How To Make The Most Of Screen Time With Your Child

So my last post was all about screen time. How much is enough? How much is too much? You can read that post here. Realistically, screens are here to stay so let’s look at ways that you can use them to help your child’s language development and to connect more closely through conversations. I know I resisted Peppa Pig for a long time! Couldn’t stand her! Eventually though, I just bit the bullet and started watching together with my little girl. I soon knew all the characters and plot lines. We had great chats about our favourite characters, ones we didn’t like, things that made us laugh, how characters were feeling and so on. Basically, we used the iPad as if it was a book. That’s the key to getting the most out of screen time. Watching together and discussing what’s going on, predicting what you think might happen, talking about clues in the episode title, goodies and baddies- the list is pretty much endless once you get into it. How to get started though?

There’s a research based approach with a fancy name of Dialogic Reading. It was designed originally for reading together but you can apply the strategies to screen time too. Two words to remember: PEER and CROWD

The general sequence for screen time together this way is by using PEER:

Here’s what you do:

Sit close to together so you can look away from the screen and at each other when you’re talking- just like in the photo.


P is for pause and prompt. Stop the video at least once a minute. Prompt your child to say something about the programme. You’ll use CROWD for the prompts. You’re going to vary the prompts. Keep reading to find out what the prompts are. Aim for 1-2 prompts each time you pause the video. Keep your questions fairly simple to start with like what’s that? What’s she doing? And you can make them more complex when you know your child knows the story line inside out after watching a lot!

E is for evaluating what your child says (in your mind- not aloud!). This means thinking about what they said and about how you can add something extra.

E is for expanding what they say so you add more information or make a longer sentence than they did.

R is for repeating- getting your child to repeat their response so you can check that they’ve learned from the conversation.


Here are the prompts to use when you’ve paused the video: CROWD


C is for completion: This is where you leave a pause at the end of a sentence for your child to fill in. So let’s say Peppa Pig is coming on and you sing Peppa and wait for your child to fill in Pig. This technique is often used where there’s a rhyme at the end of the sentences.  Can you finish this one? Somewhere hidden amongst thorny brambles is……..?


R is for recall so questions about what happened in a programme that they’ve already watched. What happened to Peppa in this one? When you ask these kinds of questions, it helps your child tune into story structure so they get the idea of a plot and a sequence to the story. You can use these at the start of a programme or at the end of the programme. You’re asking questions that get your child to recall details. We also love Peter Rabbit in our house. Mr Todd is one of the baddies and there’s an episode set at Christmas time and I can never remember if Mr Todd gets a present or not. So it’s a natural prompt to ask my little girl What happened with Mr Todd in this one? (You can use these with your child starting at age 4-5)


O is for open-ended questions that let your child talk about story ideas and use new words that they encounter in the programme. Say things like Tell me what’s happening in this part.


W is for Wh- questions like Who, what, where, how, and why? You can ask questions like what do you think Peppa should do? Or why does Mr McGregor hate the rabbits? What do you think will happen next?  You can use these at the start of new programmes to help your child focus on details. Using a question like what’s that?  can allow you to teach your child new vocabulary. Don’t overdo the what’s that? question though! It can kill the conversation! You can say Oh I wonder what that thing is?

D is for distance. This is where you ask your child to relate what they see in the programme to experiences outside of the book. Remember when we went to the pet farm? What animals did we see there? Do you ever jump up and down in muddy puddles?


 Here’s a quick video showing you what it looks like.


Two other ideas to consider are:

Change to educational content like Sesame Street as much as you can & Create unplugged times and spaces like meal times or no devices in the bedroom.

If you like this post, please share it with your friends!

Let’s get talking! MP



Flynn, L. (2011). Developing Children’s Oral Language Skills Through Dialogic Book Reading. Teaching Exceptional Children. 44(2): 8-16.


Fraide A. Ganotice Jr., Kevin Downing, Teresa Mak, Barbara Chan & Wai Yip Lee (2017) Enhancing parent-child relationship through dialogic reading, Educational Studies, 43:1, 51-66.


Towson, J.A., Fettig, A., Fleury, V.P., and Abarca, D.L. (2017) Dialogic Reading in Early Childhood Settings: A Summary of the Evidence Base. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education Vol. 37(3) 132–146


Towson, J., Gallagher, P., and Bingham, G. (2016) Dialogic Reading: Language and Pre-literacy Outcomes for Young Children With Disabilities. Journal of Early Intervention 38(4) 230–246.

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