When to put your baby in childcare is a loaded question for any mum or dad, however, sometimes it’s a question that most new parents don’t even have the luxury of asking. The fact is, maternity leave limitations, financial stress, postpartum anxiety, and exhaustion can all mean an early start to childcare is inevitable for your child.
Unfortunately, this loaded question has an equally loaded answer and, to be honest, the jury’s still out on the perfect age for starting daycare. Your child is a unique and precious gem, with unique developmental needs, quirks, and emotional attachments, which is part of what makes this question so difficult to answer.
So let’s begin, rather, with the worst age to put your child in daycare.
What is the worst age to start daycare?
While the exact worst age for daycare is still very much child-dependent, we can safely say that a too-late entry into daycare (kindy 3 to 4 years of age) could mean a much harder transition period for your child. The Victorian government offers a fully funded kindergarten program combined with low-cost long daycare your child can start a quality kindergarten program much sooner.
An older toddler who’s accustomed to home time with mum and/or dad will feel the full weight of separation anxiety, coupled with the shock of a broken routine, plus a new set of faces, personalities, and social situations to navigate. If you’re trying to decide on when to start your child in daycare, we’d say that sooner is better than later!
The good news is that the right daycare with the right educators (as well as a little know-how about how to settle your child into daycare) can go a long way, even if you need to enter your child into a three-year-old kindergarten program at the feisty age of 3-4 years.
Is 6-12 months too early to start your child in daycare?
Let’s face it, in 2022 and beyond, most families don’t have the financial means or option to choose a stay-at-home parenting approach and, even if they do, an early start to daycare still offers a host of impressive benefits that a baby just won’t have at home.
While the first 12 months of a baby’s life are essential to immune development, emotional bonding, and the achievement of milestones like crawling, walking, and talking, this doesn’t mean starting your child in daycare at 12, 6 or even 3 months is too early!
In fact, the diversity of new environments, new people, and even the new bacteria will mean a healthier immune system for your child as they develop. Likewise, the stimulating environment of childcare, social interactions, bright scenery, and enriching activities will help your child to progress and reach those emotional, physical, social, and language milestones at an earlier age.
Last but not least, your daycare and the skilled carers who work there will be able to offer you valuable insight on whether your child is developing at a standard rate for their age group, or whether they are progressing too slowly or too fast!
All you need is the right daycare and a little preparation
As a parent, you want to feel that you’re doing the right thing for your child, we get it, you want to minimise separation anxiety and ensure a safe environment that offers warmth, stimulation, and room for real mental and motor development.
Choose the right daycare, with experienced and well-screened carers and teachers, a space that meets your safety expectations, and programs that offer opportunities for plenty of social and sensory engagement, plus loads of play-based educational fun!
After selecting the right daycare for your child, set them up for an easy transition into daycare by reading our article entitled ‘How to Settle Your New Child into Daycare.’