What Are The Ways Parents Use Media To Support Learning For Toddlers?

Do you ever wonder how you can use media to support your toddler's learning? Unfortunately, it's not always easy to know what is appropriate and how to use media in a way that supports learning. In this blog post, we will look at how parents use media to support learning for their toddlers. We will also look at some of the benefits of using media in this way. So, if you are looking for ways to help your toddler learn and grow, read on!


Using Digital Media To Support Early Learning

Young children experience learning across various physical contexts—at home and in school and at the grocery store and the neighbourhood park. And digital media—apps, videos, games, and songs—are engaging and entertaining, providing another context that you can leverage for learning.

Young children typically spend about two hours a day using digital media, which has only increased since Covid-19 restrictions began. Rather than fretting about this time, teachers and parents can ensure that it is spent well. It begins with intentionally designed, quality educational media—there are quality apps across content areas, including literacy, science, and maths.

Research has highlighted how adults can use digital media to enhance children's learning. For example, digital media are a particularly good resource for remote learning, like screen sharing during video conferencing, and two-player apps provide fun yet educational interactions.

We present here some practical ways teachers and parents can encourage learning using digital media, including key literacy skills for preschoolers such as vocabulary, letter/sound recognition, and discourse skills like turn-taking.

Frequently Asked Questions

Provide a place and time at home for homework. Check on assignments, homework and projects. Talk each day with your child about their activities. Promote literacy by reading to your child and by reading yourself.

Technology and interactive media are tools that can promote effective learning and development when they are used intentionally by early childhood educators within the framework of developmentally appropriate practice to support learning goals established for individual children.

Encouraging children to try, to have a go. Make sure children can repeat experiences. Giving children time and opportunity to develop their skills. using the learning opportunities already 'built in' and available (for example setting the table, sorting out washing, learning to cross the road)

It includes actively encouraging them to do their best with school, hobbies, and interests. Listening without judgement and seeking to understand their concerns and challenges. Acknowledging their achievements and supporting them through mistakes and challenges.

Establish a supportive relationship with the student. Focus on what the student can do rather than what they cannot do and build on their strengths. Include praise and encouragement as part of the student's learning and teaching experience. Simplify language, repeat words and clarify meanings.

Using Digital Media For Early Learning Experiences

Do Some Prep Work: There are loads of digital media out there, and not all of them are high quality. Spend some time with a good repository, like Common Sense Media or the American Library Association's Notable Children's Digital Media list, to identify resources that target the skills and content you want to focus on in a fun and interesting ways. An interactive app like PBS Kids' Play and Learn science can engage reluctant pre-readers, encouraging them to read through activities like making different kinds of shadows using the sun or a flashlight or dressing up for different kinds of weather.

Engage In The Media Together: While children can learn a lot from watching a video or playing a game, guiding their attention increases the impact of these interactions. You can home in on new vocabulary or concepts, restate phrases, or use open-ended questions to extend children's learning or make connections to things they already know. For example, the Droplets app can look up new vocabulary words in different languages. It helps expand the child's growing pool of active vocabulary and the background knowledge they have to draw on for future activities.

Find Literacy Opportunities In Everyday Activities: Words and letters are everywhere. You can point out letters on the way to the park or use new vocabulary when you encounter familiar objects in digital media. For example, if kids are animal lovers, try Molly of Denali's Alaskan Adventure and help them make their animal notebooks, documenting what Molly sees as she travels around Alaska or what they see outside the window.

Encourage Parents To Be Involved And Recognise Their Expertise: Parents are children's first teachers and know best what their children can do and where they struggle. Send your activities home for parents to do. For example, recommend an app such as Map Adventures, allowing two players to navigate maps and visit landmarks together. It offers parents a role in playing with the app and models gameplay for their young children. If you talk about the weather and observe the sun and clouds with children, encourage parents and kids to keep a Shadows Journal to document what they see. Another recommendation is the early science Plants Journal app, which involves having children use the camera tool on a tablet or phone to document plant growth.

You can also ask parents to suggest digital media their children enjoy and invite them into the classroom to show how they engage their children with those media in culturally appropriate ways.

Encourage Families To Use Their Native Languages: Many early language and literacy skills transfer across languages. In addition, making connections to children's background knowledge will make new concepts and words stick better. Some resources for young children, like Peep and the Big Wide World, include videos, games, and parent and teacher support in Spanish and English. Songs, in particular, are a great way to help children learn new vocabulary. Ask families for the names of their favourite songs in their home language and search for recordings online.

Ask open-ended questions and make sure kids get a turn: Children learn turn-taking and conversational skills through modelling, and teachers and parents can use shared video viewing or gameplay as a time to practice conversational turn-taking. After seeing something interesting, ask about it and then wait for a response. At the next interesting moment in the video or game, encourage children to ask you a question and wait for your response. Be sure to pause after asking a question to provide enough time for kids to think about their answers. You can even turn it into a game by timing the pauses to see who "wins" by being a good conversational partner.

Build On Children's Interests: Children learn better when the media connect to their interests and experiences. So build their informational text skills by having them participate in an online search for digital media that focuses on something they're interested in. For example, if the kids say they want to read about baby lizards, you can find photos, drawings, videos, and stories about this subject from Google, YouTube, or your local library's online listings.

Parents and educators are often concerned about young children's digital media consumption. As with any diet, though, moderation and choosing the right ingredients make all the difference. The tips we present here can help educators and parents ensure that children's time with digital media is productive and maximises their learning.

Tips For Parents In The Digital Age

Make Your Family Media Use Plan. Media should work for you and within your family values and parenting style. When used thoughtfully and appropriately, media can enhance daily life. But when used inappropriately or without thought, media can displace many important activities such as face-to-face interaction, family time, outdoor play, exercise, unplugged downtime and sleep. 

Treat Media As You Would Any Other Environment In Your Child's Life. The same parenting guidelines apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know your children's friends, both online and off. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, what sites they are visiting on the web, and what they are doing online.

Set Limits And Encourage Playtime. Media use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children. 

Screen Time Shouldn't Always Be Alone Time. Co-view, co-play and co-engage with your children when they are using screens—​it encourages social interactions, bonding, and learning. For example, play a video game with your kids. It's a good way to demonstrate good sportsmanship and gaming etiquette. Watch a show with them; you will have the opportunity to introduce and share your own life experiences and perspectives—and guidance. Don't just monitor them online—interact with them, so you can understand what they are doing and be a part of it. 

Be A Good Role Model. Teach and model kindness and good manners online. Because children are great mimics, limit your media use. You'll be more available for and connected with your children if you're interacting, hugging and playing with them rather than simply staring at a screen. 

Know The Value Of Face-To-Face Communication. Very young children learn best through two-way communication. Therefore, engaging in back-and-forth "talk time" is critical for language development. Conversations can be face-to-face or, if necessary, by video chat with a travelling parent or far-away grandparent. Research has shown that "back-and-forth conversation" improves language skills—much more so than "passive" listening or one-way interaction with a screen.

Limit Digital Media For Your Youngest Family Members. Avoid digital media for toddlers younger than 18 to 24 months other than video chatting. Children 18 to 24 months watch digital media because they learn from watching and talking with you. Limit screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just 1 hour a day of high-quality programming. 

Co-Viewing Is Best When Possible And For Young Children. They learn best when they are re-taught what they just learned through a screen in the real world. So, if Ernie just taught the letter D, you can reiterate this later when you are having dinner or spending time with your child. 

Create Tech-Free Zones. Keep Family Mealtimes, Other Family And Social Gatherings, And Children's Bedrooms Screen-Free. Turn off televisions you aren't watching because background TV can get in the way of face-to-face time with kids. Recharge devices overnight—outside your child's bedroom to help them avoid the temptation to use them when they should be sleeping. These changes encourage more family time, healthier eating habits, and better sleep.

Don't Use Technology As An Emotional Pacifier. Media can be very effective in keeping kids calm and quiet, but it should not be the only way they learn to calm down. Children need to be taught how to identify and handle strong emotions, come up with activities to manage boredom, calm down through breathing, talk about ways to solve the problem and find other strategies for channelling emotions.

Apps for kids – do YOUR homework. More than 80,000 apps are labelled as educational, but little research has demonstrated their actual quality. In addition, products pitched as "interactive" should require more than "pushing and swiping.

It's Ok For Your Teen To Be Online. Online relationships are part of typical adolescent development. Social media can support teens by exploring and discovering more about themselves and their place in the grown-up world. Just be sure your teen is behaving appropriately in both the real and online worlds. Many teens need to be reminded that a platform's privacy settings do not make things actually "private" and that images, thoughts, and behaviours teens share online will instantly become a part of their digital footprint indefinitely. Keep lines of communication open and let them know you're there if they have questions or concerns.

Warn Children About The Importance Of Privacy And The Dangers Of Predators And Sexting. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others, they will not delete or remove it completely, including texting inappropriate pictures. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings, and they need to be warned that sex offenders often use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online gaming to contact and exploit children.

Remember: Kids Will Be Kids. Kids Will Make Mistakes Using Media. Try to empathise with errors and turn a mistake into a teachable moment. But some indiscretions, such as sexting, bullying, or posting self-harm images, maybe a red flag that hints at trouble ahead. Parents must observe their children's behaviours and, if needed, enlist supportive professional help, including the family paediatrician.

Media and digital devices are an integral part of our world today. The benefits of these devices, if used moderately and appropriately, can be great. But, research has shown that face-to-face time with family, friends, and teachers plays a pivotal and even more important role in promoting children's learning and healthy development. So, keep the face-to-face up front, and don't let it get lost behind a stream of media and tech.


Using Media To Support Children's Stem Learning

Media That Exposes Children To Unusual Stem Concepts

Media can promote children's STEM learning by exposing them to concepts they may not otherwise encounter in their everyday lives. For example, parents used YouTube to show their children videos of animals they had not seen before, like clams, and natural phenomena, like tornados. In addition, YouTube videos show science projects that children could not easily do at home, like constructing a volcano with baking soda and vinegar.

Children's television programming can also expose them to STEM concepts in age-appropriate ways. For example, in Sid the Science Kid, Sid talks about why children need to wash their hands, germs, and how people get sick. In addition, common Sense Media is useful for finding other television shows and apps that teachers and parents recommend as helping teach STEM.

Media To Supplement Hands-On Stem Learning

We see media as a supplement – rather than a replacement – to children's hands-on science and maths learning. Our goal is to discover ways that high-quality media can reinforce and enrich real-world STEM learning. Many parents used media to reinforce (rather than introduce) foundational STEM concepts outside of school because media, like interactive apps, engaged their children and made learning fun. Our research showed, for example, that the children learned to measure from watching a video and using a touchscreen app.

Media can play a powerful role in promoting children's STEM learning, especially when parents lack expertise in STEM or feel less confident in their ability to teach their children science or maths. We found that when parents did not have a family member in a STEM career, they reported that their children used more STEM media than families with a member in a STEM career. Parents who do not have as much experience with science and maths may turn more to media to supplement their teaching. Parental use of media to supplement their children's STEM learning can be beneficial. Research shows that parents and children using a maths app together, Bedtime Math, was particularly helpful in facilitating first graders' learning, especially for children whose parents reported having maths anxiety.

Barriers To Parental Use Of Stem Media And Solutions

Despite the various ways parents can use media to support early learning, they face multiple obstacles in accessing STEM media. For example, the parents surveyed had struggled to find science media for their children (although not maths media). It could be due to a lack of age-appropriate science media for children or more difficult for parents to identify science content in media.

Parents were also concerned about the appropriateness of media content, their children's exposure to advertising, and their children's zoning out while using media.

Parents could use science and maths media together with their children to help safeguard their children against inappropriate content and engage their children more mindfully with the media at hand. It may also help parents become familiar with the educational content present in various games, apps and television shows.


When it comes to media, parents use various tools and strategies. For example, we see parents using digital media for their toddlers by watching videos on YouTube or Netflix, playing educational games together, and reading children's books on tablets or phones. You may be wondering how this helps your toddler learn more about the world around him.

These activities help teach basic concepts like colours, shapes, and animals and give kids an opportunity to explore different languages through music videos in other countries. They also offer opportunities for socialisation with friends who share similar interests since many apps allow you to watch what others are viewing at any given time!

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