Daycare used to just be a place you put your children in because you couldn't be home to care for them. Now it's expanded to include everything from educational programs in which the children learn more about certain subjects to play-based daycares, which follow a more traditional format where children choose what to do (within a certain range of activities). Older children have the ability to discuss what they might prefer to do, but younger children have a more limited ability, and you have to choose for them. Here are some issues to consider when deciding what type of education programs to arrange for your children:
What Do You Want the Child to Take Away From the Experience?
Sometimes parents have a clear vision for their children's day, but if you don't, it's time to think about it. At the literal end of the day, what do you want the effect of the daycare on your child to be? If you just want a safe place where the child can be while you work, a traditional daycare may be fine. But if you want your child to have more knowledge or skill in a certain subject, then an educational daycare program is better.
Does the Child Get a Chance to Relax and Play?
If you're leaning toward educational, still check to see how often your child gets a chance to just be a kid and play. Children have to have some unstructured time so they learn how to deal with not having anything to do. Plus, children who are always being forced into a learning situation or activity can be closer to burning out than you realize. Look for an education program that still offers breaks.
How Is the Education Presented or the Play Supervised?
How do the teachers or carers monitor and guide the children? Do kids at a traditional daycare where they can just play have any supervised activities where they're all working on the same type of crafts, for example, or are they just left to watch cartoons? Are education-program teachers presenting a rather dry explanation of something or are the lessons geared toward keeping the kids' interest?
What Interaction Is There Between Older and Younger Children?
Daycares often have a mix of ages, and occasionally, you can find fairly old kids mixed in with much younger ones. Do the carers or teachers treat each child in an age-appropriate manner, or are smaller kids left to catch up on their own as the program focuses on older kids? Does the program encourage the older kids to help the younger kids learn? In traditional daycares, how do the supervisors ensure the older kids don't hurt the younger kids?
Choosing a daycare doesn't have to be difficult. Look at each aspect along with what you want your child to do during the day, and how you want your child to be treated. Those will give you a good sign regarding which daycare to go with.