Letting the Toddler Take (Self) Control

by Angela and Andrew McGillivray

The last time we wrote a post for this blog, it was August 2020 and our son was two-and-a-half years old. He’s now almost four, and things have sure changed. We wrote about how technology was both a help and a hindrance in our lives, which is still very much the case. What has changed is Oliver’s relationship to technology, and how he has begun to understand the need for moderation with devices. 

We intentionally chose not to set limits on Oliver’s screen time, because we wanted him to learn for himself what his limits are. For a while, it seemed like all he wanted was the iPad, the phone, or the TV, but the novelty seems to have worn off a bit. Sure, he loves to spend some of his time watching videos, but when we tell him that he needs to turn off or hand back whatever device he’s using, there’s rarely a fight. He will happily pause or turn off the screen and switch to whatever new activity we propose, whether it’s spending time outside, reading, drawing, telling stories, or playing board games. Often, he chooses to engage in one of these activities before he even asks for a device, or he decides to turn the device off even if we haven’t asked him to. 

Telling stories is one of his favourite things to do right now, and rather than killing his creativity the videos and shows he watches seem to help him develop his narratives. We’ll often start telling him a story, like Goldilocks, and all of a sudden a Spinosaurus will come in to stop Goldilocks from eating all of the bear’s porridge. What has he watched lately? A lot of dinosaur-related content. 

During the recently-passed holiday we found ourselves with a lot of downtime during Oliver’s daycare closure, so it was interesting to see how he chose to spend his time. We do like to give him choices, and he often makes ‘good’ ones – including setting his own limits on screen time.


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