There are many questions surrounding the right age to start childcare, with lots of answers being provided that can bewilder and overwhelm parents and families. So, what is the right age to start childcare? Find out the answer from the experts below.
Is there a Best Age to Start Childcare?
Considering the best age to start childcare can be a daunting and anxious time for families. Often, you may feel that the decision is out of your hands entirely, with work life and family balance making childcare a necessity. So, let’s take the time now to explore some of these anxieties you may be feeling…
Firstly, I would like to dispel the myth that there is a right ‘age’ for your child to join grouped care. Early childhood professionals like us know that, as much as children will often follow normative trends of development, each child is an individual who exists within a unique and sometimes complex context. How could we possibly say, therefore, that there is one right age for each child.
Let’s Consider your Childs Development
Instead, the question should be more focused on your child’s stage of development and whether the timing is right for them and you as a family… after all, the reality for most is that work (even if from home) is an essential part of family life. Providing your child all that they need to thrive whilst managing this is a balance that is often all too difficult to strike.
Benefits of Childcare
Similarly, even for those families who may be full-time carers at home, there is still great benefit to be had from the environment, both socially and physically, that grouped care can provide. As such, understanding the dynamics of daycare and what your child can be provided at different stages of their development is a great way for you to consider if now is the right time to start childcare for you.
What age groups are in childcare?
Early childhood professionals, like us here at The Green Elephant, are trained to understand the holistic way in which children develop, with their social, emotional, physical, and communicative needs evolving, not in isolation, but typically at the same time. As such, we are positioned as observers of development, knowing how and when to input, engage and extend upon children’s play.
Put simply, daycare doesn’t just provide supervision for your child whilst you are engaged elsewhere… quality daycare will provide your child with purposeful environments which provoke learning, encourage development, and support your child to thrive.
Tailoring this to each individual child’s needs and stage of development is no easy task, as it considers all the complex happenings within your child’s context. However, being responsive and reactive professionals who can curate a learning space to support these complexities is the key to success, starting with the groupings of typical long day cares.
Here at The Green Elephant, we typically group our children in the following ages/stages:
- Babies aged 0-12 months
- Infants aged 12-24 months
- Toddlers aged 2-3 years
- Preschool-aged 3 years +
These age groups are a guide; however, children may transition later or earlier from phase to phase based on their individual developmental needs. Getting the space right for the child is very important and we often find that some children will benefit from the cozier, more intimate setup of a nursery room for longer, whereas others may value the larger and more varied arrangement of the toddler space.
Babies & infants
Children at their earliest stage of development will thrive most within small groupings, with the 1 adult to 4 nursery children ratio providing the perfect comfort and individual support that our youngest children need. Families can often be worried that young infants won’t get the attention and care they need when in day care. However, educators who support this age are trained to understand the calm and deliberate interactions needed from them to cater for the children’s needs.
In this age group, the daily routines are flexibly approached to provide each individual child with the sleep, rest, and nourishment they require. We also recognise the ongoing effort, sleepless nights, and tireless attempts for your child to feed that it takes to establish an effective home routine that works for all. We are here to help, so that you and your child’s transition into day care can be as smooth as possible as to not disrupt family life.
Ever heard of the ‘terrible twos’… that stage when it seems that there is nothing that will help your child to regulate their energy and emotions? Well, we as professionals don’t see anything terrible about this phase of development. In fact, this sudden burst of hormonal energy and self-assertion, although tricky to manage, within the right context can lead to beautiful moments of peer interaction, spikes within independence, and deepened cognitive understanding.
Providing your child with a context that gives them the patience and energy needed to nurture their evolving interests is vital at this stage, with grouped care being a wonderful way of keeping your child, both physically and mentally active in a way that untailored environments may struggle to offer. Socialisation comes into full force at this stage, with children requiring us as their elders to teach them skills of initiating, engaging in, and participating in interactions with others.
The benefits of grouped care for children as they prepare for big school may seem an obvious one, but there are many aspects of school readiness that are important to a child that often are overlooked. Writing and recognising their name, having a basic understanding of mathematical functions, and knowing how to attend to aspects of self-care, whilst important, are not the only skills a child requires. Even simply having the confidence to contribute to group learning scenarios, such as show and tell, or interacting with peers to scaffold each other’s learning and play, are fundamental skills that children do not just acquire.
We as professionals within the early childhood industry understand the vital role that we play in supporting children’s confidence and self-will, helping them to build a secure sense of identity. Moreover, we can provide age-appropriate resources that stimulate and extend upon children’s learning and interests through a play-based curriculum. Simply, children have an abundance of opportunity to learn, love and thrive just by playing!
Signs that your child is ready for childcare
Multiple factors come into play when considering your child’s readiness for childcare.
Your Childs Personality
Think about their personality… are they receptive to others and able to adjust, even slightly, to different social situations? No child is expected to enter into the care of an educator without a glance back at parents, and a possible few tears along the way, but consider if they can be comforted by others. Does your child show curiosity and intrigue about new people they meet? Can they separate from you, even just physically, and still engage in the world around them? These are good indications of your child’s readiness for daycare.
Parents Work Schedule
Also, important to consider are family work schedules… do the timings of the daycare provide you with the flexibility you need when factoring in the commute to work? Would a location closer to work or home be more suitable to the needs of your family? These are important things to consider as, although they may not seem as important as your child themselves, these factors can greatly impact your ability to participate in an effective partnership with the daycare provider. Remember, good quality service providers will want you (within whatever capacity suits your family) to be active participants in your child’s care. Organising your schedules so you can have a 5-minute handover at the end of your child’s day is an important consideration to therefore make.
It may also be worth considering the opportunities your child has outside of the home environment to interact with others. Although siblings are a great source of play and learning for young children, giving them occasions, where they can engage with others who are developmentally similar, is important in allowing them the chance to learn necessary skills and behaviours at a pace that suits them. Especially during the pandemic, structuring moments of peer engagement, in a way that you feel will keep your family and others safe, has been very difficult. Grouped care will provide your child with these moments in a way that is purposefully structured to be safe, supportive and (most of all) fun!
What we can do to help
We will chat to you about your child’s needs, what you can expect from the enrolment and orientation process, as well as give you some advice in tackling those nerves you will undoubtedly be feeling.
We look forward to welcoming you to The Green Elephant family.