Screen Time can be a divisive topic in the parenting world. Since I mention YouTube videos and other resources that utilize a screen, I thought I’d address how our family chooses to incorporate screens and digital media.
Our family started out with very minimal screen time, eventually incorporating Sesame Street and select PBS Kids shows sparingly. At this point, TV is something we watch when we need some quiet time or as a family movie night or on a rainy day after lessons. We don’t watch TV every day, sometimes the kids will go a week or more with no TV.
We didn’t own a tablet until our oldest was four and my then-youngest was two years old and we knew we would be homeschooling for the upcoming year. So, I got a great Black Friday deal and that Christmas the family gift was a Samsung Tab A and a blue kid-friendly case. I loaded the tablet with some apps that would be helpful with schooling or on long trips and set firm boundaries the minute the gift was opened and my kids realized what it was. The youngest wasn’t allowed to use it very often at all, but my oldest would use it for about 20 minutes at a time while I got the toddler down for a nap.
This past spring, we realized that our summertime adventures included three major road trips, two of which were over 9 hours one-way. So we invested in a yellow-cased Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition as a joint third and fifth birthday gift. Looking back, I’d have just bought the regular Fire because I’m super unimpressed with the Freetime software and the parental controls it offers. However, its fine and works for our usage needs.
Our kids use the tablets on their own infrequently, we mostly save them for long trips and they are stored out of reach. We do use the Samsung tablet more frequently as it is bigger and clearer for when we need to watch videos for academic purposes (animal research, musical instrument demonstrations, etc). It is also more user friendly with more app options. Ultimately, they are rarely used at home for playing (maybe two or three times a month depending on circumstances) and if so its usually because I really need to get something done (ahem, shower.) or as a super special reward. The Samsung has specific folders for the kids (I have yet to find a parental control app that functions for our needs) and the Fire has profiles for each child with age and interest specific apps loaded to each.
Thus far, the most used app on either tablet has been Usborne’s Teach Your Monster to Read. The Endless apps are a close second, and I really like how fun they are in addition to not being sneaky about their educational purposes. I’ve included these and others we’ve liked in a list below, broken up by device.
- Teach Your Monster To Read
- Endless Alphabet
- Endless Numbers
- Endless Reader
- Endless Spanish
- Endless Wordplay
- ABC Kids – Tracing & Phonics
- PBS Kids video
- Netflix (great for downloading free movies and episodes for trips)
- YouTube Kids
- All About Learning Press Letter Sounds
- All About Learning Press Phonogram Sounds
- Sight Word Games (This Reading Mama)
- Children’s Countdown Timer – Visual Timer for Kids (Fehners Software)
- DuoLingo: Spanish
Amazon Fire HD
- Teach Your Monster to Read
- Writing Wizard
- Netflix (for downloading video and episodes for long trips)
- PBS Kids video
- Various storytelling read-along apps
- Reading Rainbow