One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent is choosing when to enrol in child care. There are a multitude of factors that go in to making that decision, and none of them should be taken lightly.
Some factors are personal – perhaps you’re driven by the end date of paid maternity leave, or you have a fixed idea of when you’d like your child to join daycare. Maybe you have financial or work commitments, perhaps it’s when you feel they’re ready socially or emotionally. There’s no right or wrong answer to this. While it’s a very personal decision, here are some considerations to help you determine the best choice for you and your child.
Imagine you’ve got a young family and have just moved to Sydney’s north west. You’re new to the area and are looking for child care in Rouse Hill. A quick search online shows you a number of providers, but they all look pretty similar. How do you know which one to choose?
First of all, do you need a daycare or preschool provider? Generally speaking, the difference here is one of age. Daycare services offer structured programmes for children who have been divided into similar age groups. They can start from as young as 6 weeks old. Preschool (or kindergarten in some states) provides early learning programmes for older children, generally in the year before they begin primary school.
There is no good or bad starting age, and children are not obliged to attend either daycare or preschool in Australia. That said, it is highly advisable and doing so ensures they get the best chance to learn vital skills they’ll need to thrive.
So what’s the best age to start child care? While six weeks seems very young to be starting at daycare, Australian studies* have shown that the benefits of early daycare for your child far outweigh any parental anxieties. That’s not to say that this is the ideal age for every child of course, but the adage ‘sooner the better’ does ring true.
It’s well known that sensory stimulation helps us grow emotionally and physically – and that’s especially so for babies and young children. The sooner your child engages in a stimulating, learning programme with other children, the greater their exposure to new experiences and all the advantages that come with that. There are also obvious health benefits for a child’s immune system when they socialise from a young age.
There’s no doubting that child care is important for a child’s development no matter what age they are. And no matter when they begin, it will be a challenge both for everyone at the start. Separation anxiety is real and while most children are well through this phase by the time they’re two years old, some parents never get over it!
When in doubt, ask. It sounds like something your mother would say, and that’s because it’s good advice. If you’re not sure, reach out to childcare experts and get their opinion. The more information you have, the better decisions you’ll make about the future welfare for your child.