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March 24, 2020

Shows and apps to enhance kids' language skills during the quarantine

'Quality' screen time in moderation is beneficial, researchers say

Children's Health Screen Time
Children language skills screen time Hal Gatewood/Unsplash

Children developed stronger language skills when they engaged in "quality" screen time, researchers at the University of Calgary found. This included watching educational shows and co-viewing a show with a caregiver. There are several educational programs on Netflix and apps available to download that can enhance learning in early development.

With kids at home during quarantine, it can be hard to limit their screen time. But engaging in "quality" screen time can be beneficial.

Researchers at the University of Calgary analyzed data from 42 studies that examined screen time usage and found kids developed stronger language skills when they engaged in watching educational programming and co-viewing a show with a caregiver.

There's a delicate balance, though. Language skills decreased the more kids stayed glued to their screens, according to the researchers. These skills also took a hit when kids were exposed to excessive screen time from a younger age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently suggests children under 18-months-old should not use screens unless it's for video chatting. Young children ages 2 to 5 should engage in quality programming for an hour a day. Kids aged 6 and older can increase screen time usage, but they still need limits.

So, what are the best things to watch?

Researchers recommend programming for children that engages them by labeling objects and speaking directly to them, then giving them an opportunity to respond. While you're probably already aware of "Sesame Street" and "Dora the Explorer," the Netflix Jr. shows "World Party" and "Charlie Colorforms City" also use similar learning tactics.

Co-viewing the program with your child allows them to ask you questions and discuss things happening in the show with you, all of which helps with the learning process. "Ask the Storybots," "Brainchild," "Magic School Bus," and "Dino Hunt" are available on Netflix. These shows contain a lot of fun and useful information that may be easier to pick up with a caregiver watching with them. 


Educational apps that focus on language skills are another great resource to enhance kids' screen time for the better. 

• Starfall ABCs teaches kids their letters, vowels, and words for free. Note there is a $35 per year upgrade for math and social skills, though. 

• ABCMouse has a full online curriculum for kids ages 2 to 8 that boasts a series of games and animation to keep their attention while they learn. There is a 30-day free trial, and then the fee is $10 per month. 

• Hungry Caterpillar for Play School is an excellent pre-school app that teachers the alphabet, colors, numbers and reading. It costs $6 per month, or $50 for the year.

• Epic! has more than 35,000 books fitted with a "read-to-me" feature in case your little one isn't reading yet. There is a 30-day free trial, and then it's $8 a month.

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