It’s science: Why your toddler is obsessed with your phone

And why it's okay to give in right now, mama.

why toddler obsessed with phone

My toddler pleads for more time on my phone, again—and I give in, again. I think of all the other parents who do it, too, especially when we really need it. In the grocery store line, out to dinner, in the waiting room and now, at home, because we're practicing social distancing together and I need a few minutes to myself. But I'm torn between needing them to be calm so I can relax and worrying that giving in to this obsession too often and for too long is causing harm.

Turns out, it's natural for toddlers to be obsessed with the phone. And as much as we worry about it, there are benefits.


So why are they obsessed?

About age two, a toddler's brain has developed enough for them to realize that they are a separate person from their parents and caregivers. With this awareness, they have a sense of control that enables them to become more independent. One way toddlers express their newfound independence and control is through choices (like insisting on the blue cup, not the purple one). Your phone scratches both these itches at the same—they can be autonomous when they are on your phone while making their own decisions about what they see and interact with.

Plus, around the same time, a toddler's attention span has expanded, allowing them to stay still long enough to focus on a bigger variety of activities for a longer period of time—about 3 to 5 minutes per year of their age. This ability to focus and pay attention makes them enjoy watching the same thing over and over again until they really understand it. Since it can be hard to learn so many things every day, repetition can also contribute to their sense of security because they are able to predict (control) their world, which is comforting.

Toddlers are also predisposed to developing extremely intense interests—like dinosaurs, dogs and babies—and when you combine control, attention span and repetition, you set the stage for obsession.

But is your toddler on your phone too much? Time limits can be debated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends one hour per day of high-quality content for kids aged two to five. But in another study on screen use from the UK's National Survey of Children's Health, researchers found that their wellbeing—caregiver attachment, resilience, curiosity, and mood—was not negatively affected by the amount of phone use. This means that the 1-hour limit is meant to be a guideline for most families on most days, but not an ironclad rule—especially during times like these.

Here are a few things to keep in mind so you can worry less, mama:

  1. Make sure what your toddler is looking at on your phone aligns with their current interests, abilities and skills.
  2. Monitor that content is age-appropriate and encourages them to actively engage with you or someone else for social engagement.
  3. Ask questions and make descriptions and connections to the real world to help them learn if you are enjoying an app together.
  4. Have them move around at least as much as they are on your phone each day so that they explore and use all their senses and make friends.
  5. Remember phones provide an opportunity to become proficient in tech while learning.
  6. Just like any other type of play, pay attention to what they're seeing and what they're figuring out.
Bottom line: If you need to give them more screen time right now, don't stress. Embrace their obsession with your phone as a tool for learning to prepare them for the future—and as comfort when some days are overwhelming. And you get a well-deserved break, mama.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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