Daycare provides a lot for parents. It gives you a safe, reliable place where your kids can go while you work or while you take some much-needed personal time. Picking the right daycare that makes your life as a parent easier is very important.
Daycare can also provide a lot for your child. There are things that your child can get from a daycare experience that they simply can’t get anywhere else. In fact, studies show that a high-quality daycare can provide social and academic benefits for your children that will serve them not just as youngsters but through high school and beyond. Here are five things your child should get from a daycare experience.
1. Overcoming Separation Anxiety
Being away from the only adults you know, the ones who have cared for you your entire life, is difficult for any child. It is also necessary. When the process of learning how to separate from parents begins at the right developmental age, a child can develop greater emotional resiliency.
A thoughtfully managed daycare site can help children diminish their separation anxiety and help them understand that yes, beloved parents might leave, but they do come back. Fear of loss is at the heart of separation anxiety. The good news is that when children are appropriately supported by teachers, enjoy their day, and receive the right reassurance, they will not just be ok with going somewhere else for a few hours, they will actually enjoy it.
2. Socialization and Creating Friendships
A parent can only give a child so much. At some point, a child needs to interact with a wide range of their peers. Even if you are a parent that makes the time and puts in the effort to arrange a multitude of playdates for your child, there is still no substitute for your child being able to interact with a group of their peers that aren’t handpicked.
Children gain many social and emotional skills from being around children their own age. They learn to do things by modeling others and they learn social skills through playing age-appropriate games and doing age-appropriate activities with peers. They will even see kids their age do bad things and that’s actually good too. They can learn what not to do as much as what to do.
Being with kids their own age at daycare will also help them develop their first real friendships. Unlike their friends picked by you through playdates, daycare will help your child identify the things they look for in a friendship and learn how to interact with the widest variety of peers. They will also learn how their personalities affect their friends and vice versa.
3. Routine and Discipline
Even if you provide a good amount of structure at home, it can be near-impossible to keep a routine all the time. At home, life just gets in the way. Maybe you have to run an errand or meet a social commitment or maybe you’re just running late sometimes. No matter the reason, home generally isn’t as structured as it could be and that’s ok. That is another thing that daycare is great for.
At daycare, there is naptime and snack time and reading time and playtime. Most daycares have your child’s day pretty well mapped out and they are able to stick to that schedule on a daily basis. This is good for your kids to get a real feel for what a routine and a schedule feel like.
Structures and routines are also good for their overall development and will serve them well once they get to the more regimented K-12 grades. It is also good for them at home. Once they are used to sticking to a schedule at school, they may be more amenable to following a schedule you put forth as well.
4. Independence and Confidence
We all want to protect our kids and make sure they are as comfortable and happy in life as possible. It is a very normal part of being a parent. Unfortunately, that can be as big a curse for young kids as it is a blessing. When we, as parents, do things for kids when they struggle, we may help them avoid immediate bad feelings but it may be doing them a disservice down the line.
At daycare centers, under the guidance of experienced teachers and sometimes older peers in mixed age groups, children learn how to engage in the give and take of social relationships. They are encouraged (and lots of modeling is provided) to resolve disputes with each other, to support each other, and to hear each other, while teachers observe the process. When kids cannot resolve things on their own, the teacher or aide or older peer helps. And children learn best by seeing others resolve conflict successfully and support each other. With multiple children in a classroom, daycare centers can provide that experience on a regular basis. This will give your child confidence as they grow their abilities to negotiate differences and, in turn, help others negotiate theirs.
This may not sound like something to want for your child but it is! Here is the truth: when you first send your child to daycare, they may end up coming down with colds or the sniffles with some frequency. When a child starts daycare, again, it is often after a period of time where they have only had contact with a small group of friends and family who have been as conscious as possible to not get the child sick. That all changes when you get to daycare.
At daycare, your child will be exposed to many different children and caretakers. The good news is this helps their immune system become stronger by knowing how to experience the variety of flora and fauna in their world–and those exposures make immune systems and children healthier in the long run. With the right exposure to other children and environments (think playing outside and even digging holes in the dirt!), your child will be healthy and their immune systems will be strong.
For parents who need daycare, you can feel good that your child will receive a lot of benefits from the daycare experience. These benefits are so important for early childhood development that even if daycare isn’t an absolute necessity, you may want to consider it just for the developmental bonuses it can provide your child.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.