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Can a 1 year old watch movies?

Many parents wonder if it’s okay for their 1 year old to watch movies or videos. There are differing opinions on screen time limits for toddlers and whether they can benefit from or be harmed by watching movies at such a young age. In this article, we’ll look at the key considerations around 1 year olds and screen time to help parents make the best decision for their child.

The AAP Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 18 months old avoid digital media use altogether, with the exception of video chatting. Their guidelines state:

  • For children 18 to 24 months, choose high-quality programming and watch it with them.
  • Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs for children 2 to 5 years old.
  • Designate media-free times and zones for the whole family.

The AAP recommends no screens at all for children under 18 months because they are undergoing critical brain development and need hands-on exploration and face-to-face social interaction. The one exception is video chatting, which can support social connections with family members.

For toddlers 18-24 months, limited high-quality programming viewed with a parent can be introduced. But the AAP recommends restricting digital media for this age group to video chatting with loved ones plus just 1 hour per day of educational shows viewed with a parent or caregiver.

Potential Benefits of Limited, High-Quality Programming

Although toddlers do not need any screen time, there may be some benefits to limited, high-quality programming viewed together with a parent for children 18-24 months old. Potential benefits can include:

  • Educational content can support early learning skills like language, numbers, shapes, colors, etc.
  • Seeing representation of diversity can introduce ideas around race, culture, gender identity, different abilities, etc.
  • Content can expose children to new environments, animals, foods, music, and more.
  • Watching appropriate shows together supports bonding through shared experiences.

The key is choosing developmentally-appropriate, high-quality programming that engages a young viewer while teaching language, social-emotional or cognitive skills. Shows with real people, puppets or animation can all have educational value for toddlers.

Risks of Excessive Media Use

Too much screen time—especially passive watching—at ages 1-2 years can negatively impact development. Potential risks include:

  • Delays in language development from lack of human interaction.
  • Issues with cognitive skills like focus, critical thinking, and imagination.
  • Trouble self-soothing or calming down without distraction.
  • Loss of interest in hands-on exploration, play and social interaction.
  • Exposure to content not designed for toddler comprehension.
  • Possible vision issues or eye strain.
  • Disruption of healthy sleep routines.

Research also suggests background television can interfere with toddlers’ play and distract parent-child interactions. So the AAP recommends avoiding passive screen time in the background when young children are awake.

Choosing Appropriate Programs

If you choose to allow limited viewing for your 18-24 month old, select programs carefully:

  • Look for content designed for toddler learning with clear educational goals.
  • Ensure the pacing is not overstimulating but engages their attention.
  • Opt for shows with real people, puppets or engaging animation.
  • Avoid programs with violence, inappropriate language, scary content or too many distractions on screen.
  • Look for representation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Check ratings and reviews by child development experts.

Some examples of high-quality toddler programs are Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Dinosaur Train and Blue’s Clues. Carefully selected programming viewed with a caregiver can have educational benefits. But passive viewing or low-quality shows do not support early learning.

Watching With Your Toddler

It’s not enough just to put on an educational show—interaction during viewing is key. When watching a program with your 1 year old:

  • Choose shows with clear educational goals you can expand on, like numbers, letters or social-emotional lessons.
  • Before starting, explain what they are going to see and key vocabulary.
  • Engage them with questions and comments during the show to reinforce lessons.
  • Pause periodically to discuss what’s happening on screen.
  • Relate show content to your child’s own experiences for better understanding.
  • Limit viewing to 1 episode or video so you have time to actively watch together.

Active viewing and discussion helps toddlers comprehend content, learn from it and stay engaged. Passive solo viewing provides no developmental benefits. Co-viewing and discussing a limited, high-quality program can support early learning.

Setting Limits

To keep screen time in check:

  • Follow the AAP’s recommended limit of just 1 hour per day of high-quality programming, viewed actively with your toddler.
  • Avoid screens during critical times like family meals, play time, reading time, and the hour before bedtime.
  • Designate screen-free zones at home like the dinner table, play areas, etc.
  • Remove televisions and devices from your child’s bedroom.
  • Turn off screens you are not actively watching as a family.
  • Agree on media limits with any caregivers so rules are consistent.

Setting household limits protects family time and teaches healthy habits around media use from an early age. Be sure to follow guidelines consistently so limits are effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is any screen time ok for a 1 year old?

The AAP recommends no screens at all for children under 18 months, except for video chatting. For ages 18-24 months, just 1 hour per day of high-quality programming viewed actively with a parent can be introduced. No solo viewing is recommended at this age.

What are the best educational shows for a 1 year old?

Top educational show picks for 1 year olds include Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Blue’s Clues, Dinosaur Train, Super Why! and Little Baby Bum. Look for shows with clear learning goals, representation, and engaging real people, puppets or animation.

Should 1 year olds watch baby Einstein videos?

While the Baby Einstein series is popular, research does not show clear educational benefits. Limit use and watch actively with your toddler, discussing content. Educational claims of many baby videos are not backed by evidence. Interactive play and reading are better for learning.

Can a 1 year old learn anything from TV?

If viewed actively with a caregiver, limited high-quality programming can support language, social-emotional and cognitive development for toddlers 18-24 months old. But passive solo viewing provides no benefits. Co-viewing allows toddlers to comprehend and learn from age-appropriate content.

What are the long term effects of too much screen time for 1 year olds?

Possible long term impacts of excessive media use as a toddler include language delays, attention difficulties, sleep issues, reduced creativity and imagination, less interest in hands-on play and exploration, as well as possible vision problems. Following limits prevents overuse.


The AAP recommends no screen time for children under 18 months, except video chatting. For 18-24 month olds, just 1 hour per day of high-quality, educational programming viewed actively with a parent can be introduced. But passive, solo viewing should be avoided. While toddlers do not need screen time, limited, supervised use of thoughtfully chosen programs can support early learning. Setting household limits is important to prevent negative impacts on development. With mindful viewing habits and limits on screen time, media can be used in moderation to complement, but not replace, interactive play, reading and social interaction as your 1 year old grows.