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TV watching at daycare

The question:
At my son’s family daycare, the TV seems to be on a lot. Is this something to be expected? – Elaine, Ft Worth

The Childcare Expert Answers:

Well, it sounds like it’s something that you weren’t expecting… and I think you were right. In my book, I have a long chapter about things that should be happening in daycare settings; watching TV a lot isn’t on it.

In any daycare situation, including family daycare, you should expect that the caregiver is engaged with the children and providing opportunities for them to do stimulating and interesting activities (with and without her direct involvement, although always with her supervision). When the TV is on a lot, it implies that appropriate stimulation and activities may not be available or offered to the children, or, even more troubling, that there might be a lack of supervision. You need to make the determination if that is the case or not.

To be fair, please note I am assuming that when the TV is on, the children are watching it. In some homes, it is common to have the TV on always — it’s background noise, like Muzak. Personally, I don’t particularly like that (I’d throw out our TV if my family would let me), but as long as the caregiver is keeping the children engaged in meaningful and fun activities, then having the TV on in the background really isn’t so very awful. I will also add that it is reasonable for there to be occasional TV breaks, when the kids are permitted to watch a favorite show or video for thirty minutes or so — if they choose, and have a fun alternative if not.

Nevertheless, the bottom line is that if the TV is becoming a primary source of stimulation and a major activity for the children in the family daycare home, then the caregiver is not doing her job.

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