What is the Best Age to Start Childcare?

There are many reasons why families choose to enrol their child in childcare. While some parents require childcare so that they can return to work or make time for self-care, exercise, errands, and hobbies, others access childcare so their child can experience the social and developmental benefits of receiving high-quality early childhood education. And of course, many families access childcare for all of the above reasons! 

However, the question that lots of parents have is what is the best age to start childcare? As with most questions about young children, the answer depends on a variety of factors and there is no one “right” age to start childcare. Here are some things you might want to consider, depending on the age of your child.

Between 6 weeks and 6 Months

During the early weeks and months of life, your baby is still adapting to life outside the womb. They are focussed on forming attachments with their primary caregivers and are usually still establishing their feeding and sleeping patterns. While staying home with your baby is ideal in the early months of life, sometimes there is a strong requirement for parents to return to work or other commitments, in which case it is definitely possible to find a good childcare environment for your little one. A good childcare centre for young babies will have smaller group sizes with a high educator-to-baby ratio, with early childhood educators who are skilled and experienced in managing babies at this early stage of life. Educators should provide responsive and individualised care to suit the unique temperament and needs of each individual baby.

Between 6 and 18 Months

This age range is a popular time for children to start attending childcare, as many parents will return to work around the one-year mark. Babies and toddlers in this age range have usually developed more predictable sleep and feeding patterns by this age, making it easier to anticipate and meet their needs in the childcare environment. This is also the age range where the consistent predictable routine of a day at childcare can help children to flourish. Babies and young toddlers will still need lots of care and attention, so it’s still imperative to find a centre with educators who take the time to understand your child’s unique preferences and personality and work hard to form an attachment with them. Children who start childcare at this age tend to settle in very quickly and will generally be very comfortable in a childcare setting throughout their early years. 

Between 18 months and 3 years

During this age range, children have a real thirst for exploring, socialising, and experimenting. This can be a great time to start childcare as a good centre will help your child develop their creativity, curiosity, and social skills by providing a stimulating and engaging environment for them to explore. This is also the age when many parents begin to feel their child is getting bored at home and starting to crave more stimulation. Another positive of sending children to childcare in the later toddler years is that most children are very well established on solids, so they can simply slot into the meal schedule at the centre, where parents know they are being provided with healthy, well-balanced toddler-friendly meals. 

The downside of waiting until your child is over 18 months before sending them to childcare is that it can sometimes take them a little longer to settle into the new environment and make bonds with their educators. However, there are lots of strategies that can be helpful to make the transition smoother and a good centre will work collaboratively with you to ensure your child feels safe and comfortable in the new environment. At Little Zak’s we have a wide range of tried and tested strategies to help ease your child’s transition into the childcare environment. 

Between 3 and 5 years

Most children in this age bracket are well and truly ready to attend childcare and there is plenty of evidence to show that attending a high-quality early education facility during these years can have long-term benefits for kids. At this age, children should be getting used to following instructions and routines and developing the foundational numeracy, literacy, physical and social skills they will need to start school. Childcare also offers a great opportunity for children in this age range to learn through play and develop strong social bonds with peers. Children who complete a high-quality early education program usually settle into school quicker, are more independent, and are more likely to flourish in the school environment. At Little Zak’s we offer a specially designed Prep School program which has been developed to serve as a foundation between early childhood education and kindergarten. By using an innovative and inspiring approach to early childhood education, we provide our children aged four to six with the skills and exposure they need to excel in their new school.

As you can see, there is no right or wrong age to start sending your child to childcare. Your personal circumstances and preferences, as well as your child’s unique temperament and personality, will all play a role in guiding the decision. Ultimately, you are the expert on your own child and your own family situation, so you will likely know when it’s the right time. If you’re looking into enrolling your child in childcare contact Little Zak’s today to book a tour of one of our outstanding centres.