Which child is receiving more developmental opportunity?

Which child is receiving more developmental opportunity?

(Today’s blog is by guest Ginny Cruz, who is a pediatric physical therapist and early intervention specialist with four decades of experience. An award-winning author, Ginny shares information about how screen time impacts the development of young children.)

As a pediatric physical therapist and early intervention specialist, I’m worried about your child’s development. Handheld screens (phones or tablets) are everywhere, and kids play on them. In most homes I visit, the television and tablets are on all day. What’s wrong with that? Well, it’s unhealthy, and research proves it.

Babies and young children learn best through movement and interaction with their environment. Their developmental milestones include mastering walking and climbing, dressing and feeding themselves, building and pretending, talking to express needs and feelings, empathizing, and socializing with parents and peers.

Sitting alone, watching, and tapping a screen is the complete opposite of how young children develop their bodies and brains appropriately.

How Much Screen Time is Recommended?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following limits for screen viewing:

1 No screens for babies up to 18 months old except for video calls with family

2 For children 18-24 months, only high-quality education content and avoid solo media use

3 For children 2-5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming

Those limits are tough to follow, I know. Many parents are either unaware of these limits or have given up trying. Sadly, the appearance of digital addiction in babies and toddlers is proof that limits are needed.

If you’re concerned but don’t know what to do, I'd love for you to make healthier choices by replacing screen time with off-screen play experiences.

3 Better Choices than Screens for Young Children:

1 Outdoor play: climbing, running, digging sand, splashing water, and playing games with balls. Youngsters need a ton of physical activity to burn off energy and master how to use their bodies to accomplish things.

2 Indoor play: age-appropriate toys, books, and tabletop activities (scribbling, finger painting, stringing Fruit Loops on pipe cleaners, finger painting, etc.).

3 Social games with family and friends: peekaboo, chase, hide-and-seek, and singing songs with finger plays (like Wheels on the Bus or If You're Happy and You Know It).

Your child doesn’t need screen-based interactions, except video calls, to stay in touch with family. It is a myth that screen-based activities enhance your child’s school readiness. Research demonstrates that machine-based learning teaches children less than most believe.

During the first three years of life, your baby is building foundational skills necessary for future academic success. Those skills are learned through sensory-rich play experiences.

Screens are easy but unhealthy in so many ways. I hope you’ll replace watching shows or videos with activities suggested in this article. Your child’s development, health, and success in school depend on the choices you make today.


Be on the lookout for Ginny’s upcoming book in 2025, The New Mom’s Guide: Help and Hope for Baby’s First Year. She is the mother of two grown sons, married to her college sweetheart, and enjoys hiking, camping in state and national parks, reading, and watching birds.

Connect at ginnycruz.com and subscribe to her newsletter for more developmental tips.


New Research Reveals Scary Impacts of Early Screentime on Toddlers

What is Virtual Autism, and Does My Baby Have It

Screen-based Media Associated with Structural Differences in Brains of Young Children

Screentime and Children: How to Guide Your Child

Babies Need Humans, Not Screens

Screen Time at Age 1 Year and Communication and Problem-Solving Developmental Delay at 2 and 4 years

Can Babies Be Addicted to Screens?


Meme credit to Tracy L. Smoak; image credit to Pixabay for the little girl