5 Secrets to More Color at Home

Real Talk with Real Moms: Screen Time and Play


Our Favorite Toddler Activities and Thoughts On Screen Time

I’m super excited to be joining the Real Talk with Real Moms series this year!! If you aren’t familiar, every month several amazing mamas choose a topic to write about and share their perspective on. It’s always been one of my favorite series to read, even before I was a mom, so it feels kinda surreal that I get to be a part of it now! =)

This month, we’re talking playtime and screen time! I’ve talked a bit about Arlo’s favorite toys and books but thought I’d share a bit about his current (at 22 months, today! Wowza!) favorite activities and how we handle TV and screens, too! And be sure to check out the other ladies posts today too:

The Effortless Chic | Natalie Borton | The Life Styled | A Daily Something | Apartment 34

Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that screen time was not the parenting hill I wanted to die on, so we’ve never made it a “big deal” in our house. Jeff and I frankly both love watching shows and movies and it wouldn’t have been realistic for us to pretend otherwise. So, instead, we’ve allowed Arlo to watch TV and movies in limited capacities when we feel it’s appropriate and ensure that it’s balanced with other activities that keep Arlo stimulated and on the move! No hard and fast rules in our house, but here’s how things shake out in a nutshell:

On Weekdays: Most mornings, we wake up and pop on a show or movie for him to watch until breakfast is ready/so we can relax for a few more minutes ourselves. =)

On Weekends: We’ll usually watch a movie or show together on at least one weekend evening, in addition to a show in the morning.

When We’re Sick: Rest is really important when you’re sick and Arlo does not stop moving unless the TV is on, so we watch a LOT more when he’s sick… and when we’re sick too for our sanity!

On Airplanes: All “rules” go out the window and he’s glued to an iPad most of the time. Not gonna sugar coat it! My motto on planes is “survive”, so it does not bother me that he zones out to a screen for a few hours! Outside of the few minutes his other plane activities keep him occupied for, it’s the only thing that keeps him in one spot!

At Restaurants: We only pull out our phones for him at restaurants as a last resort. If we’ve already gone through our snacks, coloring pages, stickers and other activities and he’s starting to really get antsy or is making the meal unenjoyable for us, then we’ll put something on. He happily watches things on mute still so we don’t have any sound happening, which is nice at least! I was 100% the person that judged other parents for this SO HARD. And then I was blessed with a “spirited” child and ate my words.

That’s kinda where we’re at! Sometimes he watches more, sometimes less. We try to avoid letting him watch anything right before bed because we find he doesn’t fall asleep nearly as easily afterwards. We also can tell when he’s watched “too much” because his behavior does shift slightly, usually because he just wants to only watch TV at that point and we won’t let him! I feel pretty good about the balance we have going at the moment!

If you’re curious, a few of Arlo’s favorite shows/movies:

  • Monster’s Inc (We recorded this on Disney Channel and put it multiple times a week!)
  • Coco (Netflix)
  • Toy Story (Freeform or Disney Channel, on demand)
  • Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (Disney Junior)
  • Fancy Nancy (Disney Junior)
  • Puppy Dog Pals (Disney Junior)
  • Paw Patrol (Nick)
  • Llama Llama (Netflix)
  • Curious George (PBS or Netflix)
  • Dave & Ava (YouTube) both in English and Spanish (We also downloaded the *ridiculously* expensive Dave & Ava app because this show holds his attention more than anything in the world. It’s what he watches on planes!)

I’d love to know what shows or movies your toddlers love that you find somewhat educational? I’d especially love to hear some Spanish language shows for toddlers. We could improve so much in this area, but for Arlo’s sake of learning the language, and for ours!!

Our Favorite Toddler Activities and Thoughts On Screen Time

Outside of screen time, we’re on a continuous search to find things that keep Arlo occupied for more than 3 minutes. =) We tend to take him out of the house (on walks, to the park, on errands) frequently because he gets stir crazy super quickly. But here’s a few of our favorite at-home activities lately:

  • Painting or Coloring (Painting keeps his attention longer but is obviously messier, more about our favorite supplies here!)
  • Filling up the sink with water and soap and letting him wash his dishes (Thank you to whoever suggested this!!)
  • Baking or cooking together! This is by far when he is happiest and it’s SO MUCH FUN! This learning stool is the best investment we’ve made!
  • Building towers with these blocks
  • Dancing and Singing (he requires a kitchen utensil as a mic now haha! Would you guys want to see a “Arlo’s Faves” playlist?)
  • Sorting beans or felt balls
  • Playing with his train set

I’d love to hear what activities your almost-two year olds are (were) into. We’re thinking about making our own playdoh soon and hope to get him a play kitchen for his birthday with lots of pots and pans to “hide” stuff in! 😉

Overall, I’ve found that I am way more drawn to doing “projects” with Arlo (like baking, painting, etc.) and really struggle with passing the time with just “regular” playtime. Anyone else relate??

Well there you go! Some of Arlo’s favorite activities, screen time included. Leave your favorite toddler shows and activities below so we can all learn how to keep these busy kiddos occupied together! =)


  • Alyssa

    Love these posts! My 18 month old still loves Sesame Street, especially the old school episodes. We love Puffin Rock on Netflix- really pretty animation and great Scottish accents. Tegu blocks, duplos and the the play kitchen are big attention holders for us.

  • Caitlin

    Our son LOVES Tumbleleaf on Amazon Prime! The stop animation and colors are amazing. I’ve watched a video on Youtube on how they make the show and now I love it even more. And the messages are great too! My son just turned 3 but for activites, he is loving magna tiles. He loves building garages for his trucks and caves for his dinosaurs!

    • Kelly

      We went to a Tumbleleaf themed playground the other day and I have been meaning to watch the show with him!!

      OOOH I bet Arlo would love magna tiles, this is great, I’m basically making a birthday list for him as I go! Ha!

  • Hannah

    It was really nice to hear how you go about screentime. It’s very similar to how I go about it with my 2 1/2 year old and it’s so easy to feel that guilt from the “no screen time!” bandwagon. A couple shows she’s LOVING now is Tumbleleaf and Creative Galaxy – both on Prime video. I would highly recommend them. Thanks for sharing! <3

    • Kelly

      That guilt is so easy to fall victim to! Been there! But I’ve just decided that everything in moderation is a-ok for our family! =) Will definitely check out these shows!!

  • DriverB

    My son is the same age as Arlo. We’ve somehow managed to get away without screen time so far – but we’ve only had him on a plane once, and he was just fascinated with everything including the cup the steward gave him. We do a lot of zoom cars, where we push toy cars and trucks back and forth across the floor. Wooden puzzles with knobs work for a few minutes. Coloring. He loves reading books. Going to the park or for walks. But a big part of his day is playing with balls. He loves bouncing them on the floor, standing at the bottom of our staircase and throwing them up, watching them bounce down – and for Christmas we got a baby basketball hoop which is now in our living room. He also recently started asking for a bath every day so he can splash, but he still hates getting his hair washed!

    • Kelly

      So many good ideas!! Thank you! Arlo loves reading books to himself, it’s so cute!

  • Meaghan

    My son is two. We let him watch Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger in the mornings before work (because I honestly don’t think we could manager mornings without that with two out of the house working parents), and for about an hour on weekend mornings as well. Once our nanny or grandpa take over, screen time is done for the day. We’ve tried some movies, but honestly his attention span isn’t that long, and he prefers the shows anyway (and, side note, because they’re both PBS, it really gets rid of my mom guilt over TV time!).

    On playtime, he loves his play kitchen and play washer/dryer the most. He will “cook” and “do laundry” for ages. He also loves his puzzles and latches board. He got a set of wooden fruit he can “cut” for his birthday and he’s very into those. He’ll play with his trucks for a couple minutes, but that’s not a big attention holder. And while he is super attached to his stuffed animals and baby dolls for sleeping, he doesn’t play much with them during the day. He’ll play with his blocks sporadically (duplos, magnatiles, and plain blocks), and occasionally he likes his choo choo train set, but those take more effort on our part to really get them out and engage. Finally, he’ll stop by his art center and add a couple marks here and there, but he’s not that into drawing yet. On the weekends, we spend a lot of time outside (we live in LA too, so that’s easy), either in our backyard or at the park – I can’t be home all day or I go stir crazy!

    • Kelly

      Omg play washer/dryer!? HOW CUTE! Arlo is obsessed with our real ones. Haha! We spend a TON of time outside too, with the rain this week, I was like… “How the heck do people raise kids where it rains and snows!?” haha! We’re so spoiled!!

  • Espy Uribe

    My 20 month old loves watching Color Crew on you tube, they have it in Spanish and English. Also, Cleo and Cuquin on Netflix, it was originally in Spanish on youtube, but was just released in English and spanish on netfllix.

  • Jessica

    My son is two and a half and he LOVES Cleo and Cuquin in Spanish. It’s a show on Netflix and it’s adorable! He also loves El Chavo Del 8 animated series. It’s super funny and in Spanish also!

  • Karen

    Have you ever watched Ben & Holly? It’s on Nick Jr. It’s from the same people who do Peppa Pig and it’s the best kids show ever.

    Magnatiles have been one of my daughter’s favorites from age 2 to now 4. Also, she plays with her kitchen every day.

    I definitely want to see Arlo’s play list!

    Oh, and the @busytoddler Instagram feed is great for activity ideas.

  • Lauren

    I totally understand the “projects” verses “playtime”! I go nuts, it’s just not in my DNA. However, once my kiddos got a little older and they could play games, we found our new favorite thing! Start with a matching game!

  • Alyssa

    Thank you so much for this post!! I’ve been feeling guilty for letting my twin girls watch ANYTHING. But honestly, sometimes I just need them to be still for 5 minutes. And with the two of them, it’s hard to find those “quiet” activities that they’ll actually sit and do. Coloring has been a nightmare haha. The girls love Sesame Street and any musical — Frozen, Beauty and the Beast, Mamma Mia.

  • Erin Maree

    Beat Bugs is a really good show and is filled with great music, so probably right up Arlo’s ally 🙂
    My Granddad actually made me a play oven and stove set when I was younger and then as a combined Christmas gift for me and my sisters he made us kitchen bench/cabinet (he also made us a kid size table and chair set too). We have them in our shed and I have no doubt when me and my sister have kids they will be brought out and played with. It’s just so fun that these items have history to us and can remind us of our grandparents.

    In terms of other toy ideas Duplo is a great toy and you can add to it as the kids get older. We have some that is going on over 20 years old and you would not be able to tell. We bring it out whenever we have kids over and its such a big hit.

  • Yec

    My son is 2 months older than Arlo. We travel a lot too! When he was younger he’d only watch baby Einstein (he still gets excited over it. But his fovorite is BLIPPI on Amazon Prime or YouTube! they have a Spanish version which is great because we are bilingual as well. He loves Learning with Vehicles and Ethan the dump truck all on Prime! Oh and Cars 3 on Netflix!

  • Sarah

    My daughter is 21 months. We haven’t attempted full length movies yet but have tried Mr Rogers and Sesame Street for my wn nostalgia. Ha. What she requests on constant repeat is Stick Man (Netflix). It’s adorable and a nice slow pace that i don’t overstimulates her. It’s the same crew that did Room on the broom which she also loved til Netflix took it off. She also really likes the original Dr Seuss How the Grinch stoke Christmas. Even wants to listen to the album in the car 😂. For activities, she’s really into coring, chalk on her blackboard wall, her play kitchen, reading, and chasing the dog around.

  • Sara

    This was such a refreshing take on this topic. I feel like every article/post I read about screentime makes me feel guilty for even having a tv! Ha. I think a balance is perfect. My generation grew up watching tv all the time and didn’t even know the phrase screen time. We turned out ok-ish.
    Also, I recently deleted Instagram because I found I wasn’t happy after being on it. But I do really miss following you and Jeff! So I started reading your blog. Can’t wait to see your bathroom.

  • Lizzi

    So glad to hear I’m not the only parent who thinks screen time is ok! We keep an eye on our 15 month olds behavior, and try to always watch the shows with her, so we can sing along and talk about what’s happening on screen. Unless we need to get something done, then we let her enjoy it herself 🙂

    Our daughter loves music, so she’s really gotten attached to Daniel Tiger, which I can’t recommend enough. I don’t know if she’s learning any of the emotion coaching, but we as parents sure are! And we watch the old Mr. Rogers after bathtime to help her wind down at night. It’s such a sweet show, and perfect for her age.

  • Staci

    My niece is two, and I love to dance and sing with her to keep her entertained. I’m always making mixes for her and her newborn baby brother, so I’d love to see an Arlo Faves mix! She and I watch GoNoodle a lot when we’re together. She thinks its funny to see me do the dances, and she dances to her own beat 🙂

  • Jess

    I can’t recommend Daniel Tiger enough. My daughter is 3.5 and has been watching since she was about 2. The episodes teach about daily things like sharing, the doctor/dentist, saying sorry. They’re cute and the songs are catchy – we sing them all the time to work through problems. I don’t have any mom guilt when she watches that because she gets so much out of it.

  • Cecilia

    Hey, just loved the casual way you guys deal with screen time! Here in Brazil kids are C R A Z Y about Mundo Bita (Bita’s World) and they have spanish versions now, you should check:

  • Tomi

    I love your content!
    A show I would recommend in Spanish is Pocoyo and it’s on Netflix! We love that show in our home. Hope you enjoy it too!

  • Cara

    For Spanish shows Hulu has Curious George in Spanish. If you have Amazon prime you can add PBS kids and they have Daniel Tiger, Dora, Caillou and Dinosaur Train. Netflix has almost all their shows in Spanish (you just change the language) but Hulu and Amazon doesn’t 🙁

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