Many parents start their children in daycare at one year old, as a baby is often deemed a bit more independent at this age. Every family, however, will have different circumstances.
Some parents may need to start as early as six months due to work or financial commitments. Others may wait until their child is three or four years old. When to start your child in childcare or an early learning centre is a very individual choice and there is no right or wrong answer. Here are a few tips to consider in helping you make your decision.
Starting childcare as a baby (0 to 12 months)
In Australia, paid parental leave from the government is up to 4.5 months so it is not unusual for mums to return to work as early as six months. At this age, however, the most important thing for a baby is having a personal attachment to someone or a few people they can trust.
Ideally, this would be mum or dad at home but a good early learning centre might also be able to provide this sort of care. High-quality childcare will understand the importance of establishing a personal connection with younger babies.
Look for an early learning centre that has a low child to educator ratio for the baby room, and one that can provide your child with individualised attention.
In the baby stage, children need one-on-one care so that they can feel safe and secure. The baby room has a rough routine in terms of meals, sleeping time and play, but it is often flexible enough to follow the routine your child is used to at home.
Starting childcare as a toddler (1 to 3 years)
This a popular age to start early learning as many new mums take a year off work. At 12 months many children would have passed the separation anxiety phase (which peaks at nine months) and are ready for more stimulating activity.
Toddlers, however, are not much older than babies and still require close attention. Again, having enough educators in the room is important. The educators must also be qualified and know how to engage positively with the child. At this age, children start to learn independence, social skills, and how to interact appropriately with their peers.
Educators will play an important role in modelling and guiding children towards the right attitudes and behaviours.
Starting childcare in kinder (3 to 5 years)
Children in the kinder years are getting ready for school. They are often keen to build relationships with their peers. They are practising their language skills and social skills, they are learning to think creatively and problem solve.
An early learning centre can provide your kinder-aged child with a wide variety of activities they might not have a chance to engage in at home. For example, working on a science project with other children, going on a group excursion, or learning how to navigate friendships.
Look for an early learning centre that provides a wide variety of activities for your child. It doesn’t have to be a modern classroom type of environment. The most important thing is a place where your child feels safe, supported and inspired – just like home.
Other factors to consider when starting childcare
Still can’t decide when to start childcare? Think about your child’s personality, strengths and needs. Think about your family as a whole and what you need for yourself. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your child get stressed in group environments? Would they prefer staying at home for longer? Or perhaps they might need a daycare that is a little smaller and less busy?
- Does your child thrive in the company of other children? Do they often want to go out on playdates? They might very well be ready for an early learning centre.
- When do you need to go back to work? That is the deciding factor for most parents. Sometimes you just need to bite the bullet and do it.
- Even if you don’t work, do you think you need a break? Would having some support even for a few hours a week help? Having some ‘me’ time or participating in other activities not related to child-rearing can make you a better parent.
Red Apple is a boutique early learning centre with locations in Balwyn and Vermont. Based in purpose-built houses, people love our unique family-centric environment. Book a tour today and see how Red Apple is different. We’d be more than happy to show you around.