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What do you mean by `TV-Free'?: Screen time and media policy and practice in the dayhome

The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends no screen time, or at most, extremely limited and mindful use of screen time, for children under age five. I have run a TV-free dayhome program since 2007, and I believe it is better for the children and for myself as well. My daily schedule does not include computer games, iPads or iPods, DS, Switch, TV or DVD screen time. There is no TV screen in the rooms of my home where we spend the majority of our time.

There is no Disney Plus or Treehouse at my house.

While I have not actually done this for many years, I do reserve the option to play a 20 minute age-appropriate video to calm and distract children in an extraordinary or emergency situation, such as the following:

- To distract the children while I do something hazardous, like clean up broken glass or clean up after and care for a sick child while waiting for a parent to pick up the sick child.

- To help a child who is just starting in dayhome to feel familiar or safe by watching a favourite video if they are upset and cannot otherwise find calm.

I very occasionally play a brief Youtube video (under 4 minutes) on my phone or chromebook for the children for a specific pedagogical purpose, usually if there is a science topic we want to learn more about. We have recently watched short videos of penguins sliding on the ice and penguin chicks hatching as we learn, for example. We listened to and watched a performance video of the Canadian opera soprano, Measha Breuggergosman, after listening to her holiday album one winter. When we learned about Chinese New Year, we watched videos of a lion dance and then of the dancers rehearsing out of costume - and then invented a hopping animal dance of our own. Older children who are awake during quiet time sometimes sit and chat with me while I work on my laptop to write observations of their play and post pictures and videos of our activities that day to our private family online dayhome group for their parents to view. These times of reflection on our learning through play together are fun for the children and very useful to me as I plan for future activities to extend their learning and interests.

In addition to avoiding screen time, I used to take a Waldorf-inspired position of avoiding and even discouraging all children's books, music, and toys based on licensed media characters. With the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I relaxed that position somewhat. I saw that many aspects of community life and almost all other shared culture for the children were suspended. The children didn't have many experiences of traveling, going to restaurants, shopping, or going other places with their families to act out in play, so they acted out the narratives they saw on TV. In these unusual conditions, young children really benefited from sharing their love of Paw Patrol and Disney movies with their new friends in my program. In order to value and bring those shared interests to dayhome programming in an appropriate way, we listened and danced to a lot of Disney soundtrack music, and started listening to age-appropriate audio books at quiet time, featuring favourite princesses, super heroes, and tv show characters. My Busy Book Disney sets of character figures became a favourite toy to play with at quiet time as well. I brought in other sources of stories too, of course, through lots of reading quality picture books together. As the pandemic comes to an end, and young children's life experiences become more balanced again, we will be able to to move further away from such screen-inspired programming in the dayhome.

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