When You Can't Avoid Screen Time: Some Calmer, Sensory Friendly Options
Even though we set limits on it, I still feel restless about the quality of programming that my kids are drawn to. So I am always on the hunt for programs that are more artistic, thoughtful, gentle, and fit our families values.
On a daily basis, we are bombarded with messages via the news and social media explaining the dangers of overexposing children to technology and yet...screen time has to happen sometimes. It has to happen because the 6-month-old has to be rocked to sleep in relative quiet and the 2-year-old WILL NOT "quiet" without a focus point for her attention. It has to happen because you are about to lose your cool and know that you need to step away and that your children will be safe and occupied while you return to your center. It has to happen because you have to get on the phone to talk to the plumber, the doctor, your editor, and you need to be able to hear what they are saying. In our modern world, moms are juggling way more than they ever have before and the pressure is enormous.
For most families, screen time is a necessary evil. But it doesn't have to be such a downer.
There are some beautiful, high quality shows that are sensory friendly and calming while at the same time teaching the values you are wanting your children to emulate. These are shows that value people over things and relationships over achievement. These shows move at a slower pace and are more artistic or down to earth. They are not loud, and they are not intense.
Here are eight great shows for kids 5 and under that can be found on Netflix and a couple on Amazon as well:
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
This is a 30-minute calm-down compilation of Eric Carle's stories and his artwork. It is masterfully done with beautiful background music and calming tones. A great pre-nap or bedtime ritual. It's also a perfect resource for art education at home!
Bob Ross-"Beauty is Everywhere"
I used to LOVE watching this guy paint when I was a kid and it turns out that my children enjoy it, too. It is a great tool for showing how accessible creativity is. My kids really believe that they can paint like he does and my daughter runs to her "art studio" (our master bathroom shower turned into a makeshift studio) to create something ispired by what she has seen.
This is a sweet little show from Ireland about some Puffin birds and the rock they live on. The main characters are "Oona" and her little brother, "Baba."
"We LOVE Puffin Rock. The voices are all calming and beautiful to listen to. Oona is definitely the one I would want my kids to imitate. She is a great model of friendship, responsibility, sibling love, and perseverance." -K. (Mom of 2)
Sarah and Duck
Sarah is a little girl who has a friend named "Duck" and they go through life together learning every day ordinary lessons. My husband loves watching Sarah and Duck with our children. He likes that it's very simple, funny, sweet, and pure. My children are very entertained by the antics of the Duck and the gentle British narrator.
This series started out as a book series and has become a favorite of my two-year-old. It fits the gentle criteria with a good dose of "cute and adorable" thrown in. My son enjoys Kipper's adventures with his animal friends.
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (Amazon)
This iconic show still resonates with children's hearts in powerful ways today and encourages gentleness and imagination. It is a win in our house! Mr. Rogers models empathy, compassion, routine, and a slower paced way of seeing life. He is currently only available on Amazon TV.
Ruby's Studio and Miss Julie's Green Room
These two shows are similar to Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street and have a lit bit more visual and auditory stimuli but are still comparatively calm. They are absolutely wonderful and focus on art, feelings, musical theater performances and feature a cast of characters that include people, guest stars, and puppets. They are better for the upper age range, around 5 or older.
This particular article is a list of shows for younger kids on Netflix but for older kids, there are some neat resources too. All of these feature muted artwork, slow movement, and soothing tones but have more mature plot lines:
The Gruffalo's child
Room on the Broom
The Boxcar Children
The Long, Long Holiday
The following are available on Amazon and are also excellent:
Mr. Rogers Neighborhood
So don't sweat it! Screen time can be a great learning and reset time for both you AND your kids!
Lauren resides in Oklahoma with her husband and two children. She is a birth worker and an aspiring writer. In her spare time she loves to work out and spend time perusing old and new bookstores.