Best and Worst Age To Start Daycare

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Are you planning to put your child in daycare? This article discusses everything you need to know about the best and worst age to start daycare.

Starting daycare at the wrong age can be a major disadvantage for a child. It may have negative effects on children such as interfering with their development and causing problems with their mental health.

By knowing the best and worst ages to enroll your child in daycare, you can avoid the possibility of your child being negatively impacted. If you are still not sure about daycare, you can read our take on the pros and cons of daycare.

In this article, we summarize the findings of over 20 papers and videos on modern daycare and its effects on child development, so that you can make an informed decision.

What is the best age to start daycare? What is the worst age to start daycare? When should you not send your baby to daycare?

Let’s find out!

What Is The Best Age To Start Daycare?

Worst Age To Start Daycare : Image: Pexels
Image: Pexels

Generally, most pediatricians believe that 12 months is the optimal time to start daycare. Waiting this long gives enough time for the parents to form secure attachments with their child, fully adjust to living with and caring for their young one,  and figure out feeding and sleep patterns. 

However, there are several suggestions for when daycare can commence ranging from 6 weeks to 6 months, or even 1 year and 3 years. 

Keep in mind that many daycare centers that provide care to children in groups do not take babies under 6 weeks of age and often do not have adequate facilities to care for a prematurely born child or a child who has special medical needs. 

However, life happens and it is okay if you do not transition your infant to daycare at this ideal age. Most infants can start daycare as early as 6 weeks. Daycare settings are ideal for your child to socialize and enhance their behavior from an early stage.

What is the Worst Age to Start Daycare?

While there is a recommended minimum age, when you should or should not get your child started in daycare is dependent on several factors including your child’s personality and needs, available time, resources and facilities, and your personal preferences. 

Based on this, the “wrong age” varies from child to child. The real question then is, how ready is your child? Ultimately, the worst age to start daycare would be anytime before your child has reached a stage of physical, emotional and social readiness

How To Know If A Baby Is Ready For Daycare? 

Worst Age To Start Daycare : Image: Pexels
Image: Pexels

There are 5 great indicators that your child is ready for daycare. 

#1. When Your Baby Starts Displaying Independence 

Being able to do things for themselves is a major sign that your child can handle being in daycare. Increased amounts of independence is an expected part of a child’s development, especially in the second year. 

This involves not needing help or constant supervision with activities like walking, playing, eating, dressing, and using the bathroom.

#2. Ability to Adhere to Rules and Adjust to Routines

Many daycares have rules and routines which the children will have to follow. This may include things like waiting in line for breaks or adhering to nap time schedules. When your child has learnt to follow rules and keep to routines at home, it would be easier for them to adjust to doing the same at the daycare.

#3. Observable Curiosity

Curiosity is a natural quality children have that becomes noticeable as early as 12 months of age. If your child is used to being exposed to new people and environments, it aids social development and makes the transition to daycare a whole lot easier. 

#4. Increased Interactiveness

The daycare is a great place for a young child to meet and interact with other children. Kids who are comfortable with being around other children and are great at getting along with their playmates are ready for daycare. Having a rough first few days is to be expected but often they would get accustomed to socializing soon enough. 

#5. Mastering Potty Training

Being potty trained is an important part of your child being able to enjoy their time outside their home. When a child has developed into being able to go about without making messes, they will more likely enjoy being in daycare. 

What Are The Risks Of Starting A Daycare Too Early?

Worst Age To Start Daycare : Image: Pexels
Image: Pexels

Starting at the wrong age for your child can have negative effects on him or her over time. Before you decide to enroll your child in daycare before he or she is fully ready, some potential risks starting too early can pose which you need to be aware of. 

#1. Your Child May Experience Higher Levels of Stress

Studies have shown that children experience increased stress levels and have increased amounts of cortisol, which is the hormone responsible for stress, at daycare. Furthermore, several childhood care experts believe that separation anxiety peaks at 9 months. 

This is attributed to a child’s “attachment seeking response” which occurs when there is no available attachment figure. The child often would not perceive childcare staff as attachment figures regardless of how sensitive they might be simply because they are effectively strangers at first. 

#2. Increased Risk Of Behavioral Issues and Aggression

There is an increased risk of a child who is in high hours of daycare from 6 months of age developing different degrees of behavioral issues over time. According to studies, long hours of non-parental childcare before the child is 12 months old can result in an increased incidence of poor social behavior, behavioral problems and aggression.

Another important factor is the quality of the daycare center. With high-quality daycare services, children display better pro-social behaviors and fewer instances of aggression, regardless of the number of hours spent in daycare.

#3. Disrupted Parent-Child Attachment

The bond between parent and child is not something to be taken for granted. It often is strong, natural, and beautiful;  but it needs enough time and presence to fully form.

This is why using daycare services creates the risk of disrupting parent-child attachment. When the parent is absent too often or too early, it can create an insecure attachment because the child perceives that it is no longer a safe or secure relationship. 

Better quality care from sensitive caregivers can not only largely minimize or even eliminate these risks, but can even result in better cognitive outcomes such as the development of language, memory and pre-academic skills. 

When Should You Not Send Your Child To Daycare?

Worst Age To Start Daycare : Image: pexels
Image: pexels

Most times, both parents are busy with work. Therefore, a lot of babies are raised with the help of care centers. But, there are instances when you must not take your young ones to daycare, such as when they are not healthy or are showing symptoms of illness.

Hence, any sign of fever or illness on the baby must be attended to quickly; and during this period, the daycare certainly is not the place for them. Doing this will not only help your child get the required attention and help but would also prevent the spread of diseases.

What To Look For In A Daycare?

Once you’ve made up your mind to get your child started in daycare, there is yet one more important thing to do: find a great daycare that is easily accessible to you. While doing your research, here are some qualities to keep an eye out for before making your pick. 

#1. Look Out For Reviews

Putting your child in the care of someone else requires some trust which is why you have to make sure you’re choosing a trusted childcare business. You can base this on how much of a solid reputation they have. While making your research, make sure to look out for positive and negative reviews from previous or current parents. 

#2. Ensure That The Daycare Is Safe and Fun 

Since your child would be spending a good amount of time at the daycare, the environment must be clean, stimulating and safe for him or her. You can simply go off on your first impression of the space. 

Also take a look around to observe how happy, comfortable and engaged the children are and to make sure that the daycare has age-appropriate environments for each stage, such as floor space for crawlers and desks for older kids. 

#3. A Schedule That Is Suitable For Your Baby

A great daycare needs to have a schedule and curriculum that fits what you want for your child. This can be fluid, rigid or something in-between. Picture what you’d like for your child’s ideal day and ensure the daycare you choose provides exactly that. It’s also important to verify how much of a role television or videos play and to ensure they are age-appropriate.

#4. Caring and Qualified Caregivers

You need to put your child in the hands of people who are qualified to take good care of him or her. The caregivers at the daycare you choose should have basic certifications and training. You also should observe how well they interact with and treat the children in their care. 

This goes beyond just teaching to include tone and body language. Finally, there ideally should be a low Child-to-Caregivers Ratio and low employee turnover.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

#1. What is the average cost of daycare?

Most times the cost of daycare depends on the choice of your daycare and the age of your child. Regardless,  the average cost of a daycare in the United States every week was around $300 to $340.

#2. What is the difference between daycare and childcare?

Daycare only occurs during the day and official working hours. On the other hand, childcare is more inclusive and comprehensive. Childcare is provided in a childcare home or by family members or friends.

#3. How do you deal with the guilt of leaving your child in daycare?

Most parents feel guilty for leaving their children in daycares. It is normal to feel this way. However, you have to work towards accepting the fact that daycare is what works for you. 

You don’t have to feel guilty for it, as it makes you a better parent because you have managed to find a way to provide care for your baby regardless of your schedule. 

Final Thoughts

Many parents are bothered about the perfect time to start daycare; the fact remains there is no perfect time to start. However, it is important to assess the quality of the daycare to ensure it suits your needs and the needs of your baby.  Starting daycare is a wonderful option for raising your child, and you should never have to feel guilty for exploring.

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Shane is passionate about researching and comparing interesting baby stuff for his baby girl. After getting his Master's in Health Management in London, he worked for a top-tier naming and branding consulting firm based in the US. He helps with the research on this site.