TV-Watching Guidelines for Toddlers

The best way to handle how much television and video your toddler watches is to think of them as refined sugar: You want your child to enjoy this seductive stuff without consuming too much. So you'll need to stay on top of the time your toddler spends in front of the television. The average American child watches three to four hours a day, despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children should watch no more than an hour or two a day, and that children under 2 should watch no television at all.

Starting out tough from day one is the key to keeping viewing time under control. It's a lot easier to relax your standards later than it is to wean an 18-month-old from a three-times-a-day Dora or Blue's Clues habit.

Here are tips on how to use television as a learning tool:

Limit the amount of TV your toddler watches

Watch programs, not television

Choose calm, quiet programs

Watch with your toddler

Help your toddler watch with a critical eye

Extend the show's content with activities or books