In general, most experts say that you should limit or completely ban technology in the day care setting. This is mostly due to the popular Montessori philosophy that young children need the opportunity to have concrete, meaningful experiences in the real world before applying their skills and knowledge to digital formats. However, with increasing touchscreen technology, younger children are finding it easy and intriguing to interact with tablets and smartphones. As a parent, it is important that you know your day care center's stance on technology and you have a plan for your child's interaction with technology.
Supplementing and Expanding Concrete Experiences With Technology
Often, technology is presented in a way that makes it sound completely bad for children. It is presented as something that takes a child away from the real world. However, there are many ways that technology can supplement and expand physical experiences without replacing them. For example, photography can be used to help a child explore basic geometry and interactive maps can supplement geography lessons from a young age.
If you send your child to a day care that uses technology, ask the teachers exactly how the technology is used. Make sure you select a school that uses technology to supplement traditional real world materials as opposed to replacing them altogether.
Limiting Exposure vs. Giving More Appealing Options
When many parents, child care providers, and pediatricians talk about limiting technology, they mentioning limiting screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting entertainment based screen time to no more than two hours per day.
Instead of thinking about limiting your child's screen time, you may think about giving them other options that are more appealing than screen time. For instance, make sure that your child has access to activities that make them feel like an important, contributing member of the family. Often, younger children may choose physical activities over screen time on their own if they are given the freedom to participate in worthwhile activities. For example, at your child's day care center, there should be plenty of engaging activities such as puzzles and sensory materials to give your child alternatives to screen time.
Balancing Home and Day Care Philosophies
Whatever technology philosophy you adopt, you need to make sure that it aligns with your day care's philosophy. For example, if your day care decides to adopt some technology in the classroom, you may need to limit screen time at home. If your child has access to a smart phone or tablet at home, you may want to talk to their day care provider about ways you supplement activities with technology as opposed to allowing your child to passively use the device.
Setting Appropriate Examples
Young children enjoy emulating adults. In a Montessori classroom, this usually involves kitchen activities such as preparing snacks and getting their own water. However, the way you act at home will greatly affect how your child wants to interact with the world. If you spend the majority of your time passively using screened devices, your child will want to emulate this behavior. You can set an example by finding interactive ways to use your technology to enhance your real life experience.
Honoring the Child-led Method
One of the main components of the Montessori method is allowing a child to explore their individual interests at their own pace. In a world saturated with technology, it is difficult to imagine a child who is not curious about screened devices. Rather than stifle their creativity, you should explore healthy ways to allow them to explore and use technology. This may involve finding a Montessori school that has a liberal technology policy.
Balancing the use of technology can be difficult for parents. It is important to communicate with your day care provider and create a plan that allows your child to get the most out of their experiences with technology.