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Most parents applaud the American Academy of Pediatrics’ advice against screen time for tots through age 2 — and a limit of one or two hours throughout childhood.

But then their toddler has to sit through a sibling’s swim practice or buckle up for the ride to Grandma’s. Or the nanny is sick and mom or dad needs to jump on a conference call.

So they hand over a cellphone or tablet, or turn on the TV.

That’s a reality Parents magazine and the nonprofit Common Sense Media acknowledge with their new list of “25 Best Media for Toddlers.”

“We wanted to give parents who choose to allow this the guidance they need to make wise choices,” said Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents.

Betsy Bozdech, executive editor of Common Sense Media, is a mom of two, including an almost-5-year-old daughter who started watching very short, toddler/preschooler-oriented shows shortly before she turned 2 — mostly “Timmy Time.” Her daughter started using a few toddler-friendly iPad apps, particularly one called Tozzle, around the same time. Now she is permitted a 15-minute show after dinner on weeknights, with a one- to two-hour allowance to watch a movie on some weekend days.

“I think there’s a time and a place for screens for kids of most ages, though until they’re out of infancy, there’s not much that will really capture their attention in a meaningful way,” Bozdech said. “I also think it’s just not very realistic, in this day and age of screens everywhere, to expect to be able to keep babies and toddlers away from them completely.”

Screens aren’t just a necessary evil, she said.

“Many interactive apps can certainly help kids learn skills — both academic and life/social/emotional. And there are shows that teach valuable social and emotional lessons to young kids too,” she said. “It all really comes down to co-viewing; while it’s true that there are times when putting on a show or handing over your device for a few minutes so you can just get something done is a necessity for most parents — including myself — ideally you can share screen time with your young children, talking to them about what they’re watching or doing and helping them get the most out of it.”

Vetted by Bozdech and other experts and tested by parents and kids, the apps, movies and TV shows that made the Parents/Common Sense Media list were deemed entertaining and educational, and sometimes inspirational, for kids ages 2 to 4.

Familiar characters such as Sofia the First and The Wonder Pets turn up in one or more categories. Testers factored in toddler attention span, emotional maturity, educational merit, entertainment value and ease of use when choosing the winners. Here’s a sampling.

Best smart apps

Sago Mini Friends (available on Apple)

Dr. Panda & Toto’s Treehouse (available on Apple and Android)

Potty Time With Elmo (available on Apple and Android)

Endless Alphabet (available on Apple and Android)

Busy Shapes (available on Apple)

Best short movies & TV specials

‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ (1977)

‘The Snowman’ (1982)

‘Lost and Found’ (2008)

‘Stellaluna’ (2004)

‘The Gruffalo’ (2009)

Best tot-friendly TV

‘Peg + Cat’ (PBS Kids)

‘Sheriff Callie’s Wild West’ (Disney Junior)

‘Kipper’ (Sprout)

‘Ni Hao, Kai-Ian’ (Nickelodeon)

‘WordWorld’ (PBS Kids)

The full list is featured in the February 2015 issue of Parents.

©2015 Chicago Tribune

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