The debate that almost every parent wrestles with at some point is whether to send your child to preschool, daycare, hire a nanny, or stay at home and care for them yourself. You start thinking about costs, career impact, safety, education, and probably your own sanity. If you are leaning toward the preschool route there are some benefits that high-quality centers can give you.
Daily Structure & Routine for Toddlers
Regardless of age, all children in Early Childhood Education (ECE) or child care centers have a set daily schedule of activities such as nap time, lunch and snack time, playtime, story time, and outdoor time. Providing specific activities and tasks each day gives children a sense of stability and structure that can benefit their intellectual and social development. This sense of structure also helps parents: children are less likely to resist adhering to a schedule at home if they are used to following a set schedule at daycare.
Social development and interaction with peers
At child care, children spend time together in a supervised, structured, and safe environment. Kids learn about teamwork, problem-solving, sharing, empathy, and resolving conflicts. All of these learned values and behaviors can have a significant impact on their emerging personalities and developing minds.
Adult interaction and non-parent authority figures
When children are very young, they interact with and learn from adult family members such as parents, grandparents, and aunts or uncles. ECE and child care centers allow children to look to other adults as mentors and authority figures who can provide positive guidance. Quality child care providers give children encouragement, love, and affection, and respond to their needs in a positive manner that discourages negative behaviors and interactions. This type of social interaction teaches children not only to respect others, but to respect themselves.
A smoother kindergarten transition
The academic, social, and intellectual skills that children learn in ECE can make the transition to formal schooling easier to handle. A child who has spent the first five or six years of life at home may not be used to the more rigid structure of school, and may become more overwhelmed by it than children who are used to attending daycare.
Social and economic benefits for parents and communities
Parents often chat with caregivers, teachers, and each other when dropping off or picking up their kids at their child care center. These moments and other events related to the center their child attends build a sense of community. Preschools and child care centers are also especially beneficial in low-income neighborhoods, where centers often serve as a resource for people to connect with community and government support services.
The answer to the question of whether or not child care is good for young children is really a personal one. It varies from family to family, center to center, and involves many different elements. However, there is one thing that can be counted on for sure: providing quality early childhood education in a positive environment where children are engaged, supported, and encouraged can help babies, toddlers, and families thrive.