Most families in the US today rely on some form of childcare so that the adults can maintain jobs and healthcare. It can be stressful to put your young child into someone else’s care, but there’s reason to believe that attending daycare is actually beneficial to a child’s development. A good daycare can promote a lot of skills that your child will need as they grow older and enter the school setting, giving them a head start. Here are 5 ways a well-run daycare can benefit your child.
#1. Socialization Skills And Practice
Socialization in the early years is especially important if your child is a firstborn or only child who isn’t growing up with other children their own age. Socialization for babies and toddlers means exposing them to a variety of people, especially those close to their own age. Children learn rapidly from each other and also learn valuable lessons about sharing, compassion, and teamwork. Children who don’t experience socialization at an early age tend to be more egocentric and have a harder time learning to work or play well with others.
Socialization isn’t only about sharing and teamwork. Being around their peers helps them learn more about their own complex emotions and how to communicate with others. This sounds pretty advanced, but believe it or not, it’s exactly what is happening as children learn to play, argue, and work together. It’s hard to learn to have empathy for others or what emotions look like when you play by yourself all the time. Being in a group setting gives children an incredible opportunity to learn social cues.
#2. Learning Independence And Gaining Confidence
Children naturally strive for independence, but at the same time many parents have an instinct to provide care around the clock to their young children. This can result in either a power-struggle or a toddler that gets a little too used to the adult in their life doing everything for them. Attending daycare gets your young child out of the house and away from the luxuries of home where they will be expected to do more things like eating, self-care, and cleaning up on their own. This gives children vital practice in being self-reliant and resilient. It can also be a great boost to their self-confidence when they learn that they can do hard things on their own.
#3. Learning The Dynamics Of Group Play And Activities
Human beings, even tiny human beings, have an innate need to belong and be accepted. While we crave belonging to a group, learning how to function within one isn’t a skill that we are necessarily born with. Learning how to cooperate with others is a learned skill that can be practiced and improved on over time. It usually starts at a young age when a child either has siblings, enters group childcare, or goes to school. Around the age of three, children start to truly engage in group activities. Being in daycare provides plenty of opportunities for your child to play with others in both structured activities like games and unstructured activities like free-play time.
Games you remember playing as a kid like hot potato, parachute play, and duck, duck, goose are all great examples of group play activities that are typically done at daycares. It goes beyond that, however, as cleaning up the room and even eating lunch together are also great group activities. Many of these activities encourage social interaction and teamwork. To fit in, a child needs to learn how to take turns, how to share, and how to consider the ideas and opinions of their friends.
#4. A Chance To Be More Creative
Children learn best from creative play and that often includes role-playing or acting out various situations with their friends. You’ll notice the kitchen play area and dress up stations are very popular both at home and at school. Kids love to imitate or mimic and they learn a lot from it. Daycare not only provides this opportunity but day care centers engage children in games, songs, and art projects that help stimulate their imagination. Creative play can also increase a child’s confidence, as well as encourage healthy brain development leading to higher academic achievement later in life.
Creative play is obviously practiced through art and music but it can come up in all sorts of interesting ways. Games and learning activities can both be creative as well. Children will find ways to use their imagination in almost everything they do as long as they feel secure and encouraged by those around them.
#5. Fine and Gross Motor Development Opportunities
While at home there might be a lot of downtime, in daycare there is always something going on. Children will stay more active throughout the day as they play with other children and engage with staff in fun activities that stimulate the mind. Outdoor play will help with gross motor skills like running, jumping, and balance. Things like arts and crafts or independent eating and dressing can improve small or fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Gross motor skills involve larger muscle groups and help develop control over the arms and legs. Fine motor skills include the movement of smaller body parts like hands, fingers, and wrists. Both are important but fine motor skills are an area that some young children fall behind in quickly without help. Fine motor skills could look like opening a door, zipping a zipper, stringing things on yarn, opening a lid, or washing their hands. These are all things a child will get a lot of practice with in a daycare or preschool setting.
The best part about all of this learning and development is that it all feels like playtime. A quality daycare center will not only give your child a head start on things like cognitive development and socialization, but it can be a lot of fun too.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare