Today, more than ever, child daycare is a necessity for families with young children. Even in a two-parent household, many parents need to work and rely on daycare for their children. Besides being a necessity for working parents, early childhood-care presents benefits such as structure, routine, socialization, and early preparation for school.
Children thrive on structure and routine, and daycare centers maintain a balance of structured learning time, as well as unstructured playtime. Most centers have a daily schedule of activities they follow on a timely basis including free play, learning centers, circle time and indoor/outdoor recess. This provides an allotted time for each activity, and prepares children for a classroom setting in which the activities or subjects change frequently throughout the day. At daycare centers, these daily activities are introduced through a positive initial school experience, based upon the four areas of the child’s growth and development: intellectual, social, emotional and physical.
In addition, child daycare centers are stable and reliable, and maintain regular hours that parents can rely on. Furthermore, parents are not inconvenienced by an absent teacher due to sickness, etc. as with a babysitter/nanny. Daycare centers are fully staffed and prepared for such circumstances and rarely close, except for major holidays or dangerous weather.
It is no surprise that children who attend daycare will most likely benefit from socialization skills than those children with stay-at-home parents. At daycare centers, children learn appropriate social behavior and develop social skills including sharing, playing well with others, navigating the challenges of peer relationships, and self-control.
Parents also have the opportunity to acquire partnerships with other parents through their child’s daycare center. A mini-community is formed within the daycare for the parents, giving those comfort and support if and when it is needed. This makes the overall experience positive for nervous and/or guilt-ridden parents.
When children have daycare center experience and it comes time for a child to enter Kindergarten, typically, there is less separation anxiety (or none at all), making the transition to Kindergarten less difficult for them because they have already experienced the time away from their parents. Children have learned the necessary skills in daycare that will enable them to make friends at school, feel comfortable in the classroom setting, and can be content without the parent’s undivided attention. Because those children are already accustomed to the classroom routines and transitions, they will sit and listen, and be ready to accept the information presented to them in school. Many daycares are beginning to introduce those important subjects that children will be focusing on in school including, reading, writing, math, science and history. This academic readiness will foster confidence in the child in school, and peace of mind for the parents that their children are prepared.
There is no “right” time to start your child in daycare, the timing depends on your family’s needs and what will be the best fit for your child. As a parent, you know your child better than anyone, including the kind of care that would benefit your child’s needs, and the needs of your family. When looking for a daycare, ask family and friends, co-workers, neighbors, schoolteachers, pediatricians, etc., to recommend a center. Check the daycare website and any online reviews that might be available. Visit more than one daycare, and be prepared with questions and/or concerns you may want to address the day of your visit. Meet the teachers, especially the head-teacher in your child’s room. Ask about the schedule of activities that your child would participate in daily. Take note of the areas your child will be learning and playing in everyday; are they clean, safe and organized? Inquire about the staff turnover; if the environment is consistent with the same caregivers week after week. This will enable them to develop long lasting relationships and a healthy, comfortable support for personal development. Finally, ask about the teacher-to-child ratios in each classroom. The staff should be knowledgeable about this ratio, and enforcing it throughout the center to ensure the best care and attention for the children.
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