We tend to think of daycare as a childcare solution for kids who don't have a stay-at-home parent. But daycare has become so commonplace that even some stay-at-home-moms are considering it for their kids. Circle of Moms communities are buzzing with discussions about the benefits to toddlers of structured time away from parents, which include opportunities to learn from other adults and to socialize with other toddlers. Here, I've rounded up the key points in these discussions, which cover the question of when kids start to benefit from daycare or preschool, and the pros and cons of the enrolling your child.
When Should Kids Start Daycare?
When do children need to be around other children in order to develop normal social skills? Some Circle of Moms members say they've witnessed benefits in kids as young as one year old. Shayna J., for instance, says her 18-month-old daughter "has absolutely thrived" from interacting with others in daycare.
Cheri H., mom of a 2-year-old who goes to daycare 3 times a week is also a fan. As she reports, "He tends to be on the shy side, so having him around other adults and kids is a good thing for him."
Other stay-at-home moms argue that this kind of structured interaction is unnecessary until a child is closer to kindergarten. As Circle of Moms member Jennifer M. shares, "Preschool is beneficial for the transition into kindergarten... so around four." Even at this age, she feels its main purpose is not socialization, but rather "for teaching coping skills for when they have to be away from mom for school."
What do the experts have to say? Many agree that the age three is an important transition point; according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, "Children two and under generally enjoy solitary or parallel play, while a three-year-old will be more likely to seek a companion to play with."
The Benefits of a Good Daycare
While many Circle of Moms members who are SAHMs think it's preferable to keep a young child at home with a stay-at-home parent for as long as possible, others see advantages to putting their kids in daycare even before the preschool years, for both the child and the parent. Here, a closer look at both daycare's benefits and disadvantages.
1. Interacting With And Learning From Peers
We hear the words "peer pressure" and our first instinct is to think of the negative aspects on older kids and teens. During the toddler years, though, children can learn many positive things from being around kids around the same age or slightly older. Circle of Moms member Renae K. has a two-year-old daughter in daycare and says, "I have always noticed how much more they learn from each other than from us. An adult can show a toddler something 100 times but as soon as they see another toddler do it, they get it straight away."
User Erin C. has also seen good changes in her 3-year-old daughter since she started daycare: "There are some things that children just won't learn as easily without seeing their peers do it too. Since she went to school, her speech has improved immensely, potty training is over with finally, and her confidence all around has improved."
It is well known that young children thrive on routine schedules, and quality daycare centers provide structure by scheduling every detail from meals to play time to naps. Circle of Moms member Jodi B. sees structure as an important benefit for both of her toddler boys since they started daycare: "Interaction isn't the only benefit of daycare. It really helps for them to be in a structured learning environment. I put both of my sons in daycare last July, my oldest was about to turn 3 and my youngest had just turned 1. Once they get in the routine and start accomplishing things in groups and learn teamwork I think you'll be really impressed."
That is not to say that SAHMs can't provide structure just as well as a daycare center. Dora L. found that daycare structure picked up where she left off, and was beneficial to her 15-month-old son: "He is in a structured classroom which I love because that is how I was with him at home. They have a daily schedule that they follow: circle time, snack times... art class, reading time, etc.... "
3. Some "Me" Time For Mommy
There is always some amount of guilt we face for admitting that we need a break from our children. And then there's the reality that it is very difficult for a stay-at-home parent to accomplish all the household chores while caring for a toddler.
When SAHM Lindsey was trying to decide whether or not to put her 18-month-old son in part-time daycare, she turned to Circle of Moms for advice. Ultimately, she found daycare made her a better mom: "...I feel like I am a better, more patient mom after having had some time for myself. Even if I spend his "daycare day" cleaning the house, running errands or doing yard work I feel rested and renewed by the time I pick my little guy up at the end of the day. He gets to play with other children and he gets a happier mommy at the end of the day."
The Negative Aspects Of Daycare
1. Your Kids will be Sick More Often
Even at the best and cleanest of daycare centers, the germs are flying! It's inevitable that children will be exposed to more illness at daycare than they will at home, which can mean more trips to the doctor, more medical bills, and more sick time for your toddler. As Circle of Moms member Tara G. shares, "From what my doctor has told me, a child's immune system is not fully formed until they are two, so putting your child in daycare before that age is asking for constant colds and illness."
2. Behavior Issues
Daycare can be stressful for kids, especially if they are transitioning from a quiet home environment to a particularly busy center. Circle of Moms member Katherine C. shares findings from The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development that indicate that certain daycare environments stress kids out: "cortisol levels have been found to increase into the afternoon (signaling higher anxiety) when kids are in daycare. . . .[this] pattern still existed when those kids reached age 15."
On the other hand, the NICHD goes on to say that, "The cortisol findings are also very slight... One study showed that the cortisol change is linked to classrooms of 20 kids or more and only holds true when the children have difficult relationships with their teachers... For high-quality centers there was little or no effect."
Behavior issues can arise when toddlers are learning bad habits from their peers. A Circle of Moms member who goes by the name of 'Good Day!' points out that time with adults is still the most important part of learning proper social interaction: "I think it's better for toddlers to learn social skills from adults than other toddlers."
Stay-at-home-mom Dale L. advises against daycare for the same reasons: "my daughter was an only child for nearly 4 years... It didn't worry me at all, she had enough time to learn who she was at that age before I was pushing her onto other children, and their habits."
3. The Expense
The expense of childcare is a major issue for many families, especially when living on one income. Full-time daycare in the U.S. can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars each week. There are other options such as part-time or hourly daycare available in some areas, that are more affordable and better meet the needs of stay at home parents.
Daycare is also not the only option for help with socialization before preschool. Many stay-at-home parents utilize play groups, mommy and me programs, and baby gyms to provide their little ones with social interaction. Some areas have church groups or moms' organizations that are free of charge. Margaret B., mom of 2 girls, advises: "...join a local moms' group / playgroup to meet other moms/kids that YOU and your daughter feel comfortable with."
Has daycare been good for your toddler?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.