Nearly 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care each week, which isn’t surprising since nearly 70 percent of mothers with children age 17 or younger work full or part-time. Almost 30 percent of these kids are enrolled in center-based child care, such as a daycare center, nursery school, pre-kindergarten, Head Start, or other early childhood education program. Choosing child care—such a day care center or in-home daycare, nanny, babysitter, or an au pair that is right for your kids, your schedule, and your budget can be a tough, emotional decision, and one parents often second guess.
Take comfort from the experts: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, the largest and longest-running study on the effects of child care on development, shows that what happens at home—family and parent-child interaction—has a greater impact on how a child develops than does a parent’s choice of child care. (Hear the huge sigh of relief from parents everywhere!) However, it’s important to carefully evaluate childcare options for your family. Here we look at the pros and cons of daycare:
The Pros of Daycare:
- Socialization—Daycare enables children to spend time with other children, helping them develop important social skills, such as sharing, taking turns, negotiating, and self-control. It helps them to function in groups, to understand social norms, and ultimately allows them to learn from each other.
- Cognitive and Language Development— Many daycare centers provide some instruction or exposure to the arts and academic concepts. Studies show that kids who attend center-based daycare have somewhat better cognitive and language development, as well as stronger pre-academic skills involving letters and numbers.
- Dependable Care—Because centers have several childcare providers, parents can count on dependable childcare. There’s no worry or scramble to find alternative childcare if a provider calls in sick.
- Strengthened Immunity— Really! Parents bemoan the constant stream of germs and sickness kids pick up and bring home from daycare, but a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shows that daycare may enhance immunity. Babies who attend large-group child-care centers get more respiratory and ear infections than those cared for at home, but they are less likely to come down with these ailments once they start elementary school, signaling that some immunity building is at work.
Limitations of Daycare:
- Inflexible Hours—While daycare offers dependable care, it doesn’t necessarily offer flexible care. Daycare centers have set hours that may not match parents’ work hours or accommodate a parent’s need to stay late at work. Centers that offer late pick-ups often charge a premium for the convenience.
- High Cost of Quality Care—Studies show there is a big difference between low-quality and high-quality daycare. High-quality day care centers do not come cheap. They can often cost as much or even more than a year of college education at a four-year university.
- Behavioral Problems—The NICHD study found that kids who attend daycare may have more behavior problems at age 4—such as disobedience and aggression—than kids who are cared for by a parent or other caregiver.
- Inconvenience—Unlike childcare in your own home, daycare requires a drop-off and pick-up, which isn’t always convenient for time-stretched parents. Additionally, daycare centers have strict sick policies (germ control!), which mean parents need to find alternative childcare if their child isn’t feeling well.
Every child responds to care and benefits differently due to his own unique nature and needs. If you decide daycare is the right choice for your family, talk with family and friends for referrals, and visit centers to evaluate facilities, programs, and instructors. Be sure look for the most recent state license and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation.
To find a nanny or sitter to care for your child, services like UrbanSitter can connect you with local providers that accommodate your unique schedule, budget and childcare needs. Choose what works for you.