Months ago, I asked some friends, and families to see what is the best age to start daycare. I received a lot of conflicting responses. Some say, you should start when your baby is a newborn. The reason is that they aren’t “attached” to any adult yet so it’s very easy for them to adapt to a daycare setting.
Some of them say that it is better to let your child go after they turn two, because they would already be able to walk, talk, and have some ability to express their needs. Personally, I agreed with the latter because I feel that the older my daughter was, the better she can adjust to a daycare environment. If for example, she gets bullied at daycare then she would at least be able to communicate with me on the issue.
However, I also didn’t want her to “fall behind” other children because I delayed the start of her daycare. In the end, I spoke to several daycare teachers who are very good friends of mine and they gave me advice that dissolved most myths in my head.
What Is The Minimum Age For Daycare?
Ideally speaking, your child should be at least 12 months old before you send her to daycare. The reason is that that’s around the time where she already did most of her vaccines.
Just like any school, a daycare setting involves many children. Other children can spread germs on your child, and your child can spread germs on them. This is unavoidable.
Even if you don’t do vaccines, your child should have a strong enough immune system by 12 months old. If you feed her with breast milk, then her immune system would be even better, because you are sharing the mother’s antibodies with her.
Of course, your child might still get sick rather easily in a daycare setting. The reason is that a child’s immune system is only completely developed when she is at least ten years old. Unless, you want your child to skip daycare, kindergarten, and all the way up to fourth grade in elementary school, you really have no choice but to let her get sick at some point during this period.
Some Parents Have No Choice
For me personally, I go to work, and my wife stays at home to watch our daughter. In my scenario, I can delay my daughter from going to daycare as long as possible. However, for some parents, this is a luxury you don’t have.
This is especially true if both parents are working. It is true that there is maternal leave, but it doesn’t last more than twelve weeks, and most companies offer only six weeks. Not to mention, it is usually unpaid so I can understand how stressful it is for these parents.
For these parents, I can only wish them good luck, because they have to pretty much dump their child in daycare pretty much right after they are born.
There are certain advantages to this early start. During newborn stages, daycare can help you handle your baby’s crawling, walking, and weening (switching from milk to solid foods), and potty training.
It seems like sending your child to daycare early has its advantages. So would your child fall behind if you send her in later? The answer is no. Let me explain.
Does Waiting Make Your Child Fall Behind Others?
There is this common misconception that the later you send your child to daycare, the more she would “fall behind” other children. That is absolutely not true. Children that goes to daycare can range from newborn to four years old.
Children in this age group doesn’t really have the capability to learn much yet. Of course, they might be able to learn how to add, subtract, multiply, and say all the letters of the alphabet before kindergarten. However, that is also something you can teach at home. Not to mention, there are plenty of YouTube videos that can teach this kind of stuff.
Would Your Child Fall Behind Socially?
A daycare is overrated by a lot of people in the social aspect. Some of my relatives even claims that my child will be socially handicapped if I don’t send her to daycare early. That is total bull crap.
As I mentioned earlier, I have spoken to many daycare teachers before. All of them concluded that your child won’t fall behind socially even if you send her to daycare later than other children. The reason is that there are other ways to develop her social skills.
First, Your Child Must Have Good Emotional Development
To have good social skills, your child should have a solid emotional development. For that, whoever that takes care of her the most holds the greatest responsibility. Your child would mimic and learn the emotions of the adult that she hangs out with the most. Usually, that would be the parents, but sometimes it could be grandparents depending on who takes care of her.
This is fairly important because if caretaker is always aggressive, and violent, then the child will tend to have aggressive and violent emotions. Of course, this is going to be very disruptive when it comes to developing her social skills.
Unless your idea of social development is to have your child bully other children into subordination, then this kind of emotional development is not what you want.
On the other hand, if the caretaker handles things smoothly, doesn’t give in to pressure, and always handles thing with confidence and nice smiles, then the child would also do the same.
Yes, I understand that it is hard to not raise your voice sometimes, and life is stressful. However, don’t forget that your child is learning whatever you are doing.
Your life might suck right now. Unless you want your child’s future to also suck, you better handle any nasty behaviors and be a good role model as a parent.
One type of emotional development you should help your child develop properly is empathy. Even though there are science out there that emphasizes that living creatures can’t truly understand each other’s emotions. Personally, I feel that it is not true.
Helping your child understand other people’s feelings is something that parents can do better than daycare teachers. Without a doubt, you will almost always understand your child better than your child’s daycare teacher. Even if you do send your child to daycare, don’t rely on them to strengthen your child’s sense of empathy.
Second, Your Child Must Play With Other Children
You might be wondering how your child is supposed to play with other children outside of the daycare setting. You can always take your child to
- local parks
- shopping centers
It is almost guaranteed that your child will meet other children. You might even find them hanging out on the streets in your neighborhood.
Of course, don’t “shove” your child into other children’s already established social groups. Let your child naturally enter their groups and play with them. This is not something that can be forced.
Besides, even if you do manage to force it, your child wouldn’t learn anything on her own, because you are doing most of the work for her.
One thing you can do is to proactively play with other children yourself, and let your child copy your behaviors. Since you are your child’s role model, it only makes sense for her to copy and learn your ways.
What Is The Best Age To Start Daycare Then?
If you have a choice, ideally three years old is the best time to start daycare for your child. During this age, your child can express her needs properly, and she can sort of understand what she is going through without being overly stressed out. If possible, send your child to daycare during the spring season when fewer germs are being spread.
Children two and under easily gets stressed out in a daycare setting, because their parents are not around to emotionally support them. A daycare teacher can sort of substitute this parental role, but since they can’t go one-on-one with every child, it is simply not as good as the real parents.
Personally, my family really wants to start my daughter early, so she is in daycare now even though she is only two years old. I would’ve liked to wait longer if possible, but my wife wants to give her an early start.
The Ideal Timing Should Depend On Your Child’s Personality
Even though I said that three years old is the ideal time, you can send your child to daycare earlier if she has the personality for it.
I have a friend who’s daughter is only seventeen months old. Her daughter was dying to go to daycare because she heard that there will a lot of toys and kids she can play with.
On the other hand, my other friend’s son was sent to daycare around the same age. He’s cries every time he goes to daycare. He has already gone to the same daycare for a year, and he’s still crying every time his mother wave goodbye to him.
If your child is the more outgoing type, you can probably send her to daycare earlier. If she is the shy type, then send her later. If you have a choice, then don’t send her to daycare at all. It is not like it’s a requirement. Just make sure you teach her properly at home.
What Happens When Your Child Goes To Daycare Before She Is Ready?
Since ancient times, children aren’t meant to leave their parent’s side for more than a few hours. They still rely on parents like you for emotional growth and support. If you send your child to daycare before she is ready then you should expect her to build up some stress. You will see behaviors like:
- Being rebellious
- Being violent, and aggressive to siblings
- Always crying and being clingy
- Having nightmares
Of course, as mentioned earlier, not every parent has a choice in terms of choosing when to send their child to daycare. I totally get you. However, I just want to make you become aware of what would happen if you do send her to daycare too early.
That’s why when you are at home, try to bond with her more and be more understanding. Try to understand that your child isn’t being “bad”. She is still learning to control, and express her emotions properly.
Try to be a good role model that your child can look up to at home. Also, show her how you socialize with other people, and children at parks when you have time to let her see how you handle social situations. It would help her handle her time in a daycare, and possibly make some friends of her own.
Should Your Child Reach Any Milestones Beforehand?
Some people might wonder if it is necessary to have their child potty trained before going to a daycare. The answer is no. As mentioned earlier, the advantage of a daycare is that they can do that for you.
This applies also to motor skills your child needs to develop like sitting, crawling, walking, and self-feeding. Daycare teachers are specialized in childhood education after all, so they can accomplish this.
If Your Child Isn’t Potty Trained Yet
If your child is already fully potty trained, then good for you. However, if your child is not potty trained, or barely potty trained, then your daycare will have to do it for you. To make the process easier, you also have preparations to make on your end.
You have to make sure that your child is wearing pants that are easy to pull down. You should also prepare two sets of pants or shorts as backup in case and accident occurs. Make sure these pants are easy to take off quickly so that your child can reach the toilet and do her business in time. This builds confidence for your child to go to the bathroom on her own.