According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 60 percent of young children attend some form of a pre-primary school program. Whether the specific program calls itself an early learning center, preschool, nursery or child care center, day care can have a profound effect on a child's development. From bringing on budding socialization skills to affecting behavior, the day care environment plays a pivotal role in the growth and changes of early childhood.
More opportunities to interact with other children equals more chances to learn how to socialize, according to the national child development organization Zero to Three. While you don't necessarily need to send your little one off to day care to ensure healthy social development, this type of group program can help kids under school-age improve their skills in areas such as sharing, making friends, taking turns and communicating with others. The day-to-day interactions with peers can help a child to feel more comfortable in group dynamics and better understand socially acceptable do's and don't's such as not talking when someone else is speaking to you or asking to play with a toy instead of just taking it.
Academics and Learning
While no parent should expect a child to "graduate" from day care with an encyclopedic type of knowledge, an early childhood program can help to teach valuable skills and knowledge that carry over into kindergarten and later grade school. Although plenty of parents do teach these skills at home, a day care provider employs professionally trained preschool or early childhood teachers who understand the child's development, expected learning goals and realistic outcomes. For example, your 4-year-old's day care teacher knows that your child can count up to five (possibly up to 10) and will create a variety of lessons during the course of the year to regularly reinforce this budding math skill.
A high-quality day care program should provide constant and consistent opportunities for young children to develop their language skills. This includes giving children the opportunity to talk (using their expressive language) and listen (developing receptive language). Additionally, day care teachers can help children develop a new, and more sophisticated, vocabulary through both formal and informal lessons. Adults often "dumb down" or use baby talk words when speaking to young children for fear that little ones can't grasp a more grown-up way of speaking. The skilled early childhood worker can introduce appropriate vocabulary through the use of story books, conversation or themed activities. For example, a teacher in a preschool-age room can introduce scientific terms such as hypothesis, microscope, pipette or observation during a classroom experiment activity.
Day care centers can provide young children with an array of opportunities to increase fine and gross motor development. Fine motor development includes skills and abilities having to do with the small muscles in the hands such as eye-hand coordination or dexterity. A quality child care program can affect fine motor development by providing kids with the opportunity to explore a variety of handy activities such as painting with brushes on an easel or using manipulatives such as tying games or stringing beads. Gross motor skills include large muscle development, balance and coordination. During the child's day at her care center, she might have the opportunity to use a school gym, an outdoor play area, play group ball games or ride tricycles.