The classic debate asks what affects development most, nurture or nature? No one has the ultimate answer to which makes more of a difference, but the generally agreed-upon idea is that they both have a major impact on shaping people.
Nature starts with how your child develops in the womb even before birth. After birth, the very first influences on their lives are their parents and immediate family. Nature often reveals itself more fully when a child starts venturing out into the world. Oftentimes, this first time away from family is in daycare.
Daycare has been shown to have many benefits for children that help them early in life and as they continue through school age. Starting your child in daycare when young is a necessity for some but can be scary for others. Whether you fall into either of these camps or somewhere in the middle, you shouldn’t be worried. A well-selected daycare is a positive situation for your child’s development. Here are five ways that daycare influences childhood development.
Young children are often with only adults, their siblings, or a handful of handpicked friends. This is fine when your child is a baby but before they get to kindergarten age they should have a chance to go out and make real friends on their own. This is one area where daycare can excel.
At daycare, your child will be with a (relatively) random grouping of children and will be able to interact and make friends with children who come from a range of backgrounds and have unique personalities.
Learning to communicate with peers and make friends early, without the help of their parents, is a developmental skill that will serve children well throughout life. The earlier they begin learning this skill, the better.
Daycare is great for discipline in every sense of the word. Daycare helps create the routine-based discipline that will make kids comfortable when they get to official school age. Having a routine and doing the same thing even a few days a week will help your child become more regimented and disciplined in other aspects of life.
On the behavior side of discipline, daycare helps with that, too. If you are a parent who finds yourself losing patience with your child and yelling at them, that can be tough to deal with. This is especially true when the yelling doesn’t seem to be working. Having other adults responsible for disciplining your child part of the time can go a very long way towards improving their behavior and making home a much calmer, quieter, and happier place.
Developing the physical skills to maneuver in the world is a key part of development between the ages of 0-6. At this time, kids must develop both fine and large motor skills in order to physically keep up with their peers. Daycare is great for this because it helps teach motor skills in the two ways kids learn them, through watching others and practicing what they see themselves.
When kids see other kids running, jumping, and even dancing, it is one of the best ways to learn large motor skills. Being able to move in a confident, appropriate way is a big developmental marker in young kids. Most kids will eventually achieve that confidence on their own but when they are around their peers, you’ll see this development occur more quickly.
On the fine motor skill side, daycare gives much time for practice. Using writing utensils and eating with cutlery are two things kids have to do over and over if they are to acquire skill. In daycare, lunchtime can be practice time with teachers who know the right way to encourage the use of spoons and forks. Plenty of time for coloring and eventually writing develops those fine finger skills, too.
It is only natural for parents to want to help their children so that they don’t struggle in life. This is what the parental instinct is all about. Unfortunately, this can sometimes get in the way of your child’s development. If your child doesn’t struggle, they won’t learn or figure things out and that is bad for development.
At daycare, there are enough teachers to make sure your child is well cared for but not so many that they can do everything for each child. Yes, your child may struggle and even get frustrated but that is all part of growth. The pride and sense of accomplishment experienced when they start solving problems on their own will lead to independence and confidence that is hard to get elsewhere.
As your child progresses through daycare, it will become more and more like elementary school. This will be a very good preparation for when your child hits kindergarten and is already prepared for the academic rigors there. Daycare for older children will have defined periods of different “subjects” and will teach kids how to sit and pay attention.
When “real” school starts at six years old, kids in daycare will have a leg up because it won’t be the first time they are ever in an academic setting. The difference between a child who was in daycare and one who hasn’t is something kindergarten teachers will surely notice.
A child’s environment has a huge impact on development. Kids in daycare experience two different environments: at home where they can develop in one way and at daycare where they are watched by professional, child-development experts. This double-barreled approach to development will pay dividends down the road when your child gets to school. They should be good at the social side of school, possess a certain amount of self-discipline, have well-developed motor skills, be independent and confident, and know-how to be a student. All this comes from a good quality daycare influencing your child’s early development.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.