Recently, a mom contacted me and wanted some advice in choosing childcare for her children. Both her 3 ½ year old daughter and her younger son, have been receiving care in a home daycare setting. Since this mom is from Uzbekistan, it has also been important to her that the childcare provider speaks Russian. This recent concern, though, related to her daughter.
This is how the mom phrased her dilemma:
Hi Barb, We just found out that next year our daughter will be the only child who is 3.5 years old and the majority of the kids are younger. Most of them will be under 2, or 2.5 years old. She goes there with her brother who is 1.5. I am concerned that my daughter will be the only child of her age group and since she is shy I am not sure how much attention she will be given by the provider. We were planning to sign her up in a preschool next year, but it is almost double the price of the daycare.
Here’s how I responded to this mom:
On the one hand, it sounds like it would be an ideal situation if you could keep her there, since your younger child is there as well. That sounds logistically easiest, and if you like the relationship she has with that provider that is an important consideration.
However, I would be curious to also know how the daycare provider would respond if you asked her to offer “developmentally appropriate instruction,” for your daughter, on a daily basis. Since she will soon be four, I would hope instruction would be provided to get her ready for kindergarten.
Getting ready for kindergarten, involves so much more than learning about numbers, how to count, and identifying alphabet letters. Professionals in the Early Childhood Education field, for example, know children who engage in finger painting, create with Playdough, or paint on an easel are developing the fine motor skills necessary to cut with scissors, or hold crayons (and pencils) correctly in order to draw, and write. This section of the Ready at Five website offers a quick overview of skills children need as they enter Kindergarten.
At the same time, I would encourage you to begin to shop around for another (nurturing) setting that provides that kind of instruction and offers it within groups of kids her age.
That way you have other options if you aren’t satisfied with how the home daycare setting plays out. I’m sure many fall programs (preschools) get full pretty quickly over the summer, so you may want to start investigating that now. (*)
You may already know about this, but in case you don’t, it might be worth it to contact Maryland Family Network this resource so you can speak to someone more directly about the kinds of programs you seek. (**)
Then, the mom sent me this follow up email:
Hi Barb, Thanks so much for your feedback. I’ve asked the daycare provider about how and what program/instructions will be given to my daughter since she will be the only child of her age group. In short, she told me that the program for 2 years olds is the same as for my daughter. It is hard to understand her plus she doesn’t articulate her thoughts very well. She gets very offended if you ask her any questions and express a concern.
And there are the red flags. Since child development is vastly different between the ages of infancy to 5 years of age, children at 3 ½ or 4 years old, need very different instruction than younger children. Putting general schedules aside, two year old programs should be very different than 4 year programs. Also, since the woman was offended and not able to hear and address the mother’s concerns that indicates a lack of professionalism, and eagerness to address her needs.
In licensed daycare programs, child care providers are required to continue to take child care classes. I’m guessing this woman isn’t a licensed provider, or that there are some cultural differences in communicating, or understanding child development. Child care settings that are accredited can be even better programs, because of the ‘behind the scenes requirements’ they need to satisfy to be awarded that credential.
Excellent child care is a balance of high standards for health and safety, staff members that are all committed to develop positive relationships with children (and families), and professionals, who don’t consider themselves babysitters, but provide age appropriate instruction. I was fortunate to work with administrators, faculty and staff, who welcomed opportunities to address issues, and who interacted warmly with families, and children, daily. Hopefully, families who seek those programs will have new insights, as they search for them.
(*) Eco Tots just opened their doors, a month or so ago, and offer childcare in the Columbia area, with a environmentally safe mindset.
(**) If you live outside of MD, check out Child Care Aware.