I Let My Toddler Watch TV — and it’s Helping Her Learn to Read!

My toddler watches TV.

Yup, I said it.

Now let’s not be crazy. I don’t let her watch TV all the time. I am very much a believer in the “Everything in Moderation” mindset.  Our social media feeds are full of articles telling us that TV and screen time are bad for kids, and I definitely agree that screen time should be monitored and minimized. However, I have definitely seen a benefit to allowing my daughter some screen time with educational television shows.

If you follow this blog, or any of my social media profiles, you know that we do more than watch TV. I make sure that my daughter’s days are filled with reading, art, crafts, activities, learning and exploration. She still hasn’t watched a movie because she doesn’t like sitting in front of the TV for that long anyway. So I am not ashamed to admit, that every so often, I do let her watch some TV.

How Screen Time Has Helped Her With Reading

By providing kids with background knowledge, you can help them to better understand the world and to connect better with the books that you are reading. I love when my daughter makes a connection  in the world using knowledge from a favorite book or TV show. While we were in the park the other day, she saw a bulldozer working and said “That’s a bulldozer, just like Word Party!”. I mentioned on my Instagram recently that she is currently obsessed with volcanoes. She loves to talk to people about them using knowledge that she gained from some of her favorite shows. I have also been able to branch off of that and we recently checked out some library books on volcanoes. So her TV time has not only given her background knowledge on something, but also encouraged her to read more books about it!

Now while I have previously mentioned that I believe parents should let kids read what they want, I am much more strict about the shows that my daughter watches. For the first several months that I let her watch any TV, she only watched one show (by her own choice). We watched every episode of Disney’s Little Einsteins until I knew every word to every song. She recently started showing interest in other shows, and I have been pleasantly surprised to see each of these shows teach her a skill, or a bit of background knowledge that has helped us with our reading. Today I’m sharing a few of her favorites, and how they have helped her with a wide variety of skills.

Her Favorite Shows

Little Einsteins

This show was my daughter’s absolute favorite, and the only show she would watch for a long time. I’m a Disney fan, so I trusted that it was a good show, and it proved me right! Not only did she learn from this show, but I did too! The Little Einsteins are a group of 4 friends who take their friend Rocket (an adorable little rocket ship) on all kinds of adventures. Each episode features an artist or a type of art, as well as a composer and a piece of their music. As they go on their adventures, they use music terminology to make the rocket move or to help them in the story. The way the characters move through the paintings and visit distant places is really creative and fun to watch, both for parents and for kids.

My daughter has learned so much from this show. Before she was 2, she would tell you that her favorite artist was Tchaikovsky. She recently came across Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting in a book and told my sister, “That’s ‘Starry Night’!”. I cannot believe the background knowledge that she has taken from this show. She also throws around music terminology in every day life, especially “staccato” when she is jumping and “crescendo” when things are getting louder.

(Disney Channel show, streaming on Netflix, available on Amazon).

Super Why

This was a newer find for us, and it has been a fun addition. Super Why follows a little boy named Wyatt (the little brother of Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk), as he and his friends “The Super Readers” use books to help them solve problems. As they come across simple issues in their daily lives, they find stories that deal with similar problems and jump inside them.

While they are in the story, they use their different reading powers to move the story along. Alpha Pig uses the alphabet to build. Wonder Red uses parts of words and rhyming to put words together. Woofster uses his dictionary power to find the meaning of unknown words. Princess P has spelling power and Super Why has the power to read. As each of them uses their powers, they help kids learn how to recognize letters, sound words out and spell.

Since this show teaches kids the skills they need to read, I was a little worried it would be too old for her. Once again I was wrong. In the few months since she has started watching this one, she has started to recognize some of the sounds that letters make, and she uses some of the lessons they teach in every day life. She has even started trying to spell. Much like her “reading” a book to me, the concept is way above her head, but the fact that she is mimicking it is a good foundation.

(PBS Show, streaming on Netflix, available  on Amazon).

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

As a Disney fan, I knew that I wanted my daughter to know Mickey Mouse! This adorable show follows Mickey and friends as they have adventures and solve problems using their Mousketools.

This show touches on a little bit of everything. A lot of times the episodes review counting, colors and shapes. They also tend to discuss social skills such as being kind or helping others. One of my daughter’s favorite episodes (and mine!) takes the characters on a trip “around the world”. They visit France, Italy, Egypt and China. She has even picked up a few words in other languages to add to her vocabulary. Of course, being Disney, there are also lots of songs that we both enjoy singing and dancing to.

(Disney Channel show, repeats airing on Disney Channel, available on Amazon).

Word Party

This is a cute show that teaches kids about words, as well as important life lessons. There are 4 baby characters who count on the viewers (the big kids), to help them solve problems. Each episode teaches new words using a theme, such as transportation or gardening. This has been a great show for building her vocabulary. She also has started using the phrase “I don’t know the words” when she is struggling to tell me something, just like on the show. It has helped me recognize when she is trying to find the right words, so we can work it out together.

(Netflix original show, streaming on Netflix).

There are so many great skills and concepts that my daughter has picked up from the limited screen time that she has. I recognize the science behind not allowing kids to have screens, and I do think it should be limited, However, I do think that there are some great resources out there for parents who choose to allow their kids to have screen time. Do your kids have a favorite show that they have learned from?

50 Comments

  • susie liberatore

    September 25, 2017 at 8:07 am Reply

    I am not sure how I feel about this. I am going through a phase of not letting my son watch more than one episode a day because he loves tv too much. He would watch Mickey all day if he could. I dont really like Mickey that much and would rather let him watch Seaseme Street or Curious George… but he is only two so it is hard.. I cant relate tv to reading.. he has autism so my experience might be different!

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply

      Everyone has a different experience! I definitely lucked out that she doesn’t like TV too much. That’s exactly why I hate the articles that say “NO TV ever” or “TV is completely fine all the time” — one formula does not fit every family. You know best what works for your kids!

  • Brooks

    September 25, 2017 at 8:37 am Reply

    Yay I love this. I’ll be pinning this for later. My little guy is only 9 months old so these are a bit advanced for him! 😉 Have you watched any of the shows on the baby development channel? I’m curious what age range those shows would be useful for. My son LOVES music and watching colorful things so sometimes when I need to use the bathroom, I’ll put that on for him just for a minute. But I’d love to know if you’ve watched that channel and what you think!

    Great post 😘

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm Reply

      Thanks! I haven’t watched it, but I have heard great things! I will have to check it out. I don’t always go by age ranges on things because I’ve found that my daughter gets some benefits out of toys, shows and books that are both above and below her level. The pediatrician we were going to kind of scared me out of screen time for the first year, so Einsteins was the first thing she watched. Once the female Doctor at the practice told me “he’s never been a mother who wanted a shower” and that she thinks some screen time is fine, I loosened up.

  • Anne | onedeterminedlife

    September 25, 2017 at 9:59 am Reply

    I found that educational tv is great for their learning. Not only does it help them read, but these same shoes thought my kids new words, about animals and improved their imaginative play.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm Reply

      Definitely! I love when my daughter wants to play “Super Readers” with her little friends!

  • Kari

    September 25, 2017 at 10:47 am Reply

    Ahhh yes tv can be a great tool! We limit it slightly but I still find some great benefits in learning with my girl!

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm Reply

      Definitely! There are some great resources available now to add to any learning you do at home!

  • Ashley

    September 25, 2017 at 12:32 pm Reply

    This is a great list of shows. And I also believe TV time in moderation. I think shows that teach kids about new things are amazing. I believe that it gets them excited about learning and like you said, helps them recognize things in the world that they may have seen in the show.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm Reply

      I love seeing her apply things that she has learned from TV in the real world! A little bit can go a long way!

  • Kate

    September 25, 2017 at 1:28 pm Reply

    I let my almost two-year-old watch TV in moderation as well. Usually I let her watch a few clips from Baby Signing Time (less than twenty minutes each day, and not every day). I’ve loved Baby SIgning Time because it has helped her pick up so many signs, so there’s real educational value!

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 8:22 pm Reply

      That sounds awesome! I will have to check it out. I have always wanted to each my daughter more signs!

  • Ashley | Spit Up and Sit Ups

    September 25, 2017 at 2:10 pm Reply

    I definitely agree with TV in moderation. We’re on the much lower end of watching TV for behavioral and speech reasons but never fault a parent who’s child is learning from the things they are watching! You do you!

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 8:23 pm Reply

      Definitely agree that it is different for every family!

  • Erin

    September 25, 2017 at 3:16 pm Reply

    I haven’t put much thought into TV time for toddlers since I’m not a parent yet, but it does seem like kids today have much more access to screen time than during my childhood. I’m sure many people say that’s a negative, but there are also seem to be many more educational resources on digital platforms for kids now, too. The only educational shows I remember watching were Sesame Street and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Otherwise, it was mostly cartoons and Disney sing-along videos from what I remember.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 8:27 pm Reply

      There are definitely a lot more programs available now that have educational value, which I’m very grateful for! I tried to avoid screen time for my daughter for a long time, but technology isn’t going away, so kids will need to know how to use them eventually.

  • Amanda

    September 25, 2017 at 3:25 pm Reply

    My toddler was potty trained by Daniel the Tiger! She loves that show, and there are so many good lessons there. She also watches some of the programs on Disney Junior. Her bedtime routine includes watching an episode of Curious George while cuddled up with Daddy. Monitoring and limiting screen time is, of course, necessary. But, some screen time can be educational and entertaining.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 8:27 pm Reply

      I agree! I have heard great things about Daniel the Tiger, but we haven’t checked it out yet. I will definitely have to keep it in mind when we are potty training her!

  • Shannan N Panganiban

    September 25, 2017 at 6:58 pm Reply

    I totally agree with this! I have seen positive results from my son as well!

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 8:28 pm Reply

      That’s awesome! A little bit can go a long way!

  • Nicolle Mallinson

    September 25, 2017 at 8:21 pm Reply

    While I’m not a huge fan of too much screen time my son does enjoy watching Paw Patrol and MMC and it definitely motivates him to be more vocal.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 8:31 pm Reply

      That’s great! I definitely think moderation is key.

  • Lyndsey

    September 25, 2017 at 9:01 pm Reply

    Yes!!! I completely agree with this. Super why was one of my favorites.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 11:16 pm Reply

      I wish it had been around when I was a kid! Or that I had come up with it! It is such a cute concept!

  • Amanda Elize

    September 25, 2017 at 9:38 pm Reply

    We LOVE anything on PBS kids. Now that our daughter is 3, she is definitely absorbing everything she is watching. When we do let her watch tv we let her watch anything on pbs kids. She is always learning and even teaching me from shows she watches! Haha we mostly watch with her as well to reiterate everything she is watching!

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 11:17 pm Reply

      I have definitely been using the shows she watches as teaching moments. So far Super Why is the only PBS kids show she has watched, but I’m curious about the others!

  • Rachel

    September 25, 2017 at 10:06 pm Reply

    My daughter watches many of the same shows. I have been amazed at how much she has learned. My older kids had teachers compliment about how much they knew about such a wide variety of topics. I was like ummm thanks. That would be the TV.

    • Vicki

      September 25, 2017 at 11:20 pm Reply

      Haha! Every so often my daughter says something that she picked up from a show and it just stuns me!

  • Heather | Made In A Pinch

    September 25, 2017 at 11:41 pm Reply

    We used to watch those shows! I agree about everything in moderation and practice that still. My kids are a little older now, and they are very interested in devices – anything they can play a game on. So now we monitor both the tv and the devices. And while we do monitor, we stay active and busy, so on a night like tonight when we were busy up until bedtime, it wasn’t a big deal that they didn’t watch any tv today.

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 12:49 pm Reply

      There is so much technology at their fingertips these days! I want to minimize her screen time, but I also see a benefit to it. Our local school district has IPads and other devices that they use and I think it’s a benefit for her to have some knowledge when she goes to school in a few years. But I absolutely want her to experience life off of the screen too!

  • Kayla

    September 26, 2017 at 12:37 am Reply

    I completely agree! My daughter has learned so much from watching TV. Her favorite is Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Hearing her answer the questions and help figure out solutions at only 2 years old baffles me!

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply

      Right?! I love hearing my daughter interact with it and problem solve along with the characters!

  • Cristina

    September 26, 2017 at 4:31 am Reply

    I’ve actually leant English while watching Scooby Doo. Don’t imagine I was fluent at 4, but it was a trigger for my parents to focus more on teaching me English.

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 12:51 pm Reply

      That’s awesome! I have heard a lot of people say that they learned English through television. My German teacher in high school actually showed us movies and TV shows in German so that we would hear it as it’s meant to be heard, not just repeated vocabulary drills.

  • Dani Adams-Barry

    September 26, 2017 at 8:21 am Reply

    My son is really into Super Why and Word Party. Thank you Netflix for having those on reel!

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 12:53 pm Reply

      Definitely! My parents like to remind me how lucky we are to have things like Netflix nowadays compared to recording things on VHS for me when I was a kid!

  • Rachel Dorsey

    September 26, 2017 at 10:00 am Reply

    This is a great list of quality options for TV time. The key to using TV is definitely moderation. There are so many fun and educational options for kids today. When we as parents are intentional and use the TV as a learning tool, it can have many lasting benefits!

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 12:53 pm Reply

      Definitely! All the articles out there about screen time scared me away from it for a long time, but I have definitely seen a benefit to allowing a little bit of it here and there!

  • Julie

    September 26, 2017 at 1:51 pm Reply

    I totally agree with you! My boys watched those shows when they were younger and loved them. I really felt there was value in them learning while they were enjoying the shows. They are little sponges, and if they can learn during doing something fun like watching a show they like, then it’s a win-win all around. I of course let them watch shows in moderation too. I love how there are so many shows that include teaching for young kids.

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm Reply

      I agree! They are such little sponges! I love watching her learn new things from each of the shows she watches.

  • Catherine G

    September 26, 2017 at 3:47 pm Reply

    I love Super Why! I really do think it helps my daughter. Just another media for learning!

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 8:20 pm Reply

      It’s amazing how much she picks up from it! It’s such a smart show!

  • Niki @ Toot's Mom is Tired

    September 26, 2017 at 8:08 pm Reply

    Super Why is a favorite in our house. We also watch everything with subtitles too!

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 8:21 pm Reply

      That’s a good idea! I love the concept of Super Why, and she learns so much from it!

  • Amber Starr

    September 26, 2017 at 8:32 pm Reply

    We watch all of those as well (aside from Mickey because we don’t have cable). They have helped my son learn so many things! They bring up so many great conversations too!

    • Vicki

      September 26, 2017 at 8:45 pm Reply

      They do! I love talking to my daughter about what she is watching and learning. Plus, we are big into singing and dancing, so I love having songs from these shows to share with her!

  • Sharon Chen

    September 27, 2017 at 7:44 am Reply

    TV isn’t always so bad. These educational shows are really helpful 🙂

    • Vicki

      September 27, 2017 at 12:42 pm Reply

      They have been!

  • Erin | Stay at Home Yogi

    September 29, 2017 at 5:30 pm Reply

    Screen time fans over here too! There are so many awesome shows out there! We read tons of books too, it’s all about balance. My boys love Blaze and the Monster Machines – which teaches STEM concepts! 🙂

    • Vicki

      September 29, 2017 at 8:49 pm Reply

      That’s awesome! I will have to check those out!

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