Perspectives on best age to send baby to daycare?
My husband and I originally felt we would introduce our daughter to daycare when she was between 9 months to a year. Now that she's almost 9 months we have changed our minds and prefer to have her at home. Our challenge is that she seems to thrive when other kids are around and we worry that staying at home with a daily outing to the neighborhood park might not be enough exposure to other kids and general stimulation. So my question - looking back - if you sent your child to daycare, what age did you do so and what do you think is a good age for them to go? Am trying to consider the many pros and cons. For now we've decided to keep her at home...but I am struggling to make a thoughtful and considerate decision. Thanks for the feedback and help.
Separation anxiety can emerge between 8 and 14 months (according to WebMD), so that's a good age range to avoid introducing daycare. One consideration may be that preschools often start at age 2 or 3 (and enroll in the Fall), so if you start sooner - you're looking for daycares that will transition into preschools, and if you start at 2 or later you can add preschools-only to your list or preschools that become elementary schools.
We sent our son to preschool at 2 years, 4 months and he loved it so much (without any separation anxiety, just some slight initial shyness) that we sent our daughter even younger, at 19 months, rather than wait for the following Fall. Unfortunately, going just two mornings a week - only 1 or 0 days a week if holidays or illness interfered, meant that she had a hard time getting into the rhythm of things and some initial shyness became some real separation anxiety that lasted for, egads, 3 months. (For what it's worth, none of the other children in her 10-child classroom seemed to wrestle with this for so long.) She would cry at drop off, and we understand, stop crying in 5-10 minutes or less but remain very quiet and serious for the rest of the morning. Now, in January, at 24 months old, she's really hitting her stride and having a blast.
If I had to do it again, I'd sign her up for 3 days a week instead of 2, not introduce anything else at the same time (we were also trying out the childcare at the gym occasionally), show her photos and talk about her teachers and classmates at home so she "saw" them more than 0-2 times a week. And maybe, if I'd really anticipated what a challenge it would be, I would have started her mid-year at age 2 or waited to the following Fall at age 2 3/4, but I really think we were - entirely unexpectedly - well beyond the norm on this one; and for all I know, she would have needed to surmount this same challenge no matter when we'd started.
Best of luck with your decision!
We sent our son to daycare when he was 5 1/2 months old. Looking back, here are some of my thoughts in hindsight:
- I think the choice of daycare is more important than the timing of daycare. In other words, the quality of care will make more of an impact. I've responded before about this, but essentially, we picked a small family daycare that our friend's daughter was also attending. I checked out the bigger facilities, but ultimately, I wanted a home, lots of attention, and a small number of kids. He is an only child, so we wanted him to have the experience of having other kids around - mimicing the large family with siblings that he does not have. In our case, our daycare only has 4 kids, and I prefer this to the places that have 8, 12, or more (even though the ratios to caretakers are fine, it's still overwhelming to have so many people around!).
- One other comment... Most of my friends put their kids in daycare in the first 3-6 months. I have a few other friends who put their children in daycare later. The transition is harder for older children who are more aware.... One friend's son (who was about a year old) cried every day for a month until he got accustomed. My son took maybe a week(?) to adjust. Just as another data point, our daycare provider also prefers that infants start before 6 months because the transitions are easier.....
Jan 28, 2011