While it’s natural for parents to have reservations about entrusting their infant in someone else’s care, the curricular activities many daycare centers provide give babies a healthy, nurturing start to life. Look for centers with age appropriate programs and curriculum that enhance babies’ development by promoting and building essential skills.
Good daycare centers will provide learning opportunities for infants that encourage and support cognitive abilities. One-on-one interaction between caregivers and young babies not only fosters trust, but also encourages visual and auditory perception. As the caregiver plays with and talks to your baby, she is helping him develop his sight and sound recognition skills. Picture book play encourages pre-literacy and language skills. The regular schedules and routines that daycare centers provide also foster a foundational sense of expectation and prediction in infants.
It is important that your baby’s daycare center provides him with plenty of tummy time throughout the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are put down on their tummies to play from the day they’re brought home from the hospital. Tummy time helps a baby develop motor skills -- such as the ability to hold their necks up and push their bodies off the floor with their hands -- that are essential to a baby’s eventual ability to sit up and crawl. The baby toys that daycare centers provide also encourage reaching and grasping, which are among a baby’s earliest developmental milestones.
Social skills are an important aspect of early childhood development, and it’s never too early to promote them. Playing, cooing and rocking with a caregiver promotes interaction, communication and pre-language skills. Playing with toys in a small group of other babies encourages sharing and cooperative play. Exposure to conversation promotes a baby’s understanding of two-way dialogue, which is essential to language skills.
Things to Watch Out For
Not all daycare centers uphold the same standards of developmental learning and well-being. Overcrowded or unsanitary daycare centers can pose potential harm to your infant. Toys, eating surfaces, cribs and diaper changing stations should all be disinfected daily and shoes should not be permitted to be worn in the infant room. Failure to adhere to these practices can result in sick babies. Overcrowding is both a health and safety issue. Center ratios should be no more than three babies for every caregiver in the room, and total persons should not exceed maximum occupancy as determined by the fire inspector.