When is it time to leave a "day mother" ?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  July 15, 2011 06:00 AM

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Hello Barbara,

My one year old daughter currently goes to a 'day mother' who has two other babies in her charge. My husband wants her to go to a crêche starting in January. I think they are both good options but I was wondering which option you think is better. The day mother is a very loving woman so I am quite happy with her. My husband thinks my daughter will need more stimulation soon. Also, we are both a little concerned because she gets to watch a little television at the day mother's house.

Thank you very much in advance!

From: Working Mom, Anytown,


Dear Working Mom,

I am not familiar with the term "day mother" (although I love it, and assume it's akin to family day care since she has two other babies in her care), and I know nothing about the creche system, (although I can search the Web like anyone else and what I find is that it is a French immersion day care that appears to be more popular outside the US than within), so I can't comment on these specifically.

In general, the thinking is that all children need socialization beginning about 18 months. By that, I mean some exposure to age mates. Until then it's nice, but by no means a make-or-break issue. Even at 18 months, toddlers are only engaging in parallel play, but they still benefit from the exposure to each other in terms of language acquisition, potty training, motor development etc. For children not in the day care system, it can come from neighborhood play groups, age-appropriate play ground activities, Mom & Me classes, and the like. By 2 1/2 or 3, children benefit from more structured play opportunities where they are introduced to the concept of turn taking (not sharing!), following limited directions, etc.

So to answer the first part of your question, there's no urgency to make a change if all is well.

All may not be well, however. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO screen time for children under the age of 2 because studies show it can have a negative impact on the rapidly developing brain. Common sense can prevail, of course -- half an hour over the course of a week wouldn't bother me; half an hour a day absolutely would. (People have accused me in the past of being rigid on this point but I stand by the APA research). So you need to know how much screen time your baby is getting and what the content is.

So yes, a family day care provider who plops babies in front of screens is a bit of a red flag for me: It makes me wonder if there are other short-cuts that would make me unhappy. Is this alone reason to leave? No. But it does give pause. Talk to her before you do anything precipitous, she may be open to guidance, she may not even be aware of the research. Then I'd let that conversation be your guide as to when you want to make a change.

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6 comments so far...
  1. A creche is a day care center, at least in Britain. I'm guessing your letter writer is British or Canadian. This is the age old day care center vs. family centered day care discussion.

    My kids went to family day care and it was great. But I have friends who used day care centers and wouldn't do it any other way. All of these kids have turned out just fine, the oldest are just going off to college. I think its really a personal decision.

    You should visit each place you are considering so you can see what will work best for your family.

    Posted by ash July 15, 11 02:40 PM
  1. Oh and I would add, I would NOT place to much concern on tv watching. This is a pretty common occurence in all day care for children who don't nap. Watching a "little" tv does not mean they are being plopped in front of the tv all day. I guarantee they are watching movies and kiddy tv shows at a day care center from time to time.

    Posted by ash July 15, 11 02:42 PM
  1. "This is a pretty common occurence in all day care for children who don't nap. "
    -----------------------
    I worked for a while at a daycare center, and we only put on kid shows for the older set -- the preschoolers, 4 years old and above. For the infants and toddlers (2-3 years old) we never used the TV. At all. Kids who didn't nap were given a quiet time (books to look at, drawing supplies, etc). A good daycare center won't use TV for such young ones, so for me it would be a red flag -- it is a lazy way to handle the young non-napping set.

    Posted by jjlen July 15, 11 03:43 PM
  1. And still other childcare centers don't have televisions at all, and don't offer TV at all - not even movies. the center I direct doesn't have a TV for any age. However, remember that "screen time" comes in the form of computers as well as tv, so finding out how much time preschoolers (3yrs+) are spending on the computer at school would be important to know, if only so you can figure out how much time you want your child on the computer at home each day. And, again, whether the 2 yr olds also have computers in their school, and how much time they are spending on them. Honestly, I'm not that impressed when I see computers in preschools/child care centers, unless the center is for very disadvantaged chlidren who wouldn't have computers at home. then there is a benefit to those children getting comfortable on a computer. But for middle class children who all have computers at home, I really don't see the need for computers

    Posted by Cassandra Hostetler July 17, 11 07:00 PM
  1. If the woman is loving toward your child, - nuf said! Preschool starts at 2.9, you can move then. Until then, this sounds just peachy.

    Posted by Laura July 17, 11 07:41 PM
  1. I watched TV at young ages, and not educational TV either. So did my husband. We both have above average IQs, went to a selective college, did very well, and both went to graduate school for masters degrees. I hate to say it, but I think the biggest factor of all is genetics and no amount of flash cards or special classes changes that, but I suspect its not popular to say (nor does it sell) to parents who want to turn their children into brainiacs.

    Our almost 13 month old watches up to 1 hour of TV a day WITH US and has done so for a few months now. We watch shows like Yo Gabba Gabba which our daughter loves. She dances (quite well!) to the songs, and tries to sing the words. She tries to offer toys and her binky to the characters on screen and talks a storm. We dance with her and sing the songs as well and point out colors and items on the screen. It warms my heart to see her father acting like a goofball for his daughter's amusement. It is just another tool for interacting with our daughter. I find it hard to believe that this is any different whatsoever than reading a book with our daughter which everyone says the opposite about.

    FWIW, our daughter has been hitting all her milestones weeks to even months ahead (for a few) and currently has a vocabulary of about 12 words, which our pediatrician says is very good for her age (3 is the minimum). I realize my experience is anecodotal, but I think it really depends on how the TV is used and I think the APA guidelines probably refer to parents who just plop their kids in front of the TV and use them as surrogate babysitters.

    Our group daycare has no TV watching of any kind and we are fine with that as well. I was raised in family care where the "Price is Right" was blaring in the background.

    Posted by Issybelle July 22, 11 10:40 AM
 
6 comments so far...
  1. A creche is a day care center, at least in Britain. I'm guessing your letter writer is British or Canadian. This is the age old day care center vs. family centered day care discussion.

    My kids went to family day care and it was great. But I have friends who used day care centers and wouldn't do it any other way. All of these kids have turned out just fine, the oldest are just going off to college. I think its really a personal decision.

    You should visit each place you are considering so you can see what will work best for your family.

    Posted by ash July 15, 11 02:40 PM
  1. Oh and I would add, I would NOT place to much concern on tv watching. This is a pretty common occurence in all day care for children who don't nap. Watching a "little" tv does not mean they are being plopped in front of the tv all day. I guarantee they are watching movies and kiddy tv shows at a day care center from time to time.

    Posted by ash July 15, 11 02:42 PM
  1. "This is a pretty common occurence in all day care for children who don't nap. "
    -----------------------
    I worked for a while at a daycare center, and we only put on kid shows for the older set -- the preschoolers, 4 years old and above. For the infants and toddlers (2-3 years old) we never used the TV. At all. Kids who didn't nap were given a quiet time (books to look at, drawing supplies, etc). A good daycare center won't use TV for such young ones, so for me it would be a red flag -- it is a lazy way to handle the young non-napping set.

    Posted by jjlen July 15, 11 03:43 PM
  1. And still other childcare centers don't have televisions at all, and don't offer TV at all - not even movies. the center I direct doesn't have a TV for any age. However, remember that "screen time" comes in the form of computers as well as tv, so finding out how much time preschoolers (3yrs+) are spending on the computer at school would be important to know, if only so you can figure out how much time you want your child on the computer at home each day. And, again, whether the 2 yr olds also have computers in their school, and how much time they are spending on them. Honestly, I'm not that impressed when I see computers in preschools/child care centers, unless the center is for very disadvantaged chlidren who wouldn't have computers at home. then there is a benefit to those children getting comfortable on a computer. But for middle class children who all have computers at home, I really don't see the need for computers

    Posted by Cassandra Hostetler July 17, 11 07:00 PM
  1. If the woman is loving toward your child, - nuf said! Preschool starts at 2.9, you can move then. Until then, this sounds just peachy.

    Posted by Laura July 17, 11 07:41 PM
  1. I watched TV at young ages, and not educational TV either. So did my husband. We both have above average IQs, went to a selective college, did very well, and both went to graduate school for masters degrees. I hate to say it, but I think the biggest factor of all is genetics and no amount of flash cards or special classes changes that, but I suspect its not popular to say (nor does it sell) to parents who want to turn their children into brainiacs.

    Our almost 13 month old watches up to 1 hour of TV a day WITH US and has done so for a few months now. We watch shows like Yo Gabba Gabba which our daughter loves. She dances (quite well!) to the songs, and tries to sing the words. She tries to offer toys and her binky to the characters on screen and talks a storm. We dance with her and sing the songs as well and point out colors and items on the screen. It warms my heart to see her father acting like a goofball for his daughter's amusement. It is just another tool for interacting with our daughter. I find it hard to believe that this is any different whatsoever than reading a book with our daughter which everyone says the opposite about.

    FWIW, our daughter has been hitting all her milestones weeks to even months ahead (for a few) and currently has a vocabulary of about 12 words, which our pediatrician says is very good for her age (3 is the minimum). I realize my experience is anecodotal, but I think it really depends on how the TV is used and I think the APA guidelines probably refer to parents who just plop their kids in front of the TV and use them as surrogate babysitters.

    Our group daycare has no TV watching of any kind and we are fine with that as well. I was raised in family care where the "Price is Right" was blaring in the background.

    Posted by Issybelle July 22, 11 10:40 AM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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