What’s the difference in development between kids who stay at home and those in day care?
There isn’t a Solo Mom out there who hasn’t wondered, at least once, if kids who stay home all day with a parent have an advantage over her child who attends day care. There will always be the worry that being cared for personally by a parent during the day is more beneficial to the child and that the benefit will somehow translate to a boost in their overall development.
Well, worry no more! Research shows that all children reach different developmental milestones at their own rate, regardless of whether they spend time with a parent all day or go to day care.
Developmental milestones gauge a child’s achievement and growth in four central areas: learning, acting, playing, and speaking (LAPS). A child’s skill in those areas is measured against other same-age children to see where the child stands in relation to peers. Around 17% of all children under the age of five are found to have developmental disabilities of some nature. With early detection followed by intervention, the majority of these disabilities can be addressed and many disappear by the time the child enters school. If you are wondering about your own child, this video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a great tool for moms to recognize any potential lag in any of the LAPS skills and know how to seek help.
Are there differences?
Yes, there are some differences between kids who are raised primarily at home and kids who spend a good portion of their time in day care. The good news is that day-care centers usually provide much more in terms of enriched language, math skills, and reading than most American homes can. Daily interaction with peers gives day-care kids a slight advantage in both social and cognitive skills.
The not so great news? Kids in day care tended to have slightly more aggressive and impulsive behavior at the age of two than kids cared for at home, but these differences disappeared by age three.
The bottom line: There is no measurable differences in child development linked to the differences in daily, quality care from either a parental source or a provider.
According to a vast and comprehensive study performed by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the single most important element connected to child development was the family and the child’s experience in that family. A NICHD study found that “children who were cared for exclusively by their mothers did not develop differently than those who were also cared for by others.” Instead, “features of the family and of children’s families proved, in general, to be stronger and more consistent predictors of child development than did any aspect of child care.”
Two family features that played the largest role in healthy development were the mother-child interactions and the home environment. Overall outcomes for the children were consistently higher when the moms were attentive, responsive, sensitive, and offered stimulation to the child during everyday interactions.
The home environment is vital to child development. Organized schedules, even simple ones such as morning and bedtime routines, benefit children’s growth. Children who lived in homes with books and toys and who took frequent outings, such as walks and trips to the post office and library, were shown to achieve better social and cognitive outcomes.
The takeaway here is that your role as mom and your consistent care and love are the keys to healthy development.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Anne Spollen lives happily as a Solo Mom to three kids and works as an author, a writer, and a college teacher.
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