When your newborn is first placed in your arms, it’s hard to imagine this beautiful, squirmy creature will grow, develop, and eventually not be attached to you for the majority of the day. (Enjoy those skin-to-skin naps and snuggles while you can!)
Eventually – whether it’s because you’re going back to work after maternity leave or choose to invest in additional support for your family – you’ll likely be seeking some form of childcare.
This can feel like an overwhelming decision. There are many types of childcare, and it’s important to research the best options for your family. But if you’re leaning towards childcare outside of the home, there’s a lot to think about. Let’s break down the options and the benefits:
Professional childcare and early education programs: Sometimes referred to as daycare centers, these are established programs (like Bright HorizonsOpens a new window) where children are cared for and taught by a group of professional educators. You’ll find a well-planned curriculum, classrooms, and space for movement and outdoor experiences. Centers are open for the hours working parents need, and while childcare can be costly, they’re typically less than employing a nanny or full-time babysitter.
In-home or family day care: This refers to a “mom and pop” type of daycare, often run in someone’s home, versus a school-style environment. There are typically fewer kids in these smaller environments, and they’re often less expensive than professional childcare centers. These daycares may not have a formal educational program or high-end resources.
Depending on the size of your town or city, there could be a handful of childcare programs near you. However, not all programs are created equal. Here’s what to look for:
- Teacher Training: When doing your research, consider the type of training and ongoing professional development the educators receive. Bright Horizons is a professional early childhood program regarded as a leader in the space. Teachers there participate in an industry-leading orientation program, monthly staff meetings, annual trainings required by state licensing regulations, and professional development conferences twice a year. To ensure Bright Horizons retains talent and can provide the children in their centers high-quality care, their teachers also have the opportunity to continue their education by earning their CDA or early childhood education degrees for free through the company’s teacher degree program. So, when touring centers, ask what training is offered.
- Curriculum: Since most kids in childcare programs are very young, the way they’re taught needs to be catered to their age and developmental stage. Ideally, the learning should be interactive, playful, and meaningful. Consider what the center offers, from STEM to reading and play-based learning. Ask if you can observe a classroom in action to see if activities align with your family’s education values and goals. Programs that nurture curiosity, prioritize learning through play, and help children develop social-emotional and cognitive skills are most aligned with current research. Shauna, whose son attended Bright Horizons at Military Trail, confirms he was well-prepared for elementary school. “In first grade, he was accepted into a STEM school and placed in the advanced classes,” she says. “Bright Horizons played an important role in his overall development and growth.”
- Environment: A supportive and welcoming environment is crucial. Seek out a place that’s inclusive, respectful, supportive of all needs, and makes your child feel secure. “Teachers are friendly, engaging, and really love the children,” says Jen, whose child attends Bright Horizons at Tulane University. “We get daily pictures and reports online and my child can’t wait to go back each day.” Many don’t recognize the important influence a child’s environment has on their daily experience and learning. Look for full shelves that are organized and labeled to help children find what they need and make choices. Are there family pictures and samples of children’s work at their eye-level? Are there soft colors and textures and spaces to work in small groups or individually?
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- Convenience: You’re most likely sending your child to a childcare program so you can head back to work. If the program isn’t convenient and accessible, it won’t be a long-term solution for your family. Bright Horizons has locationsOpens a new window across the country with daily and back-up care options. The company has more than 550 centers in 43 states, including major cities such as New York; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Seattle; and Los Angeles.
Benefits of a professional early childcare program
Here are some reasons to choose a professional program that focuses on early childhood education:
- The early years are essential in terms of a child’s development. In fact, 90 percent of a child’s brain development happens before age 5.* That’s one reason why investing in a program that offers high-quality early education is so important.
- Healthy development in the first several years of a child’s life can build a foundation for educational achievement, lifelong health, strong communities, and more.*
- Research says children in early educational programs are less likely to repeat a grade, are better prepared academically for later grades, and are typically higher earners in the workforce.*
- Children can have a joyful childhood experience with the benefits of a social learning environment and opportunities to develop lifelong skills like self-regulation, cooperation, compassion, creativity, flexible thinking, and much more!
Choosing childcare can be a challenge. Make sure you thoroughly research your options. If you can find a daycare center that offers a solid educational program, it will benefit your child for years to come.
* “The First Five Years” (First Things First)
* “What Is Early Childhood Development? A Guide to the Science” (Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University)
* “Early Childhood Education” by NEA (National Education Association)
This post is sponsored advertising content forBright Horizons.