Toddlers and TV: How Much Is Too Much?

Month 21

TV is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there are some excellent educational shows for kids -- fine in small doses and with supervision. But most shows on TV are not appropriate for kids, and too much TV (or any screen time) may mean trouble sleeping and not enough activity.

Before you hit the "On" button, here are some tips on using TV, computers, tablets, or other screens the right way:

  • Experts recommend avoiding screen time until age 2.
  • After age 2, you may wish to choose some educational programs and watch them together with your child.
  • Limit TV or any screen time to no more than an hour or two each day.
  • Don't use the TV as background noise. When no one's watching, turn it off.

Your Toddler's Development This Month

When your toddler smiles, you should see a whole mouthful of baby teeth.

Nearly a third of 2-year-olds already have some signs of tooth decay. You shouldn't neglect baby teeth just because they're going to fall out eventually. Baby teeth are important -- they hold space for the permanent teeth.

To keep your child's teeth and gums clean:

  • Brush them gently with a soft brush twice a day.
  • Use a smear of fluoride toothpaste on the toothbrush until your child turns 3.
  • Limit sweets -- like candy and cookies -- and limit juice, which has a lot of sugar.
  • Take your toddler to the dentist for every scheduled checkup.

Month 21 Tips

  • You may be hearing "No!" a lot from your tot these days. Don't overreact. Be consistent about routines, and when making requests, say why.
  • Many kids have nightmares from time to time. To help your child have a more restful night's sleep, relax them before bed with a calming story or warm bath.
  • Check that your toddler's toys are too big to fit into a toilet paper tube (which means they're too big to fit into your child's throat and cause choking).
  • Minimize dinner distractions. No TV, phone, or Internet. Talk to each other and make it a habit to gather at the table.
  • Feed yourself like you feed your toddler -- with a healthy mix of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains.
  • If your toddler has a runny nose, wheezing, or a rash that flares up regularly, they may have an allergy. Talk to your pediatrician about the best way to help.
  • Not every child develops at the same pace, but if your 21-month-old can't say about 15 words or they are not walking on their own, take them to the pediatrician for an evaluation.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 25, 2019



American Dental Association: "Baby Teeth."

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: "Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Children (Age 2 to 11)."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Caring for a Young Child's Teeth."

University of Michigan Health System: "Television and Your Child."

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: "Children and Watching TV."

University of Illinois Extension: "When All You Hear Is 'No!' -- Dealing with Toddlers."

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Nightmares and Night Terrors in Children" and "Choosing Safe Toys."

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology: "Allergies in Children."

Nemours Foundation: "Medical Care and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old."

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Get Pregnancy & Parenting Tips In Your Inbox

Doctor-approved information to keep you and your family healthy and happy.

By clicking Subscribe, I agree to the WebMD Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of WebMD subscriptions at any time.