Child care programs are initiatives that assist parents by taking care of their children, either for a few hours a day or full time. Most of these programs take care of children from before their first birthday until they are about five years old. But some may take care of older children. Some child care facilities or individual-run services incorporate early learning into their care programs, such as preschools or play-based daycare, to enable the children to gain life skills early.
There are different types of services that are focused primarily on child care. A parent faced with the challenge of choosing what kind of care their child receives while they are away at work or studying has many options to choose from. They can decide to opt for individual-based services such as a nanny, babysitter, or au pair, or choose to go for the more structured child development centers.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Child Care Program
There are certain factors parents need to look for when picking a child care service. Some of these factors include:
- The child’s needs: When choosing a service to take care of their child, the parents should consider the service best suited for their child’s needs. For some children, individual child care works best, as opposed to the daycare setting.
- The importance of a consistent caregiver: Children, especially young children between the age of 0 to 5, require some structure in their day-to-day activities to help them feel relaxed and in tune with their environment. While it isn’t mandatory, having a consistent caregiver whom the child can trust for certain hours of the day helps the child feel more comfortable and form meaningful bonds with the caregiver.
- The child care setting: If care services are going to be provided in an external facility, such as a daycare or preschool, the parent must check out the setting of the facility and ensure that it is a place their child can thrive in. The major things to prioritize are physical and mental health, especially if the child has special needs.
Common Types of Child Care Services
The common types of service parents consider to take care of their child are:
- In-home daycare: This type of child development center differs from traditional daycare. Here, only a few children are taken, and it is operated in a home setting. The children get the chance to experience the same intimacy with their caregiver as they get with a nanny or babysitter while enjoying the benefits of social interaction with other children.
- Nanny: A nanny is a common go-to option for many parents, especially if their children are very young. The difference between a nanny and a babysitter is that a nanny is a trained professional with a lot of experience, hired to take care of a child long-term. A nanny might cost more than other child care options, but they get very involved in the child’s life and provide individualized care. Parents might even eventually begin to see a nanny as part of the family.
- Babysitter: A babysitter is entrusted with child care affairs for a short period. For parents looking for someone to take care of their child for only a few hours at a time, a babysitter is their best option. Babysitters charge per hour and can take care of other things such as academic activities or cooking for the child.
- Shared nanny: Sometimes, families pool their resources together and get one nanny who will provide care for more than one family at a time. The children all go to one family’s house and are all taken care of by the nanny. This enables the children to develop valuable social skills while still benefiting from an individual approach to child care.
- Au pair: An au pair is someone from a foreign country that helps take care of the children in a family in exchange for a small monetary allowance and shelter provided by the family. It is a win-win arrangement for both the family and the au pair. The family gets quality child care for their children, while the au pair gets valuable experience, shelter, and a monetary allowance.
- Preschool: These are early learning centers dedicated to preparing children for school. There are different types of early learning schools, with different but effective methods to teach children academics alongside useful and effective skills for their day-to-day activities. This kind of early learning activity can also be incorporated into after-school programs.
Common Teaching Methods Used in Early Learning Centers
- Reggio Emilia: This is a community-based, student-centered approach to learning. The curriculum is focused on self-guidance and a relationship-based approach to education. In this system, flexible, collaborative learning is encouraged to foster creativity and the development of social skills.
- Waldorf: Also called Steiner education, Waldorf education focuses on enhancing the child’s natural tendency towards creativity and inquisitive thinking. It involves an structured, immersive curriculum for children based on their age group, containing elements of free play and artistic work.
- HighScope: This method of education focuses on hands-on learning and academics. It uses the research-based principle of active participatory learning to ensure the students get the most out of the lessons. Classes using the HighScope method follow the ‘plan-do-review’ method. Students plan what they will be doing at the beginning of the day and are graded on how well they did at the end. It gives the children a sense of autonomy and independence. HighScope can be effectively adopted as a method used in after school programs as well.
- Montessori: This approach is entirely child-centered. A Montessori school will typically have a prepared environment with toys and classroom materials that the children can experiment with. Teachers do not interrupt a child’s play as they see play as a child’s work. Peace and justice are central values imparted upon children in Montessori schools. Children get to play cooperatively on their terms and watch their teachers model good behavior.
Other types of education philosophies for younger children include emergent or play-based education, bank street, and the traditional approach to early education.