Little kids love apps -- and so do most parents. The ability to tap, touch, and swipe can lead to hours of fun, especially for tiny fingers. And sometimes, handing over your smartphone makes a tantrum magically disappear.
Apps can teach great things -- at low or no cost. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you should always hand over your device when your little one is bored. Each swipe on a tablet or smartphone means less time spent doing all of the other activities that are good for preschool-aged development and more time spent in front of a screen. And if your kid is already watching TV or playing on your computer, it all starts to add up.
Too much screen time can impact everything from kids' health to their school readiness. Here's how to manage your kid's app habit.
Tips to manage your preschooler's app habit
There are better teething devices than electronics. If your kids start to put your phone in their mouth, they're too young to use it. Find something else for them to chew, shake, or throw.
Pay attention to what they're doing. Make sure you download age-appropriate apps -- there are lots of them. And check out the apps before your kids do to make sure that the subject matter is right for their age. Can they understand the words? Can they manipulate the game? Really young kids are still developing their fine motor skills, so unless you want a frustrated child on your hands, make sure that a game doesn't require lots of coordination to play.
Don't make phones a habit. Remember that kids quickly develop routines. If they associate going to restaurants or driving in a car with playing games on your phone, it will be difficult to transition out of the behavior.
Balance coping skills. Ultimately, we want kids who can amuse themselves without batteries. Make sure that your kids are equally comfortable with board books, music, and that old faithful -- the crayon.
Keep an eye on the phone. They can get dropped -- on the floor, in a toilet -- wedged in a seat, left in a seat pocket, etc. These things are expensive!
Remember that you're their role model. Kids learn their behavior from you. If you're always on your phone, they'll want to be, too.