Am I doing something wrong by putting my 19 month old baby in a playschool

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Chet - posted on 07/08/2014

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I have to disagree with Evelyn...

Toddlers don't learn good social skills from other toddlers. Adults are far better at teaching social skills, language, cooperation, etc to this age group. That's why daycare centres usually require 1 staff person for every 3 to 5 toddlers (it varies from place to place, but it's always low). Toddlers learn by copying, and other toddlers set terrible examples! Moreover, most toddlers do not engage in cooperative play. They don't need peers to develop properly, and sometimes it can be a hindrance.

Institutional settings can be extremely stressful for a large percentage of young children. If your child enjoys going to play school, and you don't see any signs of problems it's fine. But it really depends on the child and the program.

For all four of our children I felt that play school and preschool were not good for them under the age of three. Even after the age of three our kids didn't do a lot of stuff like that. Only one of our children attended a formal preschool.

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Chet - posted on 07/09/2014

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Sure. But a child who is 19 months old and who has never been exposed to a another toddler or baby is not disadvantaged in any way. Babies and toddlers need to be around people. They need loving, stable, interactive, human contact. They don't specifically need to be around other toddlers to develop normally, or to reach their full potential.

The value of special services for toddlers who have a diagnosis is typically in the special services - not in the peers or in the institutional environment. It's just economical and logistically simpler to deliver services in daycare or preschool settings.

There isn't a narrow window of opportunity when it comes to learning to be part of a group of peers. This is something that kids can learn when they are three or five or seven. It's something that kids learn when they need to learn it - when they go to preschool, or when they go to school, or when they join a band or a dance troop.

Most studies show that the "benefits" of early education programs disappear by the later part of elementary school. If you take a group of ten year olds you can't generally tell who went to preschool and who didn't. It doesn't matter in the long run.

At the same time, there is a significant body of research regarding hormone levels of children who attend daycare. The pattern of stress hormone is different. It's not clear yet what the different pattern means in the grand scheme of things. However, links have been found relating to sleep, fear, aggression and even cortisol levels even when the kids reach adolescence. Moreover, the effects seem to be greater for children who start in institutional settings when they are younger than three.

There are so many different kinds of kids, different kinds of care, and different types of early education that you can't use the research to make any sort of definitive statement about a particular child in a particular program - not at this point at least. However, I would never tell anyone that, by default, all 19 month olds will benefit from play school or nursery programs. Nothing indicates that it's something children need, and it could be the completely wrong thing for some kids. It isn't a very natural environment.

There are specific cases where early learning programs do show reliable results, but this is typically for at risk kids. And most likely, it isn't the peers that matter, it's the access to resources. Kids with special needs need special resources that they can only get through institutions. Kids from low income families benefit from resources their families can't provide and so they must access the resources elsewhere.

That isn't to say that many toddlers don't enjoy daycare or playgroups. If your child doesn't enjoy them however, there is nothing wrong with your child. 19 months is still a baby really. A significant percentage of children that young could be poorly suited to an early learning program.

If you're interested look up the research on hormone levels in children who attend daycare, or look at Gordon Neufeld's work on attachment and development. Again, I'm not anit-daycare centre or anit-early learning. I only suggest that parents proceed carefully, and I would never say that it's the right thing for all children, particularly those under three.

I don't know if this documentary is available outside of Canada:

http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/Shows/Doc...

but if you can watch it, at the 20 minute mark, it talks about an early education program in Manitoba designed to reach vulnerable first nations children. What's interesting about the program though, is that it's specifically designed to mimic parental interactions and to focus on interactions between one child and one adult. Good early education programs model what babies and toddlers get at home - barring unusual circumstances like special needs cases, or children from disadvantaged households.

Ev - posted on 07/08/2014

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I was referring to exposure to other children. Its a good thing to have them exposed to other kids. It is also a learning experience. They do learn social skills with adult supervision and I agree with that, I work with kids. But they do learn to be around other kids in group settings. Where I work, we also are working with children with certain sorts of needs that typical children do not have as well. So not only do they get a preschool setting, they are getting services that they need that their families would not be able to provide normally on their own. My own classroom is under age three and you would be surprised at how many of them now are aware of their peers and how good they work together playing.

Ev - posted on 07/08/2014

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No, you are not doing a thing that is wrong. A child that gets the chance to be around others of a similar age get the chance to have socialized play with other kids. They get to start learning some social skills.

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