Day care

From New World Encyclopedia
(Redirected from Child care)

A woman worker drops off her child at day care during World War II, February 1943.

The term day care or child care refers to the care of a child during the day, usually by a person outside the child's immediate family, and often so the parent(s) can work. "Day care" is the most common term in the United States, while "child care" is used in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Day care can range from a few children in the home of a childminder to more formally structured, school-like settings. Day care is to be differentiated from babysitting, which is the temporary, occasional care of a child, often just for an evening.

While the purpose of day care is to enable the parents to be free for other activities, usually work, the needs of the child are also significant. It is known from the work of John Bowlby that young children require consistency in their caregivers, so that they form strong attachment bonds. This has been used as an argument that the young children should not attend day care, but stay home with a parent or constant caregiver. On the other hand, it is also the case that even young children enjoy social interaction with peers, and the experiences of spending supervised time with peers is beneficial. The caveat, however, is that the supervision, the facility, and the caregivers, must all conform to high standards, at least comparable to that experienced at home. As such, day care can be seen as an extension of the family, and a preparation for further experience in the wider community.


A creche (1899), oil on canvas by Henry-Jules-Jean Geoffroy

Day care, in the form of institutions called "crèches," appeared in France about 1840, mainly as a charitable means of caring for the infants of working class women. The Société des Crèches was recognized by the French government in 1869. The first day care center in Great Britain was started in 1860, and most European cities had established day care centers by the second half of the nineteenth century.[1] Originating in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, day cares were established in the United States by private charities in the 1850s, the first being the New York Day Nursery in 1854.

Types of Day care

In a great number of cases, the care of a child is performed by a parent, or through informal arrangements with relatives, neighbors, or friends. Other families may choose to hire an in-home caregiver such as a nanny or au pair to care for the child(ren) while they are at work.

Often, families who do not have or wish to choose these options will opt for day care. Day care facilities can vary drastically, ranging from an individual person in their own home to franchised, corporate institutions. The care given can range from supervised play to structured lesson plans.

  • Home Based Day Care: Home day cares are operated by a single individual out of their home. This is often a stay-at-home parent who seeks supplemental income while caring for their own child. Local legislation may regulate the number and ages of children allowed before the home is considered an official day care center and subject to more stringent safety regulations. As home day cares do not pay rent, they are typically less expensive than day care centers. Home day care providers may still be certified like more organized daycares.
  • Non-profit Day Care: Non-profit day cares, often affiliated with churches or schools, have some structural advantages over for-profit operations. Rents are generally lower, especially if they are affiliated with a church that is otherwise unoccupied during the week, or with a school that has surplus space. Location within a school may further bring the advantage of coordinated programs with the school and the advantage of a single location for parents who have older school-age children as well. Non-profits have an advantage in fund-raising as many people will not donate to a for-profit organization. Non-profit day care centers can be operated by local governments and municipalities, by churches or schools, or by a collective group of parents. Most non-profit day cares are smaller operations.
  • Corporate Day Care: Large corporations often provide day care as a benefit to their employees. This day care is usually located within the parent's workplace, where it is convenient and accessible. In addition to not having to drop their child off at a second location, parents often feel more secure knowing their child is close by. Corporations generally seek out large corporate day care providers to manage their day care programs.
  • Preschool: Preschool is a more structured, scholastic program for young children, generally ages three to five years-of-age. Preschools may have half-day programs, and provide lesson programs, learning materials, and sometimes field trips. Preschools can be non-profit or for-profit. Federal programs like the Head Start program often assist with the funding of preschools.


In most countries, there is a certain amount of legislation that controls the operation of day care centers, and often day cares must obtain licenses. This legislation defines what constitutes a day care (so as not to regulate individual babysitters), and may specify the physical facilities (washroom, eating, sleeping, lighting levels, and so forth). The minimum window space may be such that it precludes day cares from being in a basement. Minimum floor space per child may be specified, as well as the maximum number of children per room. A minimum of outdoor time may be mandated, as well as staffing ratios (for example 1:3 for under 18 months and higher ratios for older children). Legislation may mandate qualifications of supervisors. Staff typically do not require any qualifications but staff under the age of 18 may require supervision. Typically, once the child reaches the age of 12, they are no longer covered by day care legislation and programs for older children may not be regulated.


Child development

Those opposed to day care often argue that there is no possible way that anyone could give a child the love and care that a parent can. It is argued that the child's socio-emotional development is affected by the fact that the child is not constantly with his/her parent(s). Primary attachments are formed between child and parent during these early years, which can theoretically affect the child later in life.

The quality of care is an important factor in determining the impact of a child's experience in child care. High-quality child care can benefit a child. Day care and preschool can offer a child numerous social encounters, where he/she can learn how to interact with peers, conduct dialogues, and resolve conflicts with peers constructively.[2] A long-term NIH-funded study found that children who received higher quality child care before entering kindergarten had better vocabulary scores in the fifth grade than did children who received lower quality care.[3]

The same study, however, also showed that children who spent time in child care were more aggressive than those who had not been in day care. Measures of "aggressive" behavior were based on teacher-reported externalizing problem behavior such as "child demands a lot of attention," “gets in many fights,” “disobedient at school,” "bragging and boasting," and “argues a lot.” This might be due to the fact that children in day care are more used to advocating for themselves in a group setting than children that were cared for by a parent. The researchers also cautioned that the increase in problem behaviors was small and within the normal range of behavior for children of that age. A consistent finding of the study was that parenting quality was a much more important predictor of child development than was type, quantity, or quality, of child care. High quality day care may help to ensure adequate early childhood education for children of less skilled parents, and enable children to develop socially in ways that would be impossible at home. The researchers concluded that high quality day care can complement good parenting.[3]

Infectious disease

Another major concern of day care is the potential for transmission of infectious disease. The number of children usually present in a day care, as well as their proximity and the fact that infants and toddlers tend to drool and put everything in their mouths, leads to a higher transmission of disease. Most day cares have rules that mandate sick children remaining at home, but parents often bring such children in anyway, especially if they do not have the ability to take off from work and there is no alternative for the child's care. Day cares usually attempt to sanitize toys and surfaces often, but it is impossible to clean all the germs, especially when they are airborne.

Quality of day care providers

Although studies show day care to be beneficial to a child's development, it is important to note that this benefit only exists with high quality day care. There are several factors that help determine the quality of a day care provider:a low child-to-teacher ratio, small group sizes, well-trained staff, an age-appropriate curriculum, and a positive and safe learning environment.[4] While most countries have laws and regulations governing the operation of day cares, quality of care can still vary from provider to provider. Day cares with a higher staff-to-child ratio (more staff per child) are able to devote more individual time to each child, as well as being more able to make sure the environment remains safe and clean for the children. Day cares with less staff turnover help to provide a more stable environment for children, where children can bond more effectively with staff.

Often, cost is a major factor in parents' decision where they are able to send their child for day care. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that a parent may not be able to afford the highest quality of day care they would like for their child. In some areas of the world, child care may not be available, and families may suffer if parents are unable to work. There are numerous organizations throughout the world that deal with child care. Some campaign for free or subsidized child care for all. Others want tax breaks or allowances that would allow parents to make a non-finance driven choice. Government subsidized programs, such as Head Start in the United States, are often provided. Most government subsidized programs are predominantly concerned with child development, and often hire certified teachers.


  1. "Day-care Centre", Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  2. Lieselotte Ahnert, and Michael E. Lamb, "Child Care and Its Impact on Young Children", Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, September 2018. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jay Belsky, et al., "Are There Long-Term Effects of Early Child Care?" Child Development 78(2) (March/April 2007): 681-701. Retrieved March 29, 2024.
  4. What is High-Quality Child Care? Brightwheel (June 2, 2023). Retrieved March 29, 2024.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Biddulph, Steve. Raising Babies. Thorsons, 2006. ISBN 0007221924
  • Fein, Greta, and Nathan Fox. Infant Day Care. Ablex Publishing, 1990. ISBN 0893915874
  • Parker-Rees, Rod, and Jenny Willan (eds.). Early Years Education. Routledge, 2005. ISBN 978-0415326698
  • Schmidt, Christine A. The Child Care Director's Complete Guide: What You Need to Manage and Lead. Redleaf Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1605544922
  • Smith, Patti. The Truth About the Daycare System. Xlibris Corporation, 2006. ISBN 1425741894

External links

All links retrieved March 29, 2024.


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