Tag Archives: competition

Screen Time

Yesterday I read an interesting CTV News article about children and screen time.  I thought it was wonderful to compare screen time to nutrition – an analogy that puts the focus on the content of the programs.

Recently I was asked to speak to a group of Red River College students who were just completing their ‘Introduction to Family Childcare’ course.  As part of my presentation I included a slideshow of the past and present learning environments in my childcare home.

Screen time was briefly discussed during my presentation and the subsequent question period.  Yes, I used to have several computers available for the children in my program to use – and I did not even restrict the amount of time they engaged in the activity.

No, I don’t currently have any computers, tablets, or televisions that are available for the children to use at any time during the day.  The reason for the elimination of the ‘computer area’ was due almost entirely to the quality of content available and the fact that the children had no interest in ‘healthy’ content once they had experienced the ‘junk’.

Years ago when I first started my blog I wrote about the use of computers in my childcare program and their gradual elimination.  It is not that I don’t value technology – I use it all the time.  When the children have questions that I can’t answer we can find the answer on the internet – it is an invaluable resource in addition to their hands on experience.

Unfortunately I think the content of children’s media today has far too much focus on competition instead of collaboration.  The smaller screens further emphasize the ‘individual’ over the ‘group’.

I once had a discussion with the staff at my son’s school.  My son was extremely slow to engage in new situations and had a tendency to withdraw from social interaction.  They were concerned because he refused to use a new program they had recently introduced in their computer class.

I suggested that they should let him sit with and watch another child until he felt comfortable enough to try it himself.  They said that was not possible because it would be considered cheating and would not be fair to the other child. Seriously?!?! What were they hoping to teach?

The children and I have discussed the use of screen time – they all have access to screens at home.  They’ve described how they like to use their hand held devices when they are bored – it is easier than finding something else to do.  They’ve retold me all their favorite parts of the movies and shows they’ve recently watched.  If there are any ‘good’ parts in these shows I haven’t heard about them, the children  focus on the violent, destructive, mean or rude segments – that’s what they remember.

As I write this there are two children here – they are reading the label on a cereal box and debating the nutritional value.  Maybe I’d have screen time as part of the program if there were ‘nutrition’ labels on the content of every program.  However, I’m not sure I have the energy to break through their addiction to the junk so instead my program will continue to be screen free and really they don’t complain about the absence of screens when there are healthier options available.



For many years there had been rockets in the playroom.  I don’t think I have ever had an actual toy rocket but the children have built rockets to play with.  Their preferred rocket building materials don’t come from the block bin.  They use items from the housekeeping area.

There hasn’t been any ‘rocket’ play for the past year so I looked for an old picture of the children engaged in this activity.  I have nearly 4500 childcare photos on my computer so this proved to be a time consuming task.  The only one I could find before I gave up was this one;

rocket01Sorry, it is not a very good quality photo – to get it I cropped a small section of a larger photo.  I don’t actually think they are using it as a rocket in this photo, it seems to be a shaker of something that they are adding to a recipe.  However, they do have the cups placed on the bottle that I wanted to show you.  Here is a picture I just took of the ‘supplies’.


I don’t remember which child originally discovered that those cups fit perfectly on those bottles – it was so very long ago.  It has been an ongoing activity passed on through several groups of children over the years.  There has always been one problem and you might be able to guess it if you look at the above photo (hint: how many cups vs how many bottles).

If only one child was playing then all three cups would be put on one bottle – like the shaker in the first photo.  If two (or more) children wanted to play and have ‘rocket races’ then this would happen;


Seriously, they would never agree to only use one cup on each bottle and put the third cup away.   There was always one rocket that was bigger, and more powerful, that the other.  Some days I dreaded the rocket races.

The rocket play has fizzled out over the last year.  The older children have not passed the game on to the young group I currently have.  Yet, earlier this week the baby of the group did something that was very, very interesting.  Take a look;


I didn’t manage to get them all in the photo but there are three of those milk jugs.  Three jugs, three cups, three rockets that have yet to lift off.  Impressive.  The others haven’t noticed yet, but there are four toddlers….


A Lesson in Infant Development

It was 6:40 am and three children – aged 6, 7, and 9 – were in attendance. They were discussing activity options in an effort to find one that they all agreed on.  Much of the discussion centered on competition and power.  These three do not like to play independently but they all want to be the leader in group activities.

They ruled out dinosaurs because they couldn’t agree on who would control the strongest dinosaurs.  They briefly played with cars but there was a disagreement about which vehicle was the fastest.  I tried to explain that it didn’t matter what speed the vehicle was capable of because none of them would be allowed to drive over the speed limit I had set.  They just stared at me and then decided to switch to another activity instead.

No puppet show, no music band, no restaurant, no crafts.  It was beginning to look like they would never agree on one activity and then someone suggested ‘Let’s play Babies’ and there was a unanimous cheer – well, almost unanimous, I cringed and tried to look busy with other work.  If you want to know why ‘Playing Babies’ makes me shudder you can read about it here.

Once the ’parent’ role was assigned they began to negotiate the age of the babies in the game.  When they play this game they consider the power role to be the youngest of the babies – probably because they think that excuses them from more rules and therefore they can be more disruptive.  Sigh.

They decided the babies were both one month old and as the parent was attempting to care for them the babies were crawling around and fighting.  I intervened.

“You can’t do that” I said

“Can’t do what?” they asked

“Crawl, sit, argue, throw things – pretty much anything”


“You said you were only one month old and a one month old baby can’t do any of that stuff”

“What can they do?”

I printed off an infant development chart like the one here.  They read the list for the first month and the ‘babies’ tried to imitate each item. Their favourite was ‘Strong grasp reflex present’ the parent almost couldn’t escape.

The babies were now two months old and were practicing lifting their heads to 45 degrees when lying on stomach.  They began making noises other than crying and their cries became more distinctive.  The parent lamented “I can’t wait until this crying stage is over”.

Through my tears (from laughter) I informed them that it was time to get ready for school.  Playing Babies will have to continue later.  Maybe I don’t find this game so annoying anymore. 🙂

Big Numbers

Last week, during a period of cooperative play in the block area, two boys became involved in an argument over numbers.  I’m not sure what they were initially counting – if anything – but when I observed them they were simply spewing out random numbers and insisting that their ‘number’ was bigger than their opponent’s number.

First the six year old would shout “One hundred forty three six” and then the seven year old would reply “Fourteen hundred seventeen eighty”.  After several turns back and forth they realized that neither of them knew which of their numbers was the largest so they asked me.

I picked up a scrap piece of paper and as I repeated the numbers they had said, adding when necessary, I consolidated them into a single number and wrote it on the paper.  Their ‘one hundred forty three six’ I wrote as 149 and the ‘fourteen hundred seventeen eighty’ became 1,497.  They excitedly listed more numbers and I continued to write them down – I needed a bigger paper.

I chose a long piece of paper and as I wrote their numbers down I put the larger numbers higher on the paper.  I also lined up the digits into columns so they could see the placement.  They were starting to catch on and when one said “one hundred and a thousand and four” (1,104) the other one would follow with “one thousand and two hundred and five” (1,205).

Then one grinned and said “Twelve thousand” which I promptly wrote way above the other numbers.  The second child thought for a minute and then said “twelve thousand and one”.   The numbers continued until the page was nearly full and the children tired of the activity.

Then, on Monday morning the seven year old tried to explain the game to the other two school-age children who only attend before school and had not been here when this game was first played. They all agreed that this was an excellent activity for 6:40am on a Monday.  I got my pen and paper — and another cup of coffee.

The girl was the youngest of the three children – she started the game with the number ‘20’.  After six turns she reached ‘900’.  The seven year old who started this game began where he left off last week – he said ’12,512’.  The nine-year-old grasped the concept immediately and said ‘one million’.  The six-year-old answered with ‘one hundred million’ which was followed by ‘one trillion’, ‘a googol’, and then ‘a googol and one’.

The oldest child said that was almost as many people as there are in the world.  I said I didn’t think there were that many people but we could find out – so I Googled (ironic) ‘world population’ and we checked out this site.  Then we went to this very interesting site to learn where each of us placed in the world.  Now they know my birthday and my age!  They also know there are twice as many people on the planet now than there were when I was born.

Every day this week we have spent the first hour of the morning exploring these big numbers.  Yesterday they wanted to know how many zeros ‘a gazillion’ had so we searched for the answer to that.  We found this site so ‘a centillion’  has become the new favourite number.  I didn’t want to write 600 zeros but the nine-year-old did…

I don’t have a lesson plan for today — we’ll have to see what their questions are.  I’m fairly certain there will be big numbers involved.