How can I make my toddler sit still for educational TV shows? She never sits down or even tries to pay attention.

While educational programs can be a fun way for many children to learn, they are not essential to your child's education. Toddlers have short attention spans and your child may not yet be ready to watch an entire movie or show. In fact, screen time may decrease, rather than increase, your child's attention span. If your concern is that your child is missing out on an educational experience, try puzzles, games, books, and other interactive experiences, instead. If you need a few moments to yourself (and what parent doesn't?), then mix short amounts of screen time with other engaging, independent activities. First, make sure your toddler is fed and well-rested—a hungry, tired, cranky toddler is unlikely to concentrate on anything. Toddlers like to "fill and spill" and sort items into containers. Encourage her to try these activities for at least five minutes and set a timer. Afterwards, spend some time with her doing a favorite together-time activity. After a week, see if she can play solo for another minute. Continue increasing the timer. Keep your expectations age-appropriate—many toddlers cannot sustain solo activities for more than five to ten minutes at a time. Although it may not be a consolation now, your child will soon be more independent. Try to enjoy this time when she needs your involvement in her play.

Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.