10 Things to Have Your Toddler Watch Instead of TV

(This post may contain affiliate links.  To read our full disclosure policy click here.)

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) excessive TV Watching by young children can have effects in the areas of child development, sleep, and obesity.  They explain that the benefits from actual interaction far outweigh what a child can learn from a screen. “Children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction with trusted caregivers to develop their cognitive, language, motor, and social-emotional skills. Because of their immature symbolic, memory, and attentional skills, infants and toddlers cannot learn from traditional digital media as they do from interactions with caregivers, and they have difficulty transferring that knowledge to their 3-dimensional experience.To read more in-depth about the AAP’s recommendations click here.

In busy households, TV is often used to “babysit” so that parents can get something done quickly.  If we know TV really doesn’t benefit toddlers, then what can they do instead?  In this post I will describe 10 ideas of activities to use in place of TV and what benefits your toddler will gain from them.

10 things to have your toddler watch instead of tv

Window watching

If you look out the window many times you can find real live animal TV. Maybe there are birds flying from one branch to the next or a squirrel gathering nuts. Point these out to your little one. Connecting our children with nature young helps them grow a love for it. Labeling what they see increases their vocabulary by adding different names of plants and animals.

cooking dinner

This is a time when TV becomes a very convenient babysitter. We are all tired at 5 o’clock and preparing supper can seem like a somewhat daunting task especially when there is a little one beside you.  However they can actually learn a lot from watching you. Include your toddler by giving them a spoon and a bowl and have them pretend that they are cooking like you.  Pretend play is wonderful because it gives your child a chance to be creative.

Give your child empty boxes  for them to study and explore as the words and pictures on front our great for early literacy skills.  Ask them to tell you about what they see.  Product labels are often times the first things children are able to “read.”


My husband is a fish fanatic so an aquarium was a must in our household from the beginning. I did not realize how much my son would enjoy it until after he was born. We spent many hours showing him the fish and listening to the bubbling sounds. Since our move my husband is in the process of setting it back up and my little guy is right by his side trying to help him out. If you’re looking for an easy pet…this one is a great to entertain little ones and is somewhat low maintenance. You will be introducing your child to yet another set of vocabulary words by talking about what the fish are doing and about the other creatures in the tank.


Cars, trucks, diggers, and lawn mowers driving by can occupy your child’s interest. Talk about the sounds they make and the speed they are going. Label the colors and count how many go by to turn this into a pre-academic learning activity. If you can’t hear the sounds because they are too far away, make your own!


I guess this isn’t really something they can watch, but tots can be intrigued by sounds as well. Expose them to all kinds of music so that their love for it grows early. Children’s songs are great because they repeat the same words over and over making it easy for them to pick up. However, any music will do and playing a variety opens them up to new experiences and also makes it more enjoyable for you. Encourage them to dance around and get moving ( I find this helps with naps and bedtime)!


If you are fortunate to have two or more little ones then they can entertain each other.  Have your older child put on a “show” for the baby.  Your elder child will feel special and your baby will learn skills as well just from watching.  It’s a win-win for all involved.


Train your mini weatherman to start forecasting early! Ask them to look out the window every day and describe what is going on for them. If you do this everyday they will soon pick up the vocabulary and tell you even before you ask what the forecast is. Add on to this game by talking about what type of clothes they will need to wear for the day.

household chores

By including your little one in your chores they will learn so much more! Your toddler is a great helper when it comes to taking all the laundry out of the basket and handing you it. Label the clothing by names and they will soon have words like “socks” and “shirt” in their vocabulary. If your sweeping the floor give them a small broom or brush to use to help along side you. Imaginary play is great for cognitive skills and sweeping the broom will help refine large motor skills.

Make sure to sign up for the FREE 7-Day Toddler Challenge for new activities to do with your little one!

getting ready

In the past my husband and I would take turns getting ready while the other one watched our son but now we just include him. He watches me put on my make up and I label my eyes, hair, and mouth while I do it. I have a small brush my son uses to practice brushing his hair while I do mine. To increase self help skills I will also give him a wash cloth and have him “wash” his face, ears, ect. so we can continue to work on naming body parts as well.

Toddlers learn by watching and doing so lets include them in our routines instead of relying on the TV entertain. By allowing them to take part in chores you are giving them great opportunities to learn new skills and introduce them to rich language.

Related Posts You Will Enjoy

Top 10 Non-Toy Gifts for Toddlers That Rock

How to Select Books Your Toddler Will Love

4 Simple Ways to Boost Your Toddler’s Vocabulary

16 Toys that Encourage Imaginary Play



About Kayla ONeill

This is me and my beautiful bouncing baby boy! Before my little guy arrived I earned a Bachelor's degree in Special Education Birth to 21 as well as my Masters in Education. For six years I worked as an Early Interventionist serving children and families from birth to age three before becoming a stay at home mom to be with my son.

20 comments on “10 Things to Have Your Toddler Watch Instead of TV

  1. I love this article and need to quote it to my patients. Every day, toddlers come to my office and the only thing that will entertain them in a tablet or phone. AND the volume must be turned up. Parent need to try your suggestions because it becomes a serious problem as they age.

    • Oh no! That is really sad to hear that you are seeing a lot of that in your office. I know the balance with technology is a struggle for many parents. I am hoping that the people that read this find it helpful and that it can help parents create some healthy habits that don’t include technology! 🙂

Thank You! I appreciate your comment!