By Ashley Henshaw
With more and more parents needing to work to make ends meet, it's only natural that more kids are spending an increasing amount of time in daycare each week. The subject of daycare for babies and children is sometimes controversial, especially for those who believe that parents don't spend enough time with their children. However, there are pros and cons to each side of the argument. Read this article to find out more about the different types of daycare, the effects of these programs on children and tips for choosing a daycare for your child.
In general, there are two main types of daycare for children: home-based and center-based.
Home-based daycare programs are typically run by only a few adults, sometimes only one. These are operated out of a personal home. These daycare options usually take in a small group of children who vary in age. The environment may be a little more comfortable for younger children since the house will feel more like their own home than a school or daycare center. Since the staff is so small, however, there may be problems on days when one of the adults running the program is on vacation or sick. Home-based daycare programs are typically much less expensive compared to center-based programs.
Center-based daycare programs are those that are operated at a daycare center or school. They are generally much larger than home-based programs. Because they can accommodate more children, there may be separate groups within the daycare which are organized by age. Unlike home-based daycare, center-based programs often have access to facilities like an art room, a gymnasium or a playground. Because there are more employees at a center-based program, it generally is not an issue if a staff member has to call in sick.
There are countless studies regarding the effects of daycare, some with conflicting results. However, the key effects that have been linked to daycare include:
Reading and math skills: Generally, children in daycare have been found to develop better math and reading skills compared to their peers who did not participate in daycare. These skills were improved more dramatically among poorer students than those who were from middle-class families.
Behavioral issues: Studies have often found that daycare may lead to an increase in social problems, such as aggressiveness with others or noncompliance with rules. This problem appears to be directly related to the amount of time a child spends in daycare. However, these behavioral issues are thought to decrease with age.
Social skills: Regardless of socioeconomic status, many children in daycare have been found to have poorer social skills that those who did not participate in daycare. In most cases, however, these social skills were not hindered to the point where it was a major problem in the long run.
Safety: In general, home-based daycare programs are not as safe as center-based programs. In an article from the New York Times, a study published in The American Sociological Review showed the death rate among children in private home daycare programs was 16 times higher than that of children in center-based programs.
Parent-child relationships: Research has found that, in many cases, parents who used daycare had less sensitive interactions with their children than those who did not utilize daycare. However, these studies found that high-quality daycare results in better parent-child relationships than low-quality daycare.
Many researchers point out that, although daycare does have some effects on children, the effects of parenting are almost always much more significant. Additionally, many of the effects found in these studies cannot be conclusively attributed to daycare since numerous other factors could cause those same effects. However, it is still important to keep in mind that the social and behavioral problems sometimes linked to daycare are usually increased in children who spend more hours each week in a daycare program.
If you do decide to use daycare for your child, here are a few tips for finding a good daycare near you:
Call the Childcare Aware Hotline at 1-800-424-2246. They can give you the number for your local childcare resource, which will help you find licensed center-based and home-based daycare programs in your area.
Look for accredited daycare programs. Those with approval from the National Association of Family Child Care or the National Association for the Education of Young Children are ideal.
Visit the program in person. Make a trip to the home or center to check out the program for yourself. See what the children do on a daily basis and whether the program looks clean and safe.
Interview the program leaders. Ask about the ratio of children to caregivers and what kind of childcare experience they have. Inquire about their procedures in case of emergency and whether they have had any accidents or deaths at the facility.
Check the program's references. Most programs will be able to offer some references so you can call up other parents to see what kind of experience they had with that particular program.
Send your child for a test run. If possible, see if your child can come to the daycare center for a few hours one day. Seeing how your child interacts with the other children and the caregivers will give you a better idea of whether that program is a good fit for your family.