Screen time for preschoolers: part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle
Screen time can be part of a healthy lifestyle for preschoolers when it’s balanced with other activities that are good for your child’s development, like physical play, reading and socialising. Getting the right balance also includes making sure screen time doesn’t interfere with sleep.
Our tips can help you encourage your child to use screens in a balanced and healthy way.
1. Make rules about screen use
Your family’s rules might cover:
- where your child can use screens – for example, only in family rooms and not in bedrooms or the car
- when your child can use screens – for example, mealtimes are free of TV, computers and phones, or no screen time before preschool or when family are visiting
- how your child can use screens – for example, to play a dance competition game or a puzzle app, but not to watch YouTube.
It’s OK if your rules include time limits to help your child balance screen time with other things like physical activity. For example, it might help to know that Australian physical activity guidelines say preschoolers should be active for at least three hours a day.
2. Aim for short screen time sessions
Getting up and moving around is important for your child’s energy levels, development, sleep, and overall health and wellbeing. If your child is having screen time, it’s good to encourage your child to take a break at least every 30 minutes and use screens in short bursts.
You can do this by encouraging your child to:
- use a timer to set breaks from screen time
- do something active when the timer ends, like play outside
- make use of natural breaks in screen time – for example, challenge your child to see who can do the most star jumps before the ads end.
3. Get your child moving, especially outside
It’s a good idea to encourage your child to play outside several times a day.
Outdoor play doesn’t have to be a big deal. For example, at this age, children enjoy:
- playing games of chasey, hide-and-seek or kick-to-kick
- crawling through tunnels or climbing over fallen trees
- building a castle out of boxes, clothes baskets, outdoor play equipment or furniture.
Physical activity for young children and active play for preschoolers can happen indoors as well as outdoors. It can be simple things like dancing, catching and throwing soft balls, or rolling along the floor or ground.
4. Imagine and create
Creative play like telling stories, dressing up or drawing is good for your child’s creative development. It helps your child learn how to experiment, think, learn and solve problems.
You can get ideas for creative play in these articles:
- Imagining, creating and play: preschoolers
- Preschooler creative learning and development: ideas and activities.
Reading and storytelling with your preschooler promotes brain development and imagination, teaches your child about language and emotions, and strengthens your relationship.
5. Encourage play and friendship with others
When children play face to face with others rather than by themselves on a screen, they develop important life skills. These include getting along with other people, sharing and taking turns, being independent, and learning how to sort out conflicts and problems.
6. Avoid screen time before bed
Preschoolers need 10-13 hours sleep a night.
Using screens before bed can affect how quickly your child falls asleep. If your child avoids phones, tablets, computer screens or TV in the hour before bed, your child is likely to get to sleep more quickly.
Read more about preschooler sleep.
7. Keep screens out of bedrooms at night
If you keep mobile phones and other devices out of your child’s bedroom at night, your child won’t be able to play games after lights out. This can also stop your child being disturbed in the night by messages and notifications.
When you help your child choose good-quality apps, games, TV and YouTube as well as balancing screen use, your child will learn to make good choices about using free time when they’re older.