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What is the Best Age for Daycare?

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    Does nursery daycare harm children? Is there an alternative? Should mothers stay at home? For decades, these questions have panicked parents. Of course, when to start your child in daycare is a personal decision and depends on factors such as the length of parental leave, ability, financial responsibilities or other childcare options. 

    But at what age is it best for your child to start their daycare? Even though it's a decision, many parents agonize over it, and one many have felt guilty about. But if you're considering daycare for your child, that guilt is unnecessary, mama.

    Daycare doesn't just give parents the time they need to provide for their families. It also provides children with important social interactions that may improve their behaviour. Unfortunately, most daycare centres will not take babies under eight weeks of age, and many facilities are not equipped to handle the special needs of infants with medical concerns.

    And while many parents believe that this is too early to send a child to daycare, parents with limited maternity leave may not have a choice. However, the best age for a child to start daycare is at least 12 months old because the biggest consideration is how your child reacts to being away from you.

    Nevertheless, when you begin looking at different daycares in your area, it's a good idea to ensure that the staff you choose has experience working with kids at the age of your child.

    Choosing the right age for daycare is not an easy decision. While it is true that there is no such thing as the right age, there are a number of pros and cons to starting your child at any age. However, if there is anything most educators will agree upon, daycare is good for your child.

    The Best Age To Start Child Care?

    Parents thinking about child care will be well aware of all the decisions that need to be made along the way.

    This website provides information on all the care options available and the pros and cons of each type of care. It can even help you source a child care provider; however, you will also need to think about the best time to place your child in care and what sort of care will best suit your child as she or he grows older.

    Some people say that in-home care is best for babies, and child care centres are best for toddlers. Other people say that family daycare is the ideal compromise between home-based care and centres and is suitable for children of all ages.

    Like all the decisions you make about child care, your decision concerning timing should depend on your unique circumstances and your child's needs.

    To help you make the right decision concerning the timing of child care for your family, keep the following points in mind:

    Babies - 0 to 18 months

    Babies thrive in situations where they have a lot of one-on-one attention from a single caregiver, and home-based care is great at this stage. However, child care centres can work well if there are a small number of babies per carer, allowing the carer to respond quickly to the babies needs.

    Continuity of care is the most important aspect at this stage. Babies need time to develop an attachment to and trust in their carer. Babies also need a clean and safe environment as they start to explore the world around them.

    Toddler - 18 months to 3 years

    Babies and young toddlers have similar needs when it comes to child care. Toddlers respond well to the low carer to child ratios and require carers with lots of patience and energy. However, this is when children begin to test their limits, and they need carers who can help them understand the parameters of the world they live in.

    Toddlers are extremely active and need a safe environment that allows them to explore while limiting the potential for bumps and bruises. Home-based care, such as nannies and au pairs, are excellent for children at this age. Child care centres and family daycare with low carer to child ratios and good staff retention can work well too.

    Another benefit of centre and family daycare for children at this age is that they offer toddlers a chance to socialize with other youngsters and offer them the opportunity to participate in activities they might not be able to do at home.

    Preschoolers - 3 to 5 years

    The advantage of putting preschoolers in centre-based care is that it allows them to practice their language and learn social skills. In addition, three to five-year-old children are keen to build peer relationships and play with their friends.

    A quality child care centre can be very beneficial in helping children at this age learn many early skills and provide children with the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities they might not be able to do at home.

    Home-based care is also great for preschoolers, provided they have access to age-appropriate resources and games and have frequent contact with other children their age. An in-home carer can supplement care with community activities at a local library or park, playgroups, or other group activities like swimming lessons.

    Choosing the best time to participate in group activities or put your child in care will depend on their personality as well as your family's work schedule. There is no perfect age, and each child will adjust to the care environment differently.

    You know your child's personality better than anyone else – consider the following questions as you go about choosing when to put your child in care:

    • Is your child confident with new people and quick to make new friends?
    • Does he or she adjust well to new and/or unfamiliar environments?
    • Is your child easily overwhelmed by noise and activity?
    • Is your child a physically active little person who wants to participate in everything or more of an observer?

    When thinking about care for children under five, think about group size and the level of stimulation. Ideally, the younger the child, the smaller the group should be to moderate noise and activity levels.

    The Importance Of Choosing The Right Childcare

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    It is so important to make the right decision about childcare for your little ones. Here are three key areas to take into consideration and some questions which may guide you in selecting the best care for your child:

    Brain development in children

    The ages of 1 to 3 offer amazing opportunities for learning and growth as young brains rapidly expand, absorb and adapt to the world they are discovering around them. Your toddler, while in care, will love getting to know their teacher, who is trained to encourage child-led play. This developmental stage plays a vital role in healthy brain development, and childcare centres must aim to create a wonderland of play-based early learning environments and experiences. In addition, early interactions with family, educators, and other children will shape the way your child thinks, feels, acts and connects with others. This experience will also affect how well your child does in school.

    Research shows quality early education is extremely valuable in the first five years of a child's life, as it lays a foundation for a lifetime of learning.

    When choosing a childcare centre, you as the parent have the right to expect it will provide a safe, supportive place for your child's self-identity and awareness to grow.

    It's important that educators in your choice of the centre value each child's interests and opinions and treat them with respect and love. The play-based experiences a toddler has in daycare are where the real learning happens!

    Before choosing a centre, ask, does it provide:

    • Gentle introductions to early childhood learning environments
    • Trusting, caring connections with qualified educators
    • Opportunities for early socialization with other babies
    • Motivation for your child to communicate and engage with the world around them
    • Singing, music and soothing environments
    • Sensory stimulation to spark your child's curiosity

    Building a love of lifelong learning

    High-quality childcare centres should be easily identified because they provide a warm and loving environment for fun play-based learning. In addition, research has shown that emotional strength and wellbeing and a love of learning can be developed well before children can fully express themselves verbally. As a result, early childhood educators believe they are building futures from the very first day of education and care they provide.

    Your child's earliest emotional, social, and physical experiences will directly impact their future resilience and wellbeing well-being. In addition, their care skills will help children build and maintain better relationships with parents, adults, other children, and the wider community.

    Does your preferred centre:

    • Allow your toddler to explore and experiment in indoor and outdoor learning environments
    • Develop your toddler's early problem-solving skills and resilience in and away from home
    • Help your toddler form relationships with educators and other children
    • Allow your child to communicate, share, cooperate and contribute to the world around them
    • Encourage participation in group settings as well as solitary play
    • Establish age-appropriate awareness in reading, math, writing, science and technology

    Developing school readiness

    Once school starts to come into view, it is important to have a clear pathway. Ensuring your child feels comfortable in a classroom environment and has a desire to engage in learning and with their educators and peers is crucial at this point in their lives.

    A child's experience with their childcare provider can affect their speech development and social behaviour. Studies show that children who receive quality childcare do better in school and better prepare for reading and math. Also, they are more curious, are better communicators and problem solvers, and are more confident.

    To be sure your child is getting the best start for school, ask if they:

    • Have a state-government approved preschool or kindergarten program
    • Teach your child about responsibility, emotions, and respect
    • Allow children to explore their self-identity and identify their interests
    • Incorporate literacy, numeracy, science and enrichment programs into their curriculum
    • Keep parents updated daily, weekly and monthly on their child's progress emotionally as well as academically
    • Connect with local primary schools and provide transition statements for children
    • Host parent information sessions throughout the year
    • Provide healthy physical, mental and social activities and events for children
    • Teach children vital self-help skills such as toileting, dressing and lunchbox preparation
    • Allow children to participate in community excursions to create connections
    • Celebrate children's 'Graduation' from their School Readiness program as a milestone event before transitioning to 'big school.'
    • Allow your toddler to explore and experiment in indoor and outdoor learning environments

    The Disadvantages of Daycare Centers

    There are many great things about daycare -- your little one gets to socialize with others her age, sings fun songs, plays games, and learns new things every day. Along with some wonderful newly acquired skills, however, your daycare diva may also bring home a few things you'd rather she didn't.

    Illness

    It's no secret that kids share everything, including germs. Findings from a study published in the December 2012 Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine indicate that children in group child care settings develop more infections, such as colds, ear infections and other respiratory illnesses.

    The good news -- the study also indicates that young children who attend daycare early in life might develop stronger immunity, translating to fewer illnesses during the elementary school years.

    Learned Behaviors

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    Your young progeny is an eager sponge just waiting to absorb a host of useful new skills from her daycare environment. Don't be surprised if she comes home flaunting her language development skills with newfound vocabulary words or knowledge of shapes and colours. Unfortunately, daycare is also a place where children may learn undesirable behaviours from each other, like hitting, temper tantrums, or inappropriate words.

    If influences at daycare do turn your charming cherub into a handful, just remember you have the power to undo any bothersome behaviour in your child. Retraining against bad habits picked up at daycare gives you a chance to practice dealing with real-world influences you will encounter throughout your parenting career.

    Less Adult Interaction

    Another possible disadvantage to the daycare setting is that your child typically receives less one-on-one adult interaction than she might. At the same time, she is home with you or another parent.

    If your little one is high-needs, this might be tough on you both. Take it in stride, though, because there's a chance this aspect could help foster healthy self-reliance and independent play. If you're concerned about it, look for a daycare with a lower ratio of children to caregivers that may allow daycare providers to offer each child more individualized attention.

    Rules and Regulations

    Any daycare you choose operates under certain rules, which you may not agree with but still have to accept. These may be state regulations governing the operation of childcare facilities, or they may be centre-specific.

    For example, you may have an established lunch routine at 1 p.m. followed by a nap at 2 p.m. Although it may drive you bananas experiencing an upset in your normal home routine, your little one has to adjust if your daycare centre serves lunch at 11:30 a.m. and has everyone down for a nap by noon.

    12 months old
     
    Many experts feel that 12 months old is an optimal time to transition an infant to daycare. It's commonly held that separation anxiety peaks at 9 months by many childhood care experts.

    Child care options are identical between the ages of 1 and 2 years. If attending long daycare, the age group of the room will be 1 – 2 years and the educator to child ratio will remain as one educator to four children under school-age.

    For children under 3, sticking to half days in daycare or breaking up long daycare hours with an at-home babysitter or nanny may be a better option. Transitioning is also important. ... Research has found that children who have secure attachment bonds to their mother also had lower stress levels at daycare.

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