Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or seeking daycare options while you work, there are many benefits to enrolling your child in an early learning child care center or family child care home.
For some, the financially-viable choice is having Grandma babysit while you’re at work, but your child can benefit immensely from the daily routine of a day care based on early education.
Kenya Dickinson-Rowe, a family services specialist at the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County (ELCHC), has two young children of her own. She sends her 20-month-old daughter, Kailynn, to a family child care home, and her 4-year-old son, William, to an early learning center. She also used to run her own center. Both as a parent and as a child care provider, she has seen the benefits children receive from enrollment.
“We preach the social skills,” Dickinson-Rowe says. “If the child is at home all day, they’re not getting their social needs met.”
But by spending even half a day at a child care center, children learn new social, emotional, behavioral and educational skills. At a center or a home, they get to spend time both with children their own age, as well as watch the skills and interactions of older children.
“A center opens their eyes to the world. With the right social skills, it leads into education,” says Dickinson-Rowe, who explains that kids learn by doing. “If they’re socially prepared, they will do great experiencing new things and going into the kindergarten classroom.”
She’s amazed by the skills her son knows when he comes back from his center. His teacher speaks Spanish, and even at his young age, her son has learned to speak with fluency.
“At school, they know their schedule. Once kids know a routine, it can be productive,” says Dickinson-Rowe. “They look forward to knowing what’s next.”
Jessica Salgado, professional development specialist for the ELCHC, says children who attend regular child care outside of their own home are shown to develop more quickly than children who don’t attend. Besides learning school-preparatory skills, like taking turns and completing assigned tasks, they’re also picking up emergent language and literacy skills and social skills. Continuing that learning from day care to Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and into kindergarten will help with children’s preparedness for school. If they haven’t been in a classroom setting by the time they’re entering kindergarten, they’re already going to be delayed, Jessica said.
One of the most important things parents can do to help their children is to continue the lessons learned at day care in their home, Jessica said. Parents need to ask their child’s provider what their kids are working on at day care and make sure to continue those lessons at home, like potty-training or practicing word recognition. Consistency is the key.
“Try to keep it up during the weekend,” Jessica said. “Try what they’re learning at home, so there is no regression.”
The ELCHC can help you find the best child care provider for your location and situation by giving you a list of quality providers near your home or work. Call Child Care Resource and Referral at 813-906-5041 or visit the website at elchc.org/child-care-resource-referral.