What Do Kids Do at a Screen-Free Daycare?

As a parent, you probably have mixed emotions about screen time at daycare.

On the one hand, some is OK because… well, it’s daycare.

On the other hand, too much is bad.

screen-time brothers

But how much screen time is too much?

Thirty minutes a day? An hour? Two hours?

(According to one survey of daycare centers, the TV can blare for hours each day.)

Rather than seeking a happy middle ground solution to the screen-time problem, imagine going cold turkey.

That is, adopting a 100%, zero screen time policy.

Now, your first thought might be panic.

How would your son or daughter respond to a day without Netflix?

Don’t worry.

If your child is anything like the kids at my daycare, he or she will forget about digital distractions pretty quickly. Probably by lunchtime on the first day.

Their expectations for daycare will change completely after a screen-free experience.

balloon-on-hair static electricity @firstthingschildcare

Now, how would zero screen time make you feel?

My guess is that once you see the results… amazing.

Here’s why screen-time policy should be your focus when comparing daycares.

Screen-free daycare promotes imagination

All kids are creative and artistic.

Left to themselves, they’ll dream up interesting ideas all day. 

Screen time interferes with their God-given originality. 

It makes them passive recipients of someone else’s imagination. 

That’s why so many kids can’t play make believe without borrowing from Star Wars or Marvel Comic movies.

It’s been said that play is the work of children.

Screen time interferes with their “job.”

It might be fun, but it’s not true play. 

Bottom line is this. When kids are “forced” to get creative, they will.

Without screen time, they’ll invent games, tell stories, and mix and match toys in strange combinations. 


If your daycare is adding to your child’s screen load, speak up. 

The daycare should have options, like going outside to play, that you may not be able to do with your child after work.

Almost any activity will serve your child better than another Paw Patrol episode.

Screen-free daycares are more active

For most kids, watching TV is a stationary activity.

Ditto for playing video games.

Physical inactivity contributes to low muscle mass and high body fat. In America, more than 12% of kids ages 2-5 are obese.

screen time daycare


Getting kids to move is easy…

… once you lose the TV, tablets, and game console.

Without a game or movie to keep them lethargic, kids will do other things. 

Kid things. 

Depending on the daycare’s space and design, they’ll run, jump, hop, crawl, dance, roll, wing, climb, chase, somersault, throw, dig, and draw.

No app needed to track footsteps. 

Kids are bursting with energy, as is. 

All they need is an adult to help manage it.

Active kids rest better.

They nap more often during quiet time.

A screen-free daycare promotes conversation

When it’s quiet, kids will talk.

Quiet, of course, does not mean pindrop silence or library protocol.

It’s simply the absence of background noise. 

Without distractions, kids will talk to each other, themselves, and teachers, unprompted.

They’ll stretch themselves, working out new words and concepts.

You know how much your child loves talking to you.

But when the TV’s on? Not so much.

How about when he or she is playing a video game? 

Ha, ha.

in-home daycare screen time

Daycare can and should be a place for language development.

Contrast the silence of the digital world with the real world.

Kids talk constantly when playing. Whether that’s by themselves building a Lego castle or with others playing I spy.

Moreover, if you stop them to ask a question, you’ll get an answer.

(Try doing that during a movie. Fuggedaboutit!)

Children need to be heard.

They thrive on conversations with adults and learn from facial expressions.

It’s much easier to give that to them without the noise from TV and videos.

Although all children do well in a screen-free environment, it’s especially true for kids with speech delays. 

Periods of quiet mixed with audible, clear conversation seem to speed their development.

Socialization is no longer scary, it’s welcoming. Kids can give each other their full attention.

That’s the magic of screen-free daycares.

The role of TV, tablets, and movies in daycare  

Screen time serves many purposes in a typical daycare.

Playing a video game might be a reward for good behavior.

Watching a movie might help the kids settle down for nap time.

Screen time can also act as a distraction for a fussy child. 

Teachers may show TV programs like Wild Kratts in the hope that children will learn something.

A daycare may have good intentions behind their screen-time policy. At heart, though, screen time is a cost saver.

It allows staff to do things like prep meals or clean up while the kids zone.

Interactive, observant child care is demanding.

Certainly you know that in watching your own kids.

(“Mom, c’mere! You gotta see this grasshopper!”)

Nobody can be mentally present with children while also focusing on something else.

Which is to say, hands-on child care is expensive.

At First Things Child Care, we state that upfront, in phone calls and during tours.

More and more parents in Billings, MT are beginning to see the value in our unique, screen-free daycare.

Wherever you live, look for a daycare that restricts or omits screen time.

Try it, you’ll like it.

More importantly, your kids will love it.