Daycare and preschool, especially universal preschool, is one of those “hot button” issues where there will always be some debate. Does it work? Is it good for children? Who pays? Part of the problem with issues like early childhood education is that we will probably never have enough hard data points to satisfy everyone. Also, studies to measure the impact of early education on children’s adult lives take a really, really long time!
At the same time, many issues surrounding daycare are just common sense to most folks who have been around young children even for just a little while. So sometimes, it feels like we’d be better off funding scientific research to study things like Swedish massages for rabbits. Swedes strike again!
What is common sense? Well, let’s see! Here’s a list of 4 misconceptions about daycare, and what we think is a common sense reality check. In all fairness, low quality child care programs are a different story and they throw our common sense radar completely off kilter. That should come as no surprise, of course, that what we outline below only applies to high quality child care and preschool programs. Let’s get to it!
Myth 1: Early childhood education doesn’t help educational progress.
Reality check: High quality child care (that means a nurturing environment and loving caregivers), gets children used to being around others and comfortable in a learning environment with adults and other kids, even if it is not teaching the ABC’s to infants. The main point is not to wait until kindergarten to work through socialization AND learning at the same time. You can split them up one at a time with a little help from your child care provider or preschool teacher.
Myth 2: Daycare is boring and leads to, among other things, behavioral problems.
Reality check: High quality daycare means that your child is kept engaged in a variety of activities, toys, crafts, and friends. It is sometimes difficult for parents to replicate that very well at home, by ourselves (especially the “having friends around” part!) When it comes to predicting behavioral problems, we’re not totally there yet with the science... Though it seems like happy, stimulated kids are low priority targets for the thought police!
Myth 3: Child care causes kids to lose attachment to their parents.
Reality check: It’s not child care, it’s the parents. When children are in daycare, parents need to make sure that they spend time with them in the evenings and weekends to maintain a good level of attachment. Duh! Anyway, unless you plan on hovering wraith-like over your child for the rest of his or her life, you actually do want them to learn to socialize and be comfortable and happy with others apart from yourself.
Myth 4: Daycare food is unhealthy.
Reality check: A good child care center will try to accommodate your child’s special dietary needs and your definition of healthy food. Some programs won’t be able to offer special food to our child, which can be understandable (for instance for a home daycare, where the child care provider cooks daily.) In that case, you may need to work with them (e.g. packing some special foods for lunch) but it’s quite common for daycares and preschools to have children bring their own lunch. If they take a one-size-fits-all approach to the menu, AND they are not willing to accommodate your and your child’s needs, then they are probably not a good fit.
These are the 4 myths about daycare and preschool that we wanted to debunk. What do you think about those, and what are other misconceptions that you think should be addressed?