For many mums, staying at home to care for their child just isn’t financially viable. Ever-rising prices and the necessity of giving your child the very best life possible often means that going back to work is a necessity, not a choice. In these circumstances, childcare is a great solution. Where mums have a more financially secure situation and can afford to stay at home, they may feel that there is little value in considering childcare, as they are at home to provide it.
The reality is that some form of Early Childhood Education, can have significant advantages for both mothers and children.
To help mums struggling to decide on whether to incorporate daycare into their schedule, we’ve gathered together the essential information you need to know when considering this important topic.
A major study by the Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) [http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/Does-child-care-make-a-difference-to-childrens-de.aspx] concluded that there were no significant differences in outcomes between children who were primarily cared for at home or those who attended day care, but that children in high-quality day care had better outcomes when compared with those in poorer quality settings.
The key message that seems to be emerging from the research is that, provided the quality of care is of a high enough calibre, sending a preschool child (two or older) to day care doesn’t have markedly different outcomes to caring for them at home. Also, read our article on “Brains are built not born!” about the importance of interactions and sensory experiences during the first year of your child.
Whether your child is cared for at home or in daycare, consistent contact with the same adult or adults is vital, so that they can form healthy attachments. If you opt for day care, picking provision that has a low turnover of staff can really help. It’s worth spending time at the provision to observe how the team interact with the children there; empathetic, attentive and communicative staff give your child the stimulation and positive feedback they need to thrive. Regardless of whether this type of interaction is provided at home or in a daycare setting, it’s just what’s needed for children to develop and grow appropriately.
Good quality daycare is regulated and registered. Under the Education and Care Services National Law 2010, daycare providers need to be regulated and assessed by the state regulatory authority against the National Quality Standard (NQS). The NQS measures performance in seven key areas, including education programme and practice, children’s health & safety, physical environment and relationships with children. High attainment against the NQS framework is normally a sign that the provision is of a high standard. Staff with the right qualifications are also more likely to give your child a positive experience during their time at daycare, ensuring they are given access to the full range of experiences necessary to progress in every area of their lives. While most children cared for at home enjoy a holistic programme of learning and skills development, this may be undertaken in more of an ad hoc way, with key areas potentially being overlooked. All staff should hold an ACECQA (http://www.acecqa.gov.au/early-childhood-teaching-qualifications) recognised qualification, or be actively working towards one alongside fully qualified staff members.
Although most parents are extremely good at “child proofing” their homes, a 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 windows that are out-of-reach, doors which don’t slam shut and a suitable flooring all help to reduce the risk of an accident. 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.
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 as well as 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 is able to easily facilitate messy play, such as painting, crafting, play dough and water play – all activities which are time-consuming to clear up at home. Daycare also offers a very broad selection of indoor and outdoor play equipment; often they are able to invest in sophisticated, high-grade play options that are beyond the budget of most parents. Well-thought programs will favour play oriented towards developing fine and gross motricity, literacy, numeracy, from a young age.
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, being able to write their name and familiarity with basic words and calculations), it also involves mastering a number of different life skills, as well as being able to cope with simply getting through the day without a parent close at hand. A good daycare facility will run some sort of School Readiness Programme, providing a structured, comprehensive range of activities and targets that your child can work towards. Completion of this type of programme can have an enormously positive impact on a child’s ability to cope successfully with the demands that school makes. Finding the time at home to implement a similar programme can be incredibly time-consuming; some parents may also not be aware of current requirements from schools, which may mean the acquisition of useful skills will be limited.
Stay-at-home mums are busy! There are always large numbers of chores to attend to, as well as the basic care which 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 activity needs to be done. In comparison, daycare is completely devoted to the needs of the child, 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 really well – daycare provides the best of both worlds: mums have the opportunity get all those essential jobs done quickly, freeing them up to focus on their children, at the same time as children are able to enjoy a wide range of exciting pastimes in a safe, caring setting – a great win-win solution.
Obviously, every child is different and what suits one may not suit another. Day care offers a number of 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.
Kids Club Early Learning Centres offer quality Six Star Child care in Sydney & ACT. With stimulating play spaces, child-led learning, healthy nutrition & commercial onsite chefs and of course the most passionate and experienced educators, the best start truly does begin at Kids Club.
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