It’s an age-old question – what age should my child start at daycare? And unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as black and white. If you start your child at 6 weeks old, it’s too soon. Start your child in kindergarten, and it’s too late. Everyone has an opinion – but what you need to do is weigh up the pros and cons for yourself. Here is what you need to know about each age group and the pros and cons for each.
Depending on where you work, your paid parental leave could be anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, and once that’s over, you may need to return to work or risk losing your job. Or, it could be that you are struggling with a newborn and just feel as though you need a “break” for a few hours each week. Both of these are perfectly normal reasons why you might be considering childcare for your newborn, and there are pros and cons for signing them up at this young age.
- Babies get used to a schedule
- Consistent care
- Low teacher-child ratios
- Daily ongoing stimulation that helps them to grow
- Meaningful interactions with adults and other babies
- Age-appropriate care offered
- More affordable than a baby nanny
- Same location for care each day
- Social support for mum and dad
- Higher likelihood of illness
- Less individual attention
- Staff turnover could upset routines
If you’ve been able to keep your child at home a bit longer, you might be considering starting childcare once they hit toddler age – 18 months – 3 years. There are certainly benefits for doing so, not only does it give them more social freedom, but it does the same for you as well. It also allows you to get back to work now that they’re not 100% reliant on you and have generally passed the separation anxiety phase which peaks at around nine months old.
- Safe environment to learn and explore
- Teaches them to be creative
- Encourages them to play with other children
- Helps them develop important social skills
- Teaches self-control, negotiating
- Assists with cognitive development
- Stengthens their immune system
- Helps language development
- The older they get, the more expensive childcare is
- Leads to more illness
- Need to share carer’s attention with other children
- High staff turnover may impact behaviour / anxiety
If you haven’t already started your child in daycare by the time they are 3-5 years old, now is the perfect time to do so, even if its just for 2-3 days a week. Many centres, like in Bacchus Marsh childcare, offer a government-approved Kindergarten program that’s designed to help children get ready for mainstream school – and by this age, the benefits far outweigh the cons.
- Great learning environment
- Teaches social skills
- Introduces literacy and numeracy
- Option for STEM or Montessori style learning, among others.
- Exposure to new learning experiences
- Builds relationships with adults
- Gets them used to school-time schedules
- Exposure to a wide range of activies, such as art, music, dance, sports
- Safe play and learning environment
- Lack of one-on-one time
- Less play, more learning at some centres
Essentially, there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. Follow your instinct and do what you have to do to survive – if that means you start them in childcare at 6 weeks old so you can get back to work, then that’s what you have to do. Don’t let anyone else tell you what’s right or wrong. Choose a centre that suits your child’s personality and your expectations and you’ll have a greater chance of success.