Day care has come a long way since the temporary babysitting jobs of the 60′s and 70′s that paid fifty cents an hour for one child, maybe a quarter more an hour for two children. Neighboring teens made good babysitter candidates, as did children of friends or older family members. All that was required of the babysitter was to fix a dinner plate for the child, clean up afterward and play with the child before tucking them into bed. Most of the sitting was done on Friday or Saturday nights allowing the parents to enjoy a night out. Today, daycare means a whole lot more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the last 10 years, almost 65 percent of women with children six years old or younger were working outside the home. Especially in a single-parent household, it is essential to have access to daycare, if other alternatives such as relatives or grandparents are not available. In a family where both the husband and wife work full-time jobs, ongoing daycare is sometimes the only choice.
There are several options available today. More corporate employers are adding on-site daycare facilities, in-home providers are available and full or part-time daycare centers are located in nearly every city large or small. Some centers only accept children ages birth to toddlers, while others welcome children of any age. There is a growing trend toward drop-in childcare, with facilities offering affordable short-term, high-quality care. Schools, gyms, rec centers, and even churches are jumping on the childcare bandwagon by offering such events as Parent Nights Out. Some communities are organizing childcare co-ops. Nannies, also known as a child’s nurse are also an alternative, however, a more costly one as it involves full-time in-home care by a person who may or may not reside on the property.
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Nannies can be male or female; however, male nannies are becoming popular. Families can choose the care that fits their changing needs a nanny for the newborn, drop-in care for the toddler, and an environment rich daycare for preschoolers. Summer needs may differ from those during the school year and parents may switch programs to accommodate those needs.
Daycare centers that are evolving into highly structured learning centers now offer a wider range of activities. Still available are simple arts and crafts projects, but the addition of early learning programs has been attributed to research showing a response to academics at an earlier age. Parents want their children to start developing skills that previously were not taught until much later. Add-on extracurricular activities such as gymnastics, ballet, and martial arts are offered for an additional fee. The instructor comes to the center on a weekly basis providing on-site instruction, and this is especially beneficial to those parents who are short on time and cannot accommodate weekly lessons. Keeping parents up-to-date on the schedules and events was done by a simple newsletter; today many providers have websites that even include the weekly menus. You can also request an update on your child’s conduct, which is in turn emailed to you.
Communication between the provider and the parent is important, but early morning goodbyes can be difficult for younger children and keeping it short and sweet encourages a better day for both child and provider.