What Is Institutional Day Care?

If a child has to enter a child care program at a young age, choosing the correct one can be as important to their future as the correct college. The consequences of a child having a poor early childhood experience are widely documented, with children displaying behavioral problems, increased insecurity and separation anxiety and excessive demands for attention into the grade school years. In light of this, many parents often feel overwhelmed in the face of the sheer number of day care options available. Each child thrives in a different environment; however, with a little research and the occasional trial and error, it is possible to for a parent to discover the best choice for their child.

Institutional child care is becoming more and more popular in the United States. Many institutions will begin accepting children as early as six weeks of age, and often continue to offer care up through the school years. Cost wise, this option is usually somewhere in the middle between in-home day care and private care, with prices varying according to age and the number of days a child is expected to be present. Most facilities will charge on a weekly basis, and parents are expected to pay for the full week regardless of the number of days their child is actually present.

Children in day care institutions are grouped into classes according to age, with each age group having its own classroom with one or two teachers. Staff to child ratios vary according to institution; however, as most are required to be licensed they should not exceed the guidelines set forth in the state licensing agreement. Care often begins several hours prior to school hours, allowing for children to be dropped off as parents go into work, and continues for several hours after dismissal. They are fed breakfast and lunch, and are given rest time in the afternoons. Age appropriate group activities are scheduled throughout the day, with time allowed for independent play, and holiday activities and field trips are common. All children are taught basic skills, such as self feeding and potty training, and those that are of preschool age are taught to write their names, identify colors, shapes and letters, and count.

The advantages of choosing an institution are the chance for a child to acclimate to a classroom environment prior to entering school and reliable care; barring an emergency parents should never find themselves without a caregiver during regular hours of operation. Most teachers and teacher's aides have training in child development and psychology, as well as childhood education, from a secondary school, and are trained to respond to medical emergencies. There are disadvantages as well. Due to the larger class sizes children often do not receive an appropriate amount of individual attention, particularly those children that are less boisterous. This is the stepping stone to many of the behavioral problems touted as these children learn to emulate the less desirable actions of their peers, whom they see the teachers working with time and again.

Any good child care facility will allow parents to come in and observe prior to placing their child, and will often allow parents to accompany the child for the first few days. This will give the parents a chance to get a feel for how their child will acclimate to the environment, and remove them if a situation seems inappropriate.


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