Style & ShowbizParenting

Expert advice on top TV shows for tots

Expert advice on top TV shows for tots

Every busy parent has experi­enced it - that relief at having a quiet child in front of a TV screen, coupled with the guilt that they may be experiencing too much screen time.

While most mums and dads are aware of the need to curtail the amount of time their child spends in front of a screen, realistically it can be difficult to stick with good intentions.

Most experts recommend one or two hours a day at most, though there are also ways to optimise the value of this time by ensuring your child watches something that is inspiring and informative as well as entertaining.

If you focus on quality, rather than quantity, it could make a wealth of difference to your child - and with wider access to children's programming out there than ever before, it can be valuable to choose wisely.

While Colman Noctor (below) is wary of too much screen time in principle, he agrees that picking great programming can have benefits. He also advises that watching programming with your kids, rather than leaving them alone to do so, can be a bonding experience.

He is, for example, a huge fan of Disney's recent film Inside Out, which carried the message that it's important to be in touch with all of your emotions.

"It was very impressive, and so, so good in discussing the development in young people of a sense of emotionality."

Noctor, author of 'Cop On: What It Is And Why Your Child Needs It To Survive And Thrive In Today’s World', is also a big fan of anything that encourages children to learn or try something new.

"For example, YouTube tutorials about learning to play the guitar. Anything that allows us to creatively engage and learn a new task can be good."

He warns, however, that there's a "massive difference" between a passive medium such as children's TV program­ming and online viewing as the internet represents "a portal to the outside world which is a draw but also a risk".

In terms of what your child watches, Noctor believes that parents play an important role in teaching their children what is useful to watch and what is not.

"I love stuff that encourages children to think - be it about shapes, numbers or words, and I like BabyTV, which features lots of early learning programming."

He adds that from an emotional point of view, he's not a fan of early children's programming that doesn't feature words.

Noctor likes Dora the Explorer because of the way in which it pauses to allow the child to answer the question. He's not a fan, however, of Peppa Pig - for encouraging cheekiness and portraying the sense that dad is an idiot.

Noctor says there are practical steps parents can take to ensure screen time is valuable as well as entertaining.

"Children need to have fun as well - it's about providing them with enough variety," he says.

"Watch the programmes with your kids. This can be a really important communal activity.

"Don't just focus on individual screens, which can be a real loss to family life."

Viewing in moderation, he emphasises, is extremely important.

"Kids tend to not regulate themselves or know when to stop, so be mindful of that – it's a parental responsibility."