November 17, 2005

God Barney Is My Co-Pilot Teaching Assistant

barney_simpsons.jpgWe've started visiting pre-schools and daycare/pre-schools in the last couple of weeks, all with an eye to the spring/summer/fall when the kid will be old enough (2-2.5, depending on the program) to enroll.

One place we visited yesterday morning seemed fine--it's a full-day pre-school/daycare combo running up through kindergarten--but in one 2yo classroom, the kids were all stoned, watching Barney. [Hah, I wish. Of course, I mean the OTHER Barney.]

Now, The Simpsons and The Wiggles notwithstanding, I'm sure we're more anti-TV than most people, and I can see the value/importance/plausibility of giving 2 year-olds a few minutes to chill and regroup in the middle of their day. But I was still pretty unsettled by it.

Is finding a roomful of preschoolers vegging in front of a TV a dealbreaker for anyone out there? Is it pretty common, so common you're surprised I'm even worried about it? How do you gauge the "right" use/amount of TV in a childcare/teaching situation? And what dealbreakers SHOULD I be looking out for [instead]?


Deal breaker for sure. I would have left right then and there. Inappropriate. And, to be honest, disgusting.

The right use of TV in a childcare situation is no use of TV.

At least they weren't hiding it from you but a kid can watch TV at home...and will to be honest. I don't pay extra for that on the road.

Okay, I'll admit, I'll let my daughter watch a little Sponge Bob with me; however, this is the exception, not the rule. The kid's nanny NEVER watches TV with her, and I would expect that any decent child care would refrain from parking their charges in front of the tube. Unless someone convinces me I'm just naive, that's a deal breaker.

On further (brief) reflection, noone is going to convince me that parking kids in front of a TV is good child care. If that's what's out there, I'll stick with the nanny at home a little longer, or find a school without TVs.

Dealbreaker Why is there even a TV in a childcare room? Have you looked into NAEYC certified centers?

Deal breaker. Trust your gut.

Dealbreaker. I agree with Thad; the "right" use of TV is no use of TV (in daycare and/or learning environment).

My daughter is 14 mos and loves her daycare -- where she has really sharpened her conversation skills.

When she started I asked about TV and was told that it was used by 'the older' kids, only Dora, once a day max. I loved everything else about the daycare so we made the match.

Now for a month we have thought the girl kept saying DOOR. That was until we heard this word in connection with some piece of Dora paraphanelia. Nope I think she has been begging for DORA all along; we were oblivious.

I'm no TV for wee ones at my house. Baby E watched Wimbeldon last summer and that had been it for her. Daycare IS DIFFERENT -- go with your gut yes but it daycare is likely better if you don't wrestle to make it a poor facsimilie of your house/your rules.

Paying $xx/hour so someone can park the kid in front of the TV ain't right.

Why not just leave the kid at home with the TV on and a pile of food close by?

wow, that was fast. The place is NAEYC-certified, I think, and the morning is supposed to be the curriculum part of the day, not the "daycare" part. Frankly, I'd be less surprised/upset if they ran a kid's show at the end of the day, a little Muzak while kids got picked up one by one.

And I've tried to imagine those 2yo's day; if they're busy from 7-8AM, by 10:30, won't they need some downtime? But I just don't know. It's only the second place we've seen [the first was spectacular, but it's a pure 3yo+ preschool, which the kid wouldn't be eligible for until fall 2007 [!], so it's not really on our radar. It's just there to throw our expectations entirely out of whack, I guess.]

Chiming in late, but a deal breaker for me, too. There are plenty of ways to have downtime that don't involve TV, and I would be very leery of any childcare situation that used it as a tool.

Terrible. Definitely a dealbreaker. You are paying them to care for and educate your child, and they park them in front of TV?

There are other ways of downtime. Reading to kids maybe?

Dealbreaker, for sure. Celeste got to watch the Red Sox win the World Series last year (and would have gotten the same this year if things had gone differently), but otherwise no way ...

Echoing most other sentiments... We're not quite as anti-tv as some of your other readers. My two year old watches about an hour a day, so his daddy and I can make dinner together. But paying someone to plop him in front of a tv? No way, no how.

The daycare my son goes to says straight up in their documents that they use TV extremely infrequently, and only if the kids have gotten totally out of control and only for about 30 minutes.

I the 2 plus months he's been going there they've watched Calliou (does he exist in the US?) videos for 45 minutes total (they mark what they do in a log book or on a white board inside each groups room).

Given that Calliou has annoyingly obvious educational stuff going on (almost totally mitigated by the equally obvious gender roles), given the tiny amount of time spent watching these videos, given that they have only done this in the afternoon (the afternoon being play time) etc etc I have no problem with it.

Frankly "no tv ever" makes no sense from an educational developmental point of view (though, in my mind Barney has no place on the planet). It's all about context, how it's presented, the goals of the usage etc etc.

If the kids are just being parked in front of the tv so the educators can go and have a cig break, then that is stupid, but if the video is being used as a way to calm the kids down so that they don't hurt themselves (any one who says a group of 12 two year olds doesn't need some time out sometimes is being oblivious) then I have no problem.

Greg, don't talk to the admin or educators if you have issues with stuff like that, ask to talk to a parent with a kid the same age as yours.

Dealbreaker for us too... wifey and I discussed our criteria before we even started looking and no reliance on TV was at the top of the list. I would be comfortable with other ways of having downtime and maybe some people here have suggestions (dsgfh's are particularly insightful).

[I'm sure. Alas, they have a "no texas hold-em, no enlargement!" policy, so I deleted the link. I can fwd you the email, though. -ed]

there are plenty of daycares and nursery schools that don't even have a TV. I wouldn't waste my time with one that did (unless it had a zillion other mitigating factors). I think TV is for home use only! Isn't nap time the time to chill them out? I am totally confused.

You probably won't tell, but which one was it? My son is starting at a daycare/preschool combo in Feb. here in the city and I'd like to know if it's the same one.

I'm not a no-TV freak - in fact the kid is obsessed with Arthur and I find we probably watch about a 1/2 hour a day. Having said that - given the amount of money you pay for one of these places in Manhattan - I'd be a little annoyed if they were using TV as a time killer. And, really, Barney? I'd rather he watch the Simpsons...

[It's in DC, actually, although we're looking in both places. -ed.]

What's wrong with some tv? Thing is awesome - like crack but without the killer addiction. Of course, it's the content that's important, so no wiggles or barney shit. Jocko is only 3 but already we've watched the Godfather trilogy (no, not #3 - I'm hoping to keep that a secret) And yes, we do other things, he sits on my lap and watches my Undead Rogue kick butt in World of Warcraft.

We're not big TV people. We never put our son in front of it, and never used baby DVDs or anything else so it's a useless pacifier. He's just not interested. Friend's of ours depend on it to get anything done and their children sit mesmerized. I sometimes wish we had it as a resource and I'm not surprised potentially overwhelmed daycare staffers turn to it for relief.

A couple of interesting articles here by the people in white coats:

Too much TV is not that smart, 09 july 2005

IQ and TV 23 july 2005

[I love the first line of the second article: "Watching too much TV doesn't necessarily make children stupid." I think "too much tv" is always bad, obviously; the immediate question I had was "how much tv" in an educational/pre-school setting. What I wonder now, too, is--now meaning "after we just plopped the kid down in front of "Little Einstein" because the Wiggles weren't on--how/if parents' expectations for others outstrip our expectations for ourselves. And is the underlying reason because we trust our own motivations & judgment, but not a teacher's or caregiver's. And how right are we on both those calls? -ed.]

For us, TV was an absolute dealbreaker! I agree with everyone who's posted that sentiment. There are other ways of chilling children out that don't involve parking them in front of the TV. We shied away from home care situations where there was TV available (even if the care-giver said it wouldn't be on) because there was always a possibility that it would be used. We sometimes watch with her at home and that's enough TV. Kids don't need it at daycare.

That said, it's really up to you if you're comfortable with TV or not. There are plenty of centres that don't have a TV that provide enriching, educational and interesting programs. I do agree with Cameron's suggestion to speak to parents of other children there to find out more about how often the TV is on, what their comfort level with the programming is, etc. In my opinion, the centres that I looked at that did have a TV available had lower quality curriculums and less organization than those who had to be more creative in keeping little ones busy. I'm confident I made the right choice every time I pick up my exhausted, filthy, smelling like zoo animals and clutching a new painting for me daughter from her centre. At least I know she had a busy day and was physically and mentally stimulated.

My daughter's centre brings in a TV for the pre-school and kindergarten classes when they have presentations by local police officers and firefighers on safety issues. I'm okay with that because it's used in conjunction with an educational presentation for the older ones. More often than not, however, they try to plan a field trip the actual station or fire house so there's no TV needed.

Sorry for the long post, but I feel really strongly about this issue! :)

[Do I need to recommend the book, "It's Just A Plant" to you, or have you already trained your kids not to narc you out to hte DARE officers? -ed.]

"I would be very leery of any childcare situation that used it as a tool."

So does that mean I was a bad nanny? I worked 52 hours a week (M-F, I was live out, THANK GOD) for a high society family in DC, who also expected me to be part housekeeper (they left that out at the interview, too...grrr). Let me tell you, when the toddler has finished dinner (which you had to cook for her as well as making enough for mom and dad to have later) and you have an infant to feed with one hand and laundry to fold with the other all before mom and dad get home from work/social hour/shopping/etc, a half hour of PBS or animal planet is good for all of us. I made sure this wasn't a habit, TV was used in small amounts (one show or video at a time) for sick days, that 4th straight day of rain in a week, and when I was crushed with non-child care chores and the lovely munchkins decided they didn't want to nap, hence eliminating my time to get these other things done. So, am I still a bad ex-nanny??

Just felt like stepping in for those of us who have been on the caregiver side.

[no, I'd say you're a slightly--and justifiably--bitter ex-nanny who got taken advantage of by a couple of irresponsible parents. thanks for providing your helpful experience. -ed.]

In the "other things to look for" category, since you're not getting many responses there, ask about whether the caregivers get paid sick days. You as a parent would really prefer that they not be coming to work sick, and if that's what they have to do to buy their groceries, they will. (One daycare, who refused to answer this question when we asked, told us they had a strict policy that people were not to come in when sick. Yeah, lady, I'm sure that works well when you don't pay them for sick days.) Also, not getting sick days is generally a marker of a sucky job with high turnover - another thing you don't want in a daycare center.

[thanks, good points. -ed.]

Without knowing more details I am not able to decide if this is a dealbreaker or not. Does the daycare routinely park the kids in front of the TV (and I stress the word "park" here)? If so, yeah, move on and look for another place. If it is done just once in a while (because the kids love a certain show or because it is part of some curriculum) I would not mind it. It's just TV. Nothing bad about it as long as it is not used as a parenting alternative but a supplement.

I agree with the comments Elizabeth made about other questions to ask! :)

As a former teacher of 2 year olds in a center in Atlanta GA we had the following uses for a television:

1)After 5pm pickups were all grouped down in the "big room" and we would watch PBS as they all got picked up.
2)Our after-schoolers (kids ages 6-13) were allowed to confer together and decide on a show (PBS) or video (all G rated disney-esque) that they wanted to watch when they weren't doing the craft activity for the afternoon.
3)In the summer time we did movies in the afternoons for all the older (4 and up) kids.

Children in the 0 - 3 age group did not get tv time due to their inability to sit there and watch! We always had activities and things planned so they didn't miss it.

Elizabeth is right, we've all been focused on the TV thing.

Greg, one of the things I'm very happy about is that the daycare Lucas goes to is in our neighborhood, in fact all three he was on waiting lists for are in our neighborhood (We live in Quebec, daycare is subsidized by the Government, costs us $7 a day out of pocket... but there are always a shortage of spaces, especially since we elected our current gov, but I digress). The important thing for me, more than anything else, is how they the educators/caregivers/whatever treat the kids. With them all in the neighborhood I got to see them all in action in the local parks.

The other two daycares that didn't call (thank god) spend a lot of time ignoring the kids (I saw a little girl lie down in the sand under the slide for 10 minutes before someone noticed) and yell a lot. I don't scream at my son, unless it's a huge ass emergency/emergency about to happen (get your hand away from the knife/stove/that dogs mouth sort of things), why would I pay some stranger to do it?

You also should see how the staff is staggered. Our daycare has one person in at 7 - 12ish, one in from 9-5 and another from 12ish to 6 (or later, if one of the parents has an emergency). This way there is always two people with the kids. The idea of payed sick days is also a good question to ask (not an issue here, they are unionized so duh).

Also important is group size and age ranges. The age ranges thing is something that I noticed at my nephews daycare, if the range is too big (I'd say more than a year and a half under four) there is always a kid who is going to be both young and small for their age who will get pushed around. This happens in even well divided groups, Lucas' group has a kid who is mostly English speaking who went to a mostly Iranian day care for a while and now goes to ours (99.9% French speaking). He is small, obviously doesn't talk much and is pretty passive. He gets pushed around a bit by the other kids.

My final thought on all of this, and I read it somewhere else, you aren't just trusting your kid to the caregivers, but to the little people that will be in his/her group. Try and see how they act as well.


as a former (until i had my little one) preschool teacher of ten years, no tv (at school) is the right amount of tv. downtime does not equal tv (and actually can disrupt sleep cycles, etc). jane healy has written some good books about this.

also, things to look for is how child-friendly the place is (this seems elementary, but trust me, isn't always the case in these places): i.e., are things situated at the child's height? is it completely childproofed? that sort of thing. also ask about their policy on observation of your child in the classroom. you don't want them to have a 'policy' that hides things from you. and naeyc accredited is good, but not always the standard that it's made out to be. you just have to be careful.

oh, and find out what the teaching certifications are of the teachers, and what their turnover rate is. high turnover happens for a reason, natch.

Actually, I think you guys have this all wrong.

Put the kids in a tv-less day care center, but set up and sound proof room with The Simpsons (or, insert your favorite non-pc, cartoon show - sorry no sports) running on a commercial free loop for the parents. That way, I can drop jr. off in the AM, catch a 22 min epsode with a latte and bowl of cold cereal (yeah, double dose of whole milk for me, babe), then start my day.

Or, come in early, catch another episode, then grab jr. and head home.


[Do I need to recommend the book, "It's Just A Plant" to you, or have you already trained your kids not to narc you out to hte DARE officers? -ed.]

I take it you're referring to my 'other ways of chilling kids out' comment? :)

Thanks for the laugh this morning. Mondays suck enough without having something to giggle about!

[to the "police officers visited my kid's classroom" comment, actually, but whatever works up there in Canada... -ed.]

[to the "police officers visited my kid's classroom" comment, actually, but whatever works up there in Canada... -ed.]

It's sort of like a street-proofing/"Stranger Danger" kind of thing. They also talk about 911 and how and when to use it. The whole "Don't do drugs" lecture comes in secondary school...not that it makes much of an impact with a bunch of bored 14 to 17 year olds. :)

Come to think of it...I never thought of it as strange until now. Thanks. Now I think I'd be happier with a TV in the classroom! :)

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