More and more families seem to be opting for daycare rather than raising their children at home. In conversation with a colleague one day, we chatted about how many of the families we service are now opting to place their children in daycares. Our joint anecdotal records indicated a rise in families sending children to daycares. As a result, I find that more and more of our early intervention sessions are provided outside the child’s home, at his or her daycare facility.


Why Daycare?

Families place their children in daycare for a variety of reasons. For many families, daycare is necessary so that parents can go to work. For others, they need to give themselves a break from the hard work of caring for your children. Others chose childcare in order to give their children the opportunity to interact with other children, engage in structured learning activities, and enjoy the benefits of a consistent routine in a social environment.


Is daycare good for my child?

As a special instructor and as a parent, I see both the benefits and setbacks of having a child in an industrial childcare setting. Although there are many learning opportunities presented in a daycare setting, the one major setback is the decline in 1:1 attention and interaction that is available to the child by the adult caregiver. These interactions are so important at this stage, because of a phenomenon known as neural plasticity.


Your baby’s brain is working overtime

From the age of 0-3 young children are developing skills rapidly. Their brains are absolutely exploding with new neuron connections, or synapses. This stage is scientifically famous for brain plasticity, which means that neural connections are being formed now, and these connections can affect the child’s brain function for a lifetime.


How learning works

Empirical evidence indicates that learning happens most through two things. The first is direct experiences. This means things the child can see, touch, taste, smell, or feel. For example if you show a child a cat and let her touch one, she learns what “cat” means much more effectively than if you just say “A cat is a small, four-legged animal. It says “meow”.

The second criterion for optimal learning is positive emotional experiences. That means that children are most likely to recall and reuse information learned when they were experiencing positive emotions at the time of the experience. That means a child is even more likely to remember what a cat is if the experience of touching the cat was fun and pleasurable for him.


Your child’s caregiver is “It”

Whoever the adult is providing care for the child, he or she is “it” in the child’s learning experience. That person must be the one providing direct learning experiences, and making them positive with loving, attentive meaningful interactions.

That’s why daycare can be either highly beneficial for the child, or highly depriving. It all depends on who the caregiver is and what practices that caregiver employs. When you chose a center for your child, it’s important to assess the person who will be caring for your child.


Chose the best caregiver for your baby

It’s important to get a clear idea of what kind of experiences your child will be having with the caregiver. In order to do that, you can interview the caregiver directly, observe some time in his/her classroom, and also make discreet inquiries with other parents. These procedures may be time consuming, but they allow you to get a good picture of what kind of practices this caregiver employs.

While choosing a daycare center for your child, make sure that your child’s daycare provider interacts directly with the children on an ongoing basis. These interactions are crucial to your child’s learning. As a parent, you have the power to choose where you will spend your money on childcare. Make sure you’re getting the best you can.


Chaya Glatt, SI