The difference between daycare and childcare is that children spend the bulk of their time with a licensed childcare provider. Daycare centers are places that provide children with care, safety, and development opportunities during the day, and then they leave at night. A licensed childcare and early childhood education provider will be able to give your child everything that he or she needs for a healthy start to life. Here are some things that you should look for when choosing a childcare provider for your child.
Daycare providers should be certified with programs for young children through preschool age. These programs should include both childhood education and early childhood education. Early childhood education is critical for all children; it gives them the tools and learning that they need to develop themselves in a healthy way so that they will be prepared for kindergarten. If a preschool provider does not have a program for young children through preschool age, then he or she may not have the expertise to provide your child with the support he or she needs to get started in elementary school.
Another thing to check for in Childcare Center providers is whether they offer both social and physical care. Some childcare providers work with kids by only providing them with care in a certain area of the day – for example, sending them to a separate table to eat lunch. Others work with their clients by working with them in their own classrooms (known as “social learning”) or through other creative means such as fun games and pretend play. Both ways of engaging with your child are important for early childhood education and development, but they should be treated as separate entities.
Some childcare providers also serve a more general purpose. For example, some have a large number of children from a wide range of ages and backgrounds; others have very specific requirements for enrollment and/or contracts. General purposes can include special needs children, very young children, or older children who are at the developmental or learning stages of their lives. In general, however, most childcare facilities are community-based so that whatever your child needs is supplied. The more comprehensive your child care needs are, the more customized services you will find available. If this general purpose is satisfied by a childcare provider, then you will need to look at his or her specialized programs.
Specialized programs fall into one of three categories: academic/professional services, direct service, and supportive services. Academic/professional services typically provide academic and tutoring support in conjunction with educational opportunities for children enrolled in the facility. Direct service services can include anything from helping your child with his or her homework to playing games with him or her or participating in group activities. Supportive services can include everything from transportation to meals to emotional support. In essence, any activity that promotes early childhood education and development is considered a specialized service.
Children are growing need of ongoing and on-going care. The information I’ve shared with you offers a starting place for you to discover what programs are currently available in your area. As you examine your situation and goals, you’ll see which specialized programs are most closely aligned with those goals. Once you have a list of possibilities for early childhood education and development in your area, you can begin searching for an appropriate childcare provider. Take a few minutes to consider the vital role that childcare plays in your family and you’ll soon see why it’s important to develop a clear understanding of child care services.