I gave my two-year-old a tablet


Pettson’s Inventions App screenshot from Google images

We’re a plugged-in family.  Before kids we were gamers.  MMORPG gamers.  Friday night raids, the whole deal.  We breath internet as easily as we eat.  When a kid falls off the couch I don’t call the pediatrician: I check the internet.

So it makes sense that our kids love technology. It’s a magical world full of amazing toys.  Who wouldn’t love that?

In today’s parenting norms screen time is verboten.  Our pediatrician routinely asks “and they’re not getting more than 2 hours of screen time, right?” in that breezy assured tone that assumes that you couldn’t possibly plunk your kid down in front of the tv.  The staff at the office sometimes give me the raised eyebrow when they walk in and the older two are on their tablets.  I shrug: you do what you have to with a special needs kid or simple doctors visits become a meltdown.

The Engineer got his tablet at age 3.  The Princess got hers at age 2.  It was the best “toy” we ever gave them.  Why?  Because they’ve learned so much with them.

Tablets are a blank slate.  You can load it with mind-numbing kids stuff or you can thoughtfully chose things that will help them think and learn.  But not “educational.”  I hate “educational” apps.  Bleh.

At first we bought into the “limit limit limit!” mindset and they only got their tablets at prescribed times of the day.  That’s changed: our new rules divide screen time into types:  video and everything else. Tablets are free use all day, but videos are only available during quiet time (the Destroyer needs a nap.)

So far they’re self-regulating.  When they’re tired, they sit down and do some ABC Mouse.  The Engineer has several STEM apps that he loves along with puzzles and logic apps.  They turn on their music and dance.  They share with the Destroyer, who so desperately wants his own.  They still love riding scooters and doing pretend play or playing with Legos and Playdough.  Tablets haven’t replaced that.

I want to say we figured this out all on our own, but really, we didn’t.

The biggest influence was probably Lori Pickert at Project Based Homeschooling.  She wrote a post here about giving kids freedom (no, not free range, that’s similar but different.)  She pointed out that if we had Minecraft all those years ago when we were growing up, our generations would have been glued to a screen too.

A lot of parents and grandparents I meet see tablets as a soul-sucking time sink that uses time better spent in “creative” play.  We actually hear a lot of judgemental comments about it.  Well, as a gamer myself, let me say this: it’s not a waste of time.

It’s complex creation versus simple wooden blocks.  It’s social interactions on a server that includes people from next door and the next country over.  Online creations are every bit as “real” as a Lego creation: they take time and effort and study.

It’s all about practice.  If you want your kids to grow up coding, building computers, and effortlessly navigating the complex social morass of the Internet, they need time and a safe space to practice.  Our kids’ tablets give them that.

I will never tell my kids their tech interests are a waste of time.  I might have to boot them off the server so that we can have dinner together, but that’s classic parenting.  Medium doesn’t matter, parenting stays the same.

(Note: I do call the pediatrician if needed, but WebMD has saved us a LOT of doctor’s visits.)




  1. I can relate as my two were using iPads before they were even 2. Only a little here and there but I always found it better for them to interact and play games than just stare at a TV screen being a passive viewer. My oldest in particular does lots of drawing and comes up with wonderful pictures and doodles that she can then save. My two also self-regulate and often put them down and wander off to play with real toys. If you make these things forbidden then they will crave them but if you allow them access to age-appropriate material then they will embrace it without becoming addicted.


  2. I really liked this article. You gave a very compelling argument for kids using pads. I also think it is a great learning tool. My daughter jumps on her iPod when she doesn’t know something. I think it makes all kids smarter. Enjoy your summer!


  3. I do understand the reasoning behind monitored screen time. I think it mostly comes from a child in school who spends all day sitting, sadly, and really can’t come home, spend the rest of it in front of a tv and still experience a healthy life balance. When it comes to homeschooling, I feel differently. We moms know how our children learn. And while yes, there is absolutely evidence that massive screen time can have a negative effect, it’s always about balance and weighing the pros and cons. I have visual learners, so it feels very necessary for my children’s learning. But of course, to other kiddos it may not be. So yea, don’t use the tv as a babysitter. Well…. lets be real, at least not frequently. We are all so very unique, therefore methods of homeschooling are as varied as we humans. I don’t judge a worksheet momma, and my kids would shrivel if that was the extent of there learning. It would be cruel to do that to my kids. But that’s MY kids. So why all the judgement?


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