The World Health Organization recommends no screen time for children under the age of 2, and for toddlers and kids aged 2-5, limiting it to just 1 hour per day[*].
While it’s obvious that the members of the WHO making that recommendation have never spent an entire day with a 3 year old, most parents want to follow it… even if to keep away the (unfair but extremely common) mom-guilt.
So if you're looking for ways to cut back on your toddler's screen time without turning your home into tantrum central, we've got your back. These 12 toddler toys are educational, engaging, and most importantly attention-holding.
- Is Screen Time Really Bad for Toddlers?
- The 12 Best Educational Toys for Toddlers to Help Limit Screen Time
- #1 Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Servin' Up Fun Food Truck
- #2 Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe Set
- #3 Mega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag
- #4 Step2 Rain Showers Splash Pond Water Table
- #5 Jasonwell Aqua Magic Doodle Mat
- #6 Melissa & Doug Water Wow! Reusable Activity Pads
- #7 Step2 Crazy Maze Ball Pit Playhouse
- #8 VTech Smart Shots Sports Center
- #9 American Plastic Toys Kids Outdoor Sand Table
- #10 ALEX Discover Tots Art Start
- #11 Kiddey 3 piece Kids Play Tent
- #12 Step2 Great Creations Art Desk Easel
Is Screen Time Really Bad for Toddlers?
There’s some debate in the childhood development world about how bad screen time truly is.
In reality, There's a huge difference between sitting down with your toddler to watch an age-appropriate educational show (extra points if you chat about what's unfolding) and plonking kids down in front of a screen and leaving them to their own devices (pun intended).
While limited screen time with parental direction and interaction probably won't ruin your toddler, some small studies suggest that screen time could lead to some developmental delays, including:
Slower language development
Babies and toddlers learn by interacting with those around them. Until the age of about 2 ½, toddlers are unlikely to learn new words simply by staring at a screen — and every hour spent watching is another hour without valuable one-on-one interaction.
Reduced social engagement
Everyday experiences with parents, siblings, and caregivers teach toddlers how to socialize. Being glued to a screen blocks opportunities for face-to-face interaction and the development of vital social skills.
Increased risk of becoming overweight
Research indicates a strong connection between too much screen time and childhood obesity. Not only do children miss out on physical activity while watching TV or online videos, but it also increases the likelihood of mindless snacking
If you've ever noticed that your child has a tougher time than usual drifting off after a Baby Shark marathon, you're not imagining things. The blue light emitted by screens can interfere with melatonin release (a natural sleep-inducing hormone), making it more difficult for toddlers to settle down.
The 12 Best Educational Toys for Toddlers to Help Limit Screen Time
Toddlers can happily spend hours shaping, molding, and rolling playdough. This set comes with 6 tubs of Play-Doh and a bunch of accessories to keep young minds and little hands occupied.
Playing with building blocks is a great way for toddlers to work on problem solving and fine motor skills. This award-winning set of chunky, toddler-friendly blocks comes with enough pieces for kids to enjoy hours of imaginative play.
Most kids are obsessed with water play, and this is one of those toys you'll have to pry your toddler away from. Large enough to accommodate multiple children and comes with loads of moving parts for added fun.
Toddlers love drawing and painting. So much so that most will go to work on any available surface — and that includes your walls and floors. With this water doodle mat, kids can unleash their inner Picasso using nothing but water.
If you like the idea of a water doodle mat, but need something more compact, these reusable activity pads are a great alternative. Each pad comes with a refillable water pen and the pages clear up after drying, so kids can paint again and again.
Playhouses are always a big hit with toddlers, and this one brings double the fun with ball play. A multitasking design allows toddlers to alternate between fast-paced physical play and more focused role-play fun.
This 2-in-1 basketball hoop and soccer goal post provides the perfect outlet for pent-up energy and gives toddlers ample opportunity to hone motor skills and coordination. Big fun with a small footprint.
Sandboxes are awesome, but full-sized versions can be a hassle to maintain. With a 50 lbs sand capacity, a raised design, and a waterproof cover, this sand table delivers just as much fun with none of the fuss.
Thinking of introducing your toddler to the world of arts and crafts? Then this award-winning set is the best place to start. Specially designed with toddlers in mind, this art set delivers a safe and satisfying crafting experience for the younger crowd.
Kids love tents and this option delivers triple the fun with a triangular tent, a tunnel, and a square tent. Use them separately or connect them and add balls to the square tent for extra novelty.
This art desk is more of a furniture piece than a toy, but with the right accessories, budding artists will be busy for hours. Generous storage space, 2 easels, and a desk make this art station ideal for use with siblings or friends.