With the nearly endless availability of computers, smartphones, tablets and televisions in our society, it’s easy to think that screen time is something young children should become accustomed to.
But this isn’t the case when it comes to preparing your son or daughter for academic achievement.
There are good reasons to limit your child’s screen time and ensure their early education is spent in interactive, hands-on experiences of discovery. Here’s why.
Preschool to Elementary: A Time of Rapid Growth
From birth through age 6, children experience a stage of rapid brain development. It’s a crucial period of gaining knowledge about the world, others, and themselves. So, it’s vital that they engage in activities that give them their best opportunity to thrive.
There is so much evidence in favor of in-person, hands-on, individualized learning for children at this stage that screen time just can’t compare.
What to Know about Screen Time and Learning
Many parents ask our team, “Is screen time a good way for my children to learn?” Here’s what we like to share:
Screen time interferes with the ability to focus on learning tasks
Countless studies show that as children spend more time watching television, playing video games, and engaging on the quick distractions offered by tablets and phones, their attention span decreases.
The fast-paced movements and constantly changing sensory input coming from video games and action movies, for example, can overwhelm young children. Too much exposure, and they don’t gain the opportunity to learn how to focus—a key skill in academic achievement.
Screen time plays into the development of ADHD
There is also evidence that screen time contributes to the development of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Sadly, ADHD is more and more common these days, and the constant exposure to fast-paced, sensory-overloaded TV shows, apps, and games are likely a major culprit.
Not all screen time is equal
While there are many apps and programs that are labeled as educational, that doesn’t automatically mean they’re great at helping your son or daughter learn. If you allow them to use an app, it’s important to make sure the content and style of the programming is appropriate for your child’s age and individual stage of development.
Apps and programs are no substitute for human connection
To thrive in learning, children need interaction, which means their teachers, friends and parents should be actively involved in the learning experience. It may be tempting to place a child in front of the TV or computer so they can “entertain themselves.” But this approach is not a substitute for education or relationships.
How much screen time is too much?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children aged 2 and older should spend no more than two hours a day watching TV or playing video games.
Authentic Montessori schools are more conservative on this question. We recommend keeping your child screen-free if possible until at least age 3—and ideally through age 6. By encouraging your son or daughter to engage interactively with their world, you’re setting them up for the best possible learning experiences in school and beyond!
The Benefits of Hands-On Learning
When compared to hands-on activities, sitting in front of a computer or TV just doesn’t compare. Here’s why:
Fosters a genuine passion for discovery
A host of educational studies, including those done by Maria Montessori and her successors, have shown that hands-on learning opportunities tap into the inquisitive nature of preschoolers and primary-aged students in ways that other modes of learning, including screen time, can’t match.
As children engage in exploring different materials, locations, and activities in physical, hands-on ways, they experience exciting realizations about their world that foster their love of discovery.
Offers a more immersive learning experience
One of the greatest joys young children can experience is discovering something for the first time. Every time this happens, it’s a magical moment that parents and teachers alike look forward to seeing.
Yet in this arena, screen time is a lot like the rote lectures of traditional schools. Children are told and shown something, but they’re not engaging fully in solving problems. This can lead them to become distracted and disconnected from learning.
By contrast, hands-on activities are uniquely immersive, sensory, and physical—engaging your child in numerous ways that foster their ability to focus as they gain knowledge.
Promotes imaginative play and creativity
When children learn to approach situations with creative curiosity, they gain vital skills that translate to success in life. Hands-on activities invite your son or daughter to imagine possibilities, then test them out until they achieve their goals.
While apps and programs may feature lots of storytelling elements, many of them don’t encourage viewers to be creative in ways that help them master their world. Instead, they can confuse young children about what is real versus what is fantasy.
Builds individuality and self-confidence
Young children naturally gravitate toward real-life activities that they see adults doing—like helping in the kitchen, gardening, and tidying.
By providing opportunities for children to learn skills like reading and math while engaged in hands-on activities, parents and Montessori teachers are inviting the child to lead their own learning experiences.
As children lead the way in discovering what they are most interested in, they gain vital confidence in their abilities. This boosts their esteem, promotes their appreciation for learning, and encourages them to be themselves—all good traits that promote lifelong successes.
See Your Child Thrive in Montessori School
Making the right decisions about your child’s early education can set them up for success in school and in life. At Primary Montessori Day School, your son or daughter receives a caring, individualized education—designed to help them learn and grow.
Want to know more? Read what Rockville, MD parents of our students say about the lasting value of a Montessori education. And reach out to us for more information or to schedule a tour.