Child Care and the Benefits for our Kids

(October 12, 2021, by Megan Streng, Communications Director, First Steps Kent)   Why does quality child care matter for our kids? We know it makes a difference for the economy.We know the profession needs to be elevated.We know the system isn’t working for parents. But is the system working for our kids?

From an emotional perspective, it usually comes down to a feeling. As a parent, you can tell at drop-off or pick-up if your child is being loved and growing in their environment. The benefits of quality child care go beyond peace of mind though. It enhances family stability and well-being, promotes children’s early learning and socio-emotional development; and plays an important role in a child’s nutrition. (Source: RAPID-EC Project) These interactions and learning opportunities are critical to your child’s development and school trajectory.

When a young child enters kindergarten ready for school, there is an 82% chance that child will master basic skills by age 11 compared with a 45% chance for children who are not school ready. High school success can be predicted as early as third grade, and third grade reading success can be predicted as early as kindergarten. To have our children living up to their full potential and ready for kindergarten, we need to give them a safe, loving environment, and plenty of opportunities for early learning.

When my first daughter was born, my husband and I sent her to a local child care center at 10 weeks old, when I had to return to work. We sent her two days a week to save on cost and were able to fill in the gaps by asking her grandparents to help, working from home, and taking shorter workdays. The impact on her development was almost immediate. After only a short amount of time, I could see that not only was she growing socially, but she was learning so much, so fast. The people who were caring for her loved her and the activities she was doing each day were growing her brain.

Of course, I would have loved to have stayed home with her, but I also wanted to continue my career. When our second daughter came along cost became an even bigger consideration, so we researched the alternatives. We interviewed many caregivers, but never found the right fit. Again, it came down to the feeling. I knew the women at the center and loved the way they took care of my kids, and so we stayed and made more sacrifices to our family’s budget.

Whether your child is in a child care setting or at home with you or a loved one, the quality of care and interactions will stay with the child for a lifetime. Children who receive quality child care are more likely to develop social and learning skills at a younger age. These skills help children build and maintain better relationships with parents, adults, and other children. Studies show that children who receive quality child care do better in school and are better prepared for reading and math. Also, they are more curious, are better communicators and problem solvers, and are more confident.

Now that my children are getting older, I can see that the things we taught them early on, and the quality care they got when they were younger, played a role in their success in entering kindergarten. They knew how to follow directions; they could interact with others positively, they could pay attention, remember their lessons, finish tasks, and practice independently what they had learned. They are not perfect students, but what children are? They grow and play with their classmates, have control over their emotions, and stick with the tasks even when learning seems tough.

Most importantly, they're curious, and that curiosity has created a love of learning. I know that the early years played a vital role in their healthy brain development and social skills, and I am so grateful for the quality early learning opportunities that they were able to receive at their child care center and to the women who taught them and loved on them over the years.

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