Toddler girl reads to stuffed monkeyQ: My husband and I were having difficulties preparing dinner with our two-year-old daughter in the kitchen, so we began letting her watch Curious George to keep her occupied. Initially this worked well; the show seems to have primarily positive content, and the two 15-minute segments entertained her while we cooked. We’ve been trying not to use the TV that way so much anymore, but when we leave it off, my little girl stands in front of the screen and cries, saying, “George! George!” Her crying often causes me to give in and let her watch the show, but I’m worried that this has become an unhealthy obsession…how can I effectively wean her off of the TV?
Curious about George, in Boston, MA

A: Dear Curious,

First, don’t worry—your daughter’s behavior doesn’t mean that she is obsessed with Curious George or with TV. It just means that watching that show has become part of her transitioning-to-dinnertime routine. Having routines to help move from activity to activity can be very helpful for toddlers, who don’t have a clear sense of time and can’t quickly shift their attention, especially when they’re right in the middle of something.

This is a great opportunity to create a new pre-dinner routine that doesn’t center on TV. Try giving her books to read, or some different shapes of raw noodles to sort into bowls. Through a bit of trial and error, you can discover activities that will both allow you to cook dinner and meet your daughter’s developmental needs.

Although making this shift in her routine will be hard at first, be consistent with it, even when she cries for George. Let her know you understand that she’s upset, that that’s okay, and that we’re having reading or noodle time now. Eventually, she will settle into the new routine.

For some ideas on activities young children can do with minimal supervision, check out:

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

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