Let’s set the record straight
By Jessica Chang, CEO and co-founder of WeeCare
Finding the right childcare for your family’s needs is no walk in the park. Securing a spot at a good daycare or preschool that’s even remotely affordable and convenient can feel like winning the lottery – other moms will understand that I’m not exaggerating. Whether you’re a brand new mom or a seasoned pro who’s expecting again, the process takes time, patience and research.
What makes the search even harder is not knowing what, or who to believe when it comes to childcare. Friends, family members, neighbors, and even strangers offer their opinions on the subject. Frightening stories are shared – both on social media and in places like your prenatal yoga or Lamaze class – that probably make you weary to try out childcare at all.
Take a deep breath. The truth is, there are tons of “tips” flying around that are complete and utter myths. As a mom whose career is also in the childcare space, I’ve heard too many to count. Let’s set the record straight on five of the most common misconceptions.
Myth #1: Daycare isn’t educational for children, it’s play-based
You may have heard that daycares aren’t education-based, while preschools are; this is not true. Most good daycare providers make the curriculum a priority – it’s usually right on par with (and sometimes even better than) what’s offered at a preschool. Often times, you’ll find a home daycare provider who was formerly a teacher and just makes a better living with their own gig. The curriculum is a super important part of any childcare environment because kids establish the basic foundations of social, cognitive and emotional development during this stage (ages 0 – 5). Learning, purposeful play, challenges, consistency, support and celebrating milestones are all key things to keep an eye out for. Make sure you ask about what’s offered when speaking with a potential provider.
Myth #2: Home daycares don’t offer the same quality of care as preschools and childcare centers
Another generalization that is far from the truth. It’s, of course, true that some childcare programs are better than others – whether in terms of a stronger, varied curriculum, or a lower child-to-teacher ratio. You may find that home daycares are a better choice when it comes to one-on-one attention. They often function as “micro-preschools” with the benefit of a smaller class size. You’ll also learn that, unfortunately, some preschools are understaffed and underfunded, resulting in overworked teachers. This isn’t always the case, though. Every daycare and preschool is different – there’s no hard and fast rule here. Do your research, ask questions, read reviews and ask other moms you trust.
Myth #3: My kids will get sick more if they go to daycare
Okay, well this one is true… but for every type of childcare environment. Any time you introduce little kids to an environment with a bunch of other little kids, there is a greater chance of them getting sick. Since daycares are smaller with fewer children, the odds are that your child might get sick less often there than they would at a larger preschool. It is important to tour your caregiver’s facility or home and ensure it’s a clean, sanitary, safe environment – but even the most spotless of preschools will send your kiddos home with a cold from time to time. The only upside? It’s actually beneficial for children to build up their immune system at an early age.
Myth #4: Preschools are safer than daycares
Daycares are inspected and licensed just as strictly and in the same manner that preschools are. They are required to meet the very same standards. In fact, some feel daycares can be safer. Each individual provider at a daycare is required to have a CPR, first aid and preventive safety certification. At preschools, this is required of just one teacher per classroom. It’s also important to know that every single person living in a home daycare has to have a criminal background check and at preschools, these are only conducted for teachers (vs. for all employees). Ask about their emergency procedures, get informed and trust your gut instinct.
Myth #5: Kids pick up bad behavior at daycare
This is a pretty common myth I hear and it’s simply not the case! Should we chalk it up to wishful thinking? It’s easier to assume that a bad habit was learned from other kids at daycare, rather than it being a behavior they simply developed. Or even worse, picked up from us! In reality, recent studies have shown that children who attend daycare are actually better behaved and socialized than children who are cared for in their own home. I saw this firsthand with my son – he used to be a terrible eater (think food throwing, tears and all). It turned out he was exposed to kids with better habits and to lessons about not wasting food at daycare. Boom. Within a week of starting, his eating behavior had transformed.
It’s hard to say why myths run so rampant in the childcare space; it’s likely because the whole system has traditionally functioned on word of mouth and people pick daycares based on recommendations they’ve heard. Whether you end up choosing a daycare center, a preschool or a home daycare, consider all of the expert opinions. Always take the mom tips and stories with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, what’s most important is that you research available reviews, ask providers questions and educate yourself on the options to make the best decision for your child.
Jessica Chang is a mother, preschool owner and the CEO and co-founder of WeeCare, a platform that provides caregivers the tools and support needed to start a licensed home daycare, and gives families access to convenient, affordable and curriculum-based daycare.