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What Are The Best And Worst Ages For Starting Daycare?

If you have a little one, you may not get to decide when they head off to daycare. But if you do have that luxury, you may be wondering what are the best and worst ages for starting daycare and starting them off in this new routine. 

Here we’ve collected all the best information to help you make an informed choice about when is the best time to send your little one to daycare, and when might be not such a good time to them off to daycare. 

What Is Daycare?

Daycare offers working parents a safe and secure environment to leave their children in while they are at work. They provide quality caregivers during normal working hours.

They are also open during school breaks and holidays and provide flexible pick-up and drop-off times to suit the vast majority of parents’ schedules.

Advantages of Daycare

There are some great advantages to a daycare setting for your children such as:

  • Better trained and educated caregivers potentially but not always.
  • A more structured schedule, more like a school environment – great for older children preparing for kindergarten.
  • Far more likely to have an educationally enriched curriculum – literacy, language development, social and emotional development.
  • Opportunities to socialize with more children and adults.
  • No worries if staff are sick as there will be others to fill in.
  • Opportunities to take part in activities such as soccer, dance, music, or foreign languages.
  • The use of technology – computers, iPads, and even smartboards.
  • Better security at entrances and the possibility of cameras in class and video surveillance.

Disadvantages of Daycare

But as you know with the good comes the bad so what are the disadvantages of a daycare setting:

  • Less flexible with regard to sickness and vacations.
  • Higher tuition rates.
  • Different people caring for your children due to high staff turnover, shifts, etc – can lack consistency.

daycare children

What Is The Worst Age To Start Daycare?

Not all ages are great ages for starting daycare, and that is because if you wait until your little one is too old, around 3 or 4, your little one is already set in a routine.

They are already accustomed to spending time at home with mom, dad, granny, or whoever looks after them, and an upheaval in their routine can be a recipe for disaster. Consider starting them off at a younger age if possible, to help them get used to the routine of daycare. 

Is Six Months The Right Time To Start Daycare?

The truth is, there is never a perfect time to start your little one at daycare, and everyone has a different opinion. 

Six months can be a great age to start your little one at daycare, and some studies suggest that daycare-attending children have better cognitive skills and language ability than those who don’t, and these skills can be developed from a young age if you send your little one to daycare early. 

Children who spend time developing in a place with others learn how to socialize, which can promote better behavior.

Children who don’t attend daycare or a similar setting don’t have as much opportunity to socialize unless they go out to classes or groups with their parents.

They also learn how to share which means they may have an easier time moving into pre-k and kindergarten, where they will be expected to share and socialize. 

Is 12 Months A Good Time To Start Daycare?

You may want to wait until your little one’s immune system is more developed, or until they have reached some of their milestones. Children who stay at home might be encouraged to reach more milestones than children in daycare, such as pointing, walking, or even speaking. 

Some studies suggest that children who begin daycare facilities at 12 months old are better behaved than children who don’t attend daycare. This could be because parents are more lenient with their children, or because daycare attending children have more time to socialize and are more used to following rules. 

Is Age 3 The Right Age For Daycare?

Lots of children develop better when they are able to be at home in a comfortable environment. They are able to grow, develop, and they have greater emotional maturity. 

Children who attend daycare at an earlier age may develop depression, anxiety, and hyperactivity when they are older. They may also have worse relationships with their parents, due to a lack of time spent with them to bond. 

Age Doesn’t Matter

Lots of professionals place less importance on the age that children should begin attending daycare, and more importance on ensuring that the daycare your little one will attend is a high-quality setting that is right for your little one. 

Some studies suggest that those children that attend daycare can suffer from preventable diseases, so this may cause you to think about whether or not daycare is the right thing for you and your little one.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that daycare might be safer than hiring a nanny. 


Guilt can be a huge part of parenting and some moms may feel guilty about having to utilize daycare facilities when their little one is so young. Not everyone is able to dedicate themselves to being a full-time mom, and not everyone enjoys being a full-time mom. 

Lots of women realize that they don’t enjoy being stay-at-home moms and that they don’t like having to take a career break to stay at home with their children. Lots of moms may feel guilty about sending their little ones to daycare, worried that it seems like they ‘can’t handle’ staying at home. 

But, sending your children to daycare might actually improve your relationship with your little one.

You’ll be much more likely to enjoy time spent with your little one when it is quality time, and not when you’re feeling resentful or unhappy about a change in your work life or routine.

Other Care Options

Daycare isn’t the best option for every family and some families will try several childcare options before finding the best one for them. Here are some of the other options you might consider if daycare isn’t suitable for you. 

Stay At Home Parent

You might consider whether it’s possible for one parent, either mom or dad, to stay at home with your little one. You might be able to adjust your office hours or change to a permanent work-from-home position.

Or, it might make financial sense for one parent to take a career break or give up working to stay home and care for your little one, especially if you have more than one young child. For moms getting the right work/life balance is really important too, check out our guide here.

Nanny Or Babysitter

Your friend might have a great recommendation for a nanny or a babysitter, and this might make the most sense for you and your family.

A nanny or babysitter will likely be cheaper than sending your little one to daycare, as they are only one person, and they don’t have the often-pricy overheads that daycares have. 

A nanny or babysitter will also have more one-to-one time to dedicate to your little one, which could help their personal development and skills to thrive. 

Family Members

If neither you nor your partner is happy to give up your jobs or take career breaks to care for your little one, you may have some family members who would love the opportunity to spend some quality time with your little one.

You may have parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles, who are not working and are more than happy to spend a little of their spare time caring for your little one. 

If you feel uncomfortable asking them to care for your little one on a full-time basis, you could consider alternating some days with a relative and some days in daycare or with a babysitter.

You could also consider alternating between a few relatives, to ensure no one feels overworked. 

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How much does daycare cost?

The cost does depend on the type of childcare that you are using, the age of the child/children, how many days a week, and the state in which you live. But the Center for American Progress calculated that in 2020 the average weekly rate for one child was around $300 to $340. 

What is the difference between daycare and childcare?

Daycare is the term many people still use for any care that takes place out of the home for children during the day while their parents are working. The term childcare is a little more inclusive and includes care provided in a child care center, family child care home, or by family, friends, or neighbors.

Is daycare better than staying home with mom?

A study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that daycare children are better behaved and socialized than children who are cared for in at-home settings.

The Final Thought

There are a whole host of childcare options available to parents and no one is really better than another but one may suit your family’s needs better than another.

The most important thing is choosing something that works well for you and your family. Whether that’s stay-at-home parenting, daycare, a nanny or babysitter, or family members who lend a hand. 

The most important thing is that your little one is safe and happy!