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Screen Time Alternatives

Providing quality care for mixed age groups can be a difficult task. Frequently, younger children are taking a nap while older children are awake and eager to play. At various times throughout the day, parents may arrive to pick-up or drop-off their children, potentially disrupting scheduled activities. During situations such as these, television or the computer are often used to occupy children.

While it is challenging to avoid computers and television altogether, excessive screen time is associated with language delay, obesity, attention problems and even aggression in preschoolers, depending upon content. Screen time use may also take time away from more beneficial activities that promote healthy development such as reading, singing songs, interacting socially with other children and engaging in physical activity.1

Use the following activities and ideas to serve as fun, easy alternatives to screen time:

  • Designate an area of the home or center as a cozy, reading corner with couches, pillows or bean bags chairs. During nap time, older children can go to this area and curl up with a book, puzzle or activity page. Even though older children may not need a full-length nap, they may welcome the opportunity to rest and unwind during a slow part of the day.
  • During times when parents typically arrive to pick-up or drop-off their children, designate an additional staff member (if applicable) or an older child to lead an activity. This activity should be safe and appropriate for children of all ages. Examples include:
    • Reading books aloud
    • Singing songs
    • Playing "Simon Says," "I Spy," "20 Questions" or other simple games
    • Doing easy craft projects such as coloring or making greeting cards for upcoming holidays or birthdays
    • Acting out a story or playing charades
    • Building a fort out of pillows, blankets, cardboard boxes, etc.
    • Playing board games, puzzles, cards, blocks or other floor games
    • Having children share a special story or memory with the group
    • Playing with objects or instruments during "Music time"
    • Having "joke time" where kids can share their favorite jokes
    • Building an indoor obstacle course with blocks, hula hoops and bean bags
  1. Seattle Children's (2009). Press release: Daycare may double TV time for young children, study finds. Accessed August 4, 2010. http://www.seattlechildrens.org/media/press-releases/TV-and-day-care.aspx
  2. National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), 2009. Active Start: A Statement of Physical Activity Guidelines for Children from Birth to Age 5, 2nd edition.
  3. Public Health Seattle & King's County. (2006). Reduce TV Toolkit. Retrieved from www.metrokc.gov/health/reduceTV