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Is it better for a child to stay home or go to daycare?

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    Are you having trouble choosing between paying for child care or staying at home? Here's how to figure out which path best suits your financial situation.

    Do you have a baby on the way, or are you thinking about starting a family? You'll have a lot of decisions to make. One of the biggest will be whether to send your baby to daycare after your parental leave ends or become a stay-at-home parent. 

    Some parents return to work because they need their salary to help pay the cost of raising their kids. Some have businesses to run. Others may want to stay home to spend time bonding with their children and fostering their development. Still, others can't imagine leaving their little ones with a stranger.

    Day Care Vs Stay At Home–Common Concerns:

    Weigh your decision based on the following factors:

    Financial Compulsions:

    Your financial requirements and commitments play a huge role in deciding whether or not you want to go back to work. Consider the following:

    • Daycare: Once you leave your baby in a daycare, you will be able to resume work after your maternity leave is over. Your additional income will boost your family's finances. An increase in the family income will help you provide better services and facilities for your baby. You can select the best daycare for your baby, one that is near your workplace too. You will also be able to guarantee your child a good education.
    • Stay at home: You will become financially dependent on your spouse. Your family income will take a hit, and you may need to cut down on expenditures. Some moms start to feel like a burden since they are not contributing financially to the household. Some partners may also begin to have resentment towards the woman for not contributing.

    Desire To Witness Those Precious Moments:

    A major concern that you may have about going back to work is that you will miss the joy of watching your baby cross those initial developmental milestones. Consider the following:

    • Daycare: When you choose a daycare, it will mean you will not be present with your baby most of the time. Your baby will achieve most of her developmental milestones in the first few years of life. You will probably miss watching her sit up, crawl, walk, and speak for the first time.
    • Stay at home: If you choose to stay at home, you will probably be the first one to witness all your baby's little achievements. You will be motivating your baby when she struggles to crawl towards you the first time and hold her when she takes her first few steps and falls.

    Making Your Child Independent And Social:

    Many people believe that a daycare helps a baby become independent and social. Consider the following:

    • Daycare: Your baby will learn how to stay away from you for long hours without any anxiety. Your baby will also learn how to eat and sleep on her own. At the daycare, your baby will be in the company of other babies and kids. She will soon form her circle of friends and learn to play and interact with people other than her parents.
    • Stay at home: As a stay at home mom, you will always be by your baby's side. It can strengthen the bond you share with your baby, but your baby may not like the company of strangers and may feel uncomfortable in a social gathering. Also, it might curtail your freedom to go out without the baby. Being around a child at home 24/7 can be very stressful and overwhelming. You can feel disconnected from other "adults" and lose a sense of identity outside of being a parent.

    Pay proper attention to the pros and cons of both scenarios. Understand your needs and limitations. Speak to other moms who have put their baby in daycare or stay at home. It will give you a first-hand account of both situations.

    Commuting

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    Depending on where you live, commuting can be costly. If you have a long commute, the high cost of gas plus car maintenance is an expense to consider. However, most insurance premiums decrease if you drive a lower number of miles annually. Your bus pass is another expense that a stay-at-home parent wouldn't need. Of course, you'll still need to get places if you're staying home with kids, but it wouldn't typically be a long, expensive daily commute.

    Work appearance

    Again, depending on where you work, it can be costly to keep up appearances. Work clothes and business suits can get expensive. Many business pieces are also dry clean only, which is another regular cost to consider. On the other hand, if you're staying home with your kids, you can wear the same spit-up covered t-shirt five days in a row, and no one will care. This could be a major cost-saving factor for some.

    Meals and treats

    Brown-bagging is the healthier and more budget-friendly lunch option, but sometimes it's tough for working parents to plan for lunch all week. Or you may enjoy gabbing with your co-workers at your favourite nearby restaurant for your mid-day break.

    Either way, the cost of your meals may drop if you end up staying home with your little one(s) since you'll likely be preparing more meals at home. It's also important to include any regular coffee shop or bakery trips that factor into your normal workday routine.

    On the flip side, my daycare provides an extraordinary amount of perks other than just keeping my son safe throughout the day. But, unfortunately, many of these things would be quite costly for me to cover as a stay-at-home parent, or their benefit can't be weighed by numbers alone.

    Educational opportunities

    One could argue how much education a one-year-old is receiving at childcare. Still, some of the activities my son has participated in are things he would likely have never experienced if he stayed home with me.

    Some examples: a space day with an outside teacher complete with a simulated moonwalk experience, baby yoga with a licensed teacher, touch-a-truck with firefighters and more. Pretty cool stuff for the little ones! Plus, he has access to new and different toys and playground equipment compared to those at home. But, of course, these benefits to the childcare environment become more important for older kids, which brings us to…

    Socialisation

    One of my favourite aspects of daycare is socialisation, which, as parents, we all know how important it is for our kids to interact with other children. Granted, I might be eating my words when my son learns bad habits when he's a little older, but overall, socialisation is very important and beneficial to all children.

    Career advancement

    One of the largest benefits for parents who continue to work is maintaining their career instead of taking leave to stay home for several years.

    One expert stated that a parent could lose as much as $1 million in potential income when staying home with their children.

    This could be considered a selfish perk, but try considering the long-term benefits of your career for your children. For example, your child will see you as a role model in your career, you can save more for their college and higher education, and you can afford luxuries such as regular vacations and extra activities. Plus, many parents enjoy the fulfilment of an engaging career. A happy parent is a good parent!

    Physical environment

    Although most parents are extremely good at "childproofing" their homes, private property isn't purpose-built to house eager adventurers! One of the advantages of a good toddler/pre-school setting is that it will be specifically designed with the needs of little people in mind! Safety features, such as out-of-reach windows, doors that don't slam shut, and suitable flooring, all help reduce the risk of an accident. In addition, toddler-sized furniture, accessible toilets and hand basins and zero access to areas of high risks, such as kitchens, all help to ensure your little one can move about freely and safely. In contrast, every home contains "danger zones" (often the kitchen and the bathroom), where intensive supervision is required to minimise the risk of your child getting hurt. 

    Activities

    When it comes to suitable activities, variety is the key! Children develop best when they are allowed to pursue a wide range of different pastimes, enabling them to learn through free play and guided learning. A well-equipped daycare facility with a varied programme can often provide a far more stimulating schedule of daily activities than mum can at home. Daycare can easily facilitate messy play, such as painting, crafting, playdough and water play – all time-consuming activities to clear up at home. Daycare also offers a very broad selection of indoor and outdoor play equipment; often, they can invest in sophisticated, high-grade play options beyond most parents' budgets. Well-thought programs will favour play-oriented towards developing fine and gross motricity, literacy, numeracy from a young age.

    Education – preparing for school.

    An area where daycare facilities can excel is in readying children for their progression into school. A successful start relies not just on educational readiness (such as being able to recognise numbers and letters, write their name, and be familiar with basic words and calculations). It also involves mastering several different life skills and being able to cope with simply getting through the day without a parent close at hand. A good daycare facility will run a School Readiness Programme, providing a structured, comprehensive range of activities and targets that your child can work towards. Completing this type of programme can enormously positively impact a child's ability to cope successfully with the demands that school makes. However, finding the time at home to implement a similar programme can be incredibly time-consuming; some parents may also not be aware of current school requirements, which may mean the acquisition of useful skills will be limited.

    Attention during the day

    Stay-at-home mums are busy! There are always large numbers of chores to attend to and the basic care that every child requires. This can leave a limited amount of time to undertake specific activities, play and learning, with the child sometimes needing to "tag-along" with whatever action needs to be done. In comparison, daycare is completely devoted to the child's needs, with staff on hand not only to perform the everyday tasks that are needed to keep your child healthy and happy but also to provide the learning opportunities, varied activities and emotional support they need to thrive. Particularly if you worry that you and your child aren't spending enough "quality time" together, a combination of daycare and care at home can work well – daycare provides the best of both worlds: mums have the opportunity to get all those essential jobs done quickly, freeing them up to focus on their children, at the same time as children can enjoy a wide range of exciting pastimes in a safe, caring setting – a great win-win solution.

    Every child is different, and what suits one may not suit another. Daycare offers several key advantages for both parent and child, although no one's better than mum when you're tiny! Ultimately there is no "one size fits all" answer to childcare, but it's always good to know that with the right, high-grade provision, your child is likely to thrive.

    Leaving Your Child Home Alone

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    Whether it's a snow day home from school, an unexpected business meeting, or a childcare arrangement that fell through, there probably will be times when you'll need to leave your child home alone.

    It's natural for parents to worry when first leaving kids without supervision. But you can feel prepared and confident with some planning, and a couple of trial runs. And handled well, staying home alone can be a positive experience for kids, giving them a sense of self-confidence and independence.

    Things to Consider

    It's obvious that a 5-year-old can't go it alone, but that most 16-year-olds can. But what about those school-aged kids in the middle? It can be hard to know when kids are ready to handle being home alone. It comes down to your judgment about what your child is prepared for.

    You'll want to know how your child feels about the idea, of course. But kids often insist that they'll be fine long before parents feel comfortable with it. And then some older kids seem afraid even when you're pretty confident that they'd be just fine. So how do you know?

    In general, it's not a good idea to leave kids younger than 10 years old home alone. Of course, every child is different, but at that age, most kids don't have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they're alone.

    Think about the area where you live. Are there neighbours nearby you know and trust to help your child in case of an emergency? Or are they mostly strangers? Do you live on a busy street with lots of traffic? Or is it a quiet area? Is there a lot of crime in or near your neighbourhood?

    It's also important to consider how your child handles various situations. Here are a few questions to think about:

    • Does your child show signs of responsibility with things like homework, household chores, and following directions?
    • How does your child handle unexpected situations? Does your child stay calm when things don't go as planned?
    • Does your child understand and follow the rules?
    • Can your child understand and follow safety measures?
    • Does your child use good judgment?
    • Does your child know basic first-aid?
    • Does your child follow your instructions about staying away from strangers?

    Are There Negative Effects of Daycare on Child Development?

    While most research surrounding the effects of daycare on infants, toddlers, and children has been positive, there are some exceptions to the rule.

    Studies have shown the potential negative effects of daycare on child development are due to low-quality daycare programs. A low-quality daycare may have insufficient resources that fail to meet each child's social, emotional, and cognitive needs, which can be detrimental to their development.

    On the contrary, they will thrive when given access to a quality environment with consistent, safe, and supportive practices that meet every child's needs.

    Research has continued to confirm the undeniable connection between quality and child development, which is why opting for a high-quality daycare program is one of the best investments you can make in your child's development.

    The best age for kids to start daycare?

    It depends on your child. Groups will be stressful for a two-year-old no matter what, but they also broaden the child's world. Some kids will be more stressed than others by the sensory overload, noise, difficulty of making their needs known to caregivers, competition for toys, the necessity of accommodating their own needs to the schedule, etc. This is not a normal state for a two-year-old. It is a modern idea that does not necessarily take little ones' needs into account since it is designed for adults who need to work. We justify childcare as good for kids socially or academically. Still, it is not good academically (more on that below), and it is over-rated socially (more on that below.)

    Many toddlers get overwhelmed and frightened easily in groups, which is why they lash out aggressively or get shyer. Sometimes the child holds it together in the group setting, but as soon as the parent appears to pick him up, he bursts into tears. That means it was hard for him to be in school during that time, and while he seemed fine to the teachers (in other words, it did not create problems), he had a soaring heart rate and high levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, if we had measured them. Now that the parent has returned, he is safe to cry and discharge all that stress. So if your child shows this behaviour, you may want to avoid having him in a group without you there until he is a bit older.

    However, if your child is easily comfortable in groups, then short periods in a group will be stimulating for him, and he will be able to cope with your absence. So the bottom line here is your child's personality. If he is the person who always asks to see other kids, then maybe the group will be good for him. If not, then you may want to wait until he is a bit older.

    But working parents can shake off their guilt now thanks to a French study that found kids who go to centre-based daycare are better behaved and more cognitively advanced than their peers who stay at home with a parent or caregiver.

    The benefits of daycare are numerous as are the benefits of stay-at-home parenting. ... Daycare attendance also fosters independence in children, who learn to do many things for themselves early. Stay-at-home parenting allows for great parent-child bonding, making the child secure, happy and confident in his environment.

    You can stop worrying. A Harvard researcher studied the happiness of kids of working moms compared to stay-at-home moms. She found they end up just as happy as adults as the children of moms who stayed home. Kids of stay-at-home moms grow up to be happy, too.

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