc etc. Cool hey? Also on the third site listed (for any other Play School fans) you can see what the themes are each week in both the mornings and the afternoons and maybe organise a follow up activity or record some that you think are particularly good for example, there's an episode coming up in September on sheep and cows and I know how much my children love animals and visiting farms etc so I might tape some of those episodes to replay before or after our next farm visit.
Anyway I hope that you find this information helpful. Here's those websites and below some helpful guidelines on television watching for toddlers from www.babycenter.com
Watch programs, not television
Rather than sitting down to watch whatever happens to be on, carefully select the program your toddler's going to watch, and turn off the set when that program is over. Record programs ahead of time, if possible, so your child can watch what you want, when you want.
A two-minute warning that a show (or the segment of it that you're letting your toddler watch) is about to end will help him transition to the next activity.
Choose calm, quiet programs
Slower-paced viewing gives your toddler time to think about what he's watching and absorb the information. Lots of action and quickly changing images will only confuse him or make his eyes glaze over.
Some research suggests that children who watch violence on TV are more likely to display aggressive behavior. Stay away from scary shows, too. Instead, choose simple programs that emphasize interactivity. The best shows are those that inspire your child to makes sounds, say words, sing, and dance.
For specific program suggestions, talk to other parents on our media-savvy bulletin board.
Watch with your toddler
A recent study looked at three groups: children with unlimited access to television, children with moderate access to television who watched without parents, and children with moderate access to television who watched with a parent.
The last group scored significantly higher academically than the other groups. Just being there says to your child, "What you do is important to me."
Of course, many of us have moments when we resort to using television or a video as a babysitter, but when you leave your child alone with the TV for a long time, you send a signal that you don't care what he watches. If you can, bring a basket of laundry to sort or some other task into the room so you can work and watch. Then it becomes an activity the two of you can enjoy together.
Help your toddler watch with a critical eye
Explain what's going on in the show, and encourage your child to ask questions and relate what's happening in the show to his own life. If you've recorded the show or are watching a video or DVD, press the pause button as often as you need to so that you have ample time to discuss what's going on.
If you're watching a recorded TV show, you'll probably want to fast-forward through the commercials. If you're stuck watching commercials, help your toddler understand the difference between those and the show itself.
Extend the show's content with activities or books
If you and your toddler have just finished watching a Sesame Street segment that introduces a number, talk about it later and find other examples to show him. When you're setting the table, for example, you might say, "Hey, today's number was three, and there are three places to set!" Then read and discuss a book that explores numbers concepts.
These recommendations were developed with the help of Kathleen Acord, project supervisor for KQED television's "Ready to Learn," a national government-sponsored program that educates parents and childcare providers about how to use television as a learning tool.