The numbers of children in childcare are increasing every day. The main reason for this is that as the economy continues to revive, both parents are now working. In some cases, children are placed in childcare because the parents feel that it will provide a better development environment than being exclusively at home. Whatever the reason is, parents are very particular about the type of childcare facility that they put their children into – nothing is more precious to them and they will take no avoidable chances with the child’s safety and development. The types of questions that parents ask can be anything from “Will my child be happy here” to “What system of pedagogy and psychological development and evaluation do you use?” There are a few general assumptions and concerns about childcare that those involved in the field must be aware of so as to address the common parental concerns.
Children Cared for at Home Develop Faster – A Myth
There is a common perception that the dedicated care of a mother at home is the best environment for a child. However, study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found firstly that there is no difference in the development of children who are exclusively cared for by their mothers and those who are in the care of other. Secondly, the study found that parental and family characteristics have a stronger effect on child development than the type of childcare provided. In other words, parents who are concerned about how “right” it is to leave a child in childcare can be told that there is no difference between home and professional child care in terms of the child’s development. Additionally, the influence of the family is what molds the child, irrespective of whether care is given and home or outside.
Childcare Offers a Better Cognitive and Social Development Environment
This is another widely held belief that parents often want reassurance about. What they are asking is if taking the child out of the home helps him or her to learn faster and develop social skills rapidly. The answer to this is both yes and no. According to the NICHD study, when compared to children in home care, those in childcare:
- Are a little better in language and cognitive development
- Are better at letter and numbers
- Have fewer behavioral problems up to the age of 3
- Have more problems, like aggression and disobedience from the age of 4 ½ onwards
It is the responsibility of the childcare professional to inform parents that while childcare offers significant benefits for the child, the active involvement of the parents in behavioral and other issues is very important.
What Makes one Childcare Facility Better than Another?
Most childcare settings provide a warm, supportive and safe environment for the children who go there. This does not translate into promoting and stimulating development. For this to happen, the NICHD study has listed various imperatives. These require that caregivers and / or teachers to:
- Always display a positive attitude
- Respond to the vocalizations of the children in their care
- Maintain positive physical contact with the children
- Encourage children to do more
- Ask and interact with the children
- Read books and sing songs with them
- Encourage positive behavior
- Discourage negative behavior and interactions
When dealing with unsure or nervous parents, it is not enough for the childcare professional to offer assurances and platitudes. Parents want the best for their children and they will be reassured by facts and reputable studies and research. Being aware of the current research on the subject and staying abreast of news from the NICHD and other such organizations will prove that the organization and the people in it are dedicated professionals with detailed knowledge of what they need to do and why.