young girl, mali, reading

Sleep, Play and Screentime

Children need the right amounts of sleep and play for growth and health. They also need plenty of active play or movement. Screentime actively takes away from quality of sleep and active play time in many, many children’s lives.

Sleep and play are so important, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued guidelines in respect of how much children need at different stages of development, as well the amount of screentime children should be limited to. Link to WHO article.

Here are guidelines for sleep, active play and screentime per age group.

Babies under 2 years of age

mother, child, family

Photo by thedanw on Pixabay

There should be no screen time at all for babies under two years old. They do not need to watch TV or devices to be entertained. When you talk and sing and smile at them, this is entertainment and play for babies.

Babies need physical play on the floor as much as possible, at least 30 minutes of time on their tummy per day which can be spread through the day at about 5 minutes per time. They should not be restrained in prams or car seats or on a caregiver’s back for more than one hour at a time.

Babies need between 12 and 16 hours of sleep per 24 hours.

2 – 3 year olds

kid, soap bubbles, girl

Photo by ddimitrova on Pixabay

A maximum of one hour or less of screen time per day is recommended for toddlers.

Your toddler needs at least 3 hours per day actively playing on the floor or in the garden. They should not be restrained in a pram, car seat, or on a caregiver’s back for longer than an hour at a time.

They need between 11 and 14 hours of sleep per 24 hours. This includes daytime naps. There is a fairly big variation as every child is different. My son refused a day time nap from when he was 2 years old. He coped quite well without it, however, my daughter did not and so we helped her have a day time nap for as long as possible.

3 years – 4 year olds

girls, children, friends

Photo by cherylholt on Pixabay

A maximum of one hour or less of screen time per day is recommended. Teach your child to always ask your permission for screentime and set parental controls on all devices to minimize the risk of exposure to inappropriate content.

Children of this age need at least 3 hours per day of active play and movement and between 10 and 13 hours of sleep per 24 hours. This includes naps. The time is a variable as each child is different, you will have to play “detective” a bit to find out just how much sleep your child needs at this age.

5 years – 12 years

scooter, bicycle, leisure time

Photo by 12138562 on Pixabay

It is recommended that children in this age group have one hour or less of screen time per day.

They should be spending most of their time every day when they are not in school using their bodies to play rather than sitting still.  Childhood obesity has risen in an alarming fashion over the past couple of decades. There are many complex reasons for this, but increasing active play and ensuring your child has enough sleep mitigates against unwanted fat and promotes healthy growth and development.

Children at this age learn the most from being with their peers and too much screentime can be harmful to their social development.

They need 9 to 12 hours of sleep per 24 hours.


profile, beach, teenager

Photo by danuwira01 on Pixabay

It is recommended that that teenagers have two hours or less of screentime per day.

And here’s something that may be really surprising, it is recommended that adults also have two hours of screen time a day! If you work at a computer all day this is obviously an impossible guideline. But this screentime refers to use of screens for entertainment and social media scrolling. For teenagers who use devices in the school context, it is important that they have healthy downtime away from devices for their ocular health as much as for their physical, mental and social health.

Teach your teen about age restrictions and why there are age restrictions on games, movies and programmes. For example, if your teenager is 14 but they want to watch a programme that is for 16 years and older, talk about why it is not appropriate. It usually tells you that the programme contains sex/nudity/violence.

Teach your child to always ask your permission for screentime, even if they have their own phone. This is a privilege and not a right.

Be curious about your teenager’s screentime. Ask them what they games they love to play and ask to play it with them. Ask them about their favourite programmes and what characters they like and dislike.

Teenagers should have at least an hour a day of exercise. This includes formal and informal movement to make use of their muscles.

They need 9 to 12 hours of sleep a day. Sometimes they may sleep more, and sometimes they may sleep a bit less.

What is too much screen time?

Your child is having too much screen time when…

  • They choose to be inside on a screen, rather than outside playing with friends all the time.
  • They are no longer interested in other things, they are only interested in being on a screen.
  • They are not doing any movement activities or exercise.
  • They have lost interest in everything else except screens.
  • They ask/demand screentime constantly.

What do you think of these guidelines? What do you notice about the guidelines compared to your children’s habits/routines?






It’s the HOLIDAYS!

22 March 2024 Hi everyone! Easter holidays are upon us – well done parents of South African children, term one done and dusted! In the words of Fat Amy… Acabelieve it! (And if you don’t get this reference then you have never watched Pitch Perfect. And that means you have some more movie-watching homework. Not…

Read More

Broken things

15 March 2024 “Our hearts are broken about things that are broken…” Jennie Allen. This has been resounding in my soul ever since I read it. I have times of feeling heartbroken for people and situations who are broken, including myself, I think most of us do.  None of is completely whole all of the…

Read More

Movie Review: Girls Night In!!

1 March 2024 Most definitely watch “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.” It was recently released on Netflix and it is an absolute joy. Judy Blume is the author of the book upon which the movie is based. I grew up reading Judy Blume’s books, I can’t recall how old I was when I…

Read More


23 February 2024 Movement matters, and it especially matters to those who are “tiggers”. (If you’re not acquainted with the Winnie-the-Pooh stories by AA Milne, well, maybe it’s time.) Tigger is one of Winnie-the-Pooh’s best friends, a very loveable, energetic and positive character. Tigger bounces everywhere. He’s enthusiastic and motivated. He’s always looking for the…

Read More

Introducing the Creative Lorimer O’bree

16 February 2024 There’s something incredibly exciting happening on the outside of my play therapy room wall in Howick… And I am delighted to introduce you to the artist who is making it happen! Lori is a person with a brilliant mix of creativity, administrative skills and sporting prowess. She’s working in sports and marketing…

Read More

Talking to children about their bodies: Resources

9 February 2024 This is a follow up post to last week’s blog. You can read that post here. Talking to my child about their body: Where do I start? Name all body parts Start normalising conversations about caring for your body, and healthy growing bodies from as young as you can. This helps you…

Read More

Child on child abuse: An increasing reality and one family’s story

2 February 2024 Problematic sexual behaviour in children I want to draw attention to something that is by no means easy to talk about, let alone think about. I am seeing a marked increase in inappropriate/problematic sexualized behaviour between children. In talking to colleagues also working with children, this is happening everywhere. This is beyond…

Read More

Parenting: It’s about who you are, not what you know

26 January 2024 Parenting is about who you are and how you see yourself, not what you know. Parenting from the heart as opposed to the head. We can listen to as many profound talks as we like, get hold of the best tools and techniques, but unless we move out of our heads and…

Read More

Introducing Photographer Lexi Diack

19 January 2024   I have been dying to introduce you to the person behind the photos you can find throughout my website. The photos of me, my play room in Howick and also all the stunning photos of The Journalling Workshop held in Feb 2023 which have been on my social media feeds were…

Read More

Process is Messy

12 January 2024   Process is messy   I was reminded once again during the holidays that process is messy. It just is. We put up some shelves in our living space and standing there in the middle of putting them up, it felt once again like we’d just moved in. The chaotic mess in…

Read More