Recently it occurred to me that many daycare kids do the longest days in the family.
Checking them in before 8am, and arriving back by close at 6pm.
For us parents (and sometimes older kids) we have to factor in commute time back and forth.
But for that hour or so a day, our little ones are in care – the same place we dropped them that morning.
Huge social benefits
As someone who has had two kids in daycare at least three times a week since both were ten-months-old, I can vouch for how amazing it can be.
If I could go back in time, I’d reassure myself as a first-time mum that they’d both thrive in such a social environment, because back then I was so worried that somehow the environment would not help them grow.
Both our sons have grown to be really social little beings, and I can’t speak more highly of the benefits such great early care has given our family. But the length of the day is something to factor in when you decide where to send your child to daycare. Also, consider if attending somewhere close to your workplace, as opposed to closer to home, might help shorten the day a bit.
As would finding a centre that’s sensitive to the busy lives of working parents. Certainly, lots of centres are looking to support families with children who do long days. Many offer a late afternoon snack, for those still there after 5pm and in a ground-breaking move last year, one Sydney daycare started packing up dinner foods for busy families to grab for five dollars on their way home.
But what are some other practical ways we can support our little ones through long days in care?
Read more about daycare:
- Dear daycare, please don’t pat my baby to sleep
- The daycare sleep advice all parents need
- What daycare kids really need from you on the weekends
Make playtime a priority
Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue has some great tips for working parents looking to juggle the realities of work/life with daycare hours. Especially for our littlest ones.
Chris is adamant that parents need to put all their focus onto their kids from the minute they get home. And that starts from switching your phone to silent (or off) as soon as you get to the daycare gate.
Once home, it’s playtime! Chris recommends spending 20 minutes a day with their kids on the floor as soon as you get in the door.
Depending on the age of your child, this could be Lego, a game of chasings around the backyard and for really tired little ones, a play or story while they’re in the bath is an excellent way to kill two birds with one stone.
Keep your evening routine simple
Similarly, keep dinner really, really simple. Prepare the night before or throw together something a bit more like lunch or a snack. After all, most daycares provide highly nutritious and hot lunches in the middle of the day.
Behaviour problems can seem worse after a day in care and Chris says this is mostly a result of children having to “be good” all day:
“It’s completely normal for them to try and test the boundaries at home, once you get there. And this could look like a lot of mess or noise. But that’s normal,” says Chris.
Rather than try and stifle the behaviour, Chris says it’s most important that parents try and accept it first.
“Again this comes down to making sure you are giving your kids as much attention as you possibly can as soon as you pick them up. Twenty minutes will do it and if you play solidly for that time you will find they’ll more happily play alone for a little while, so you can get a few things done.”
The financial pressures of life make work for both parents such a reality, now. But nobody wants to feel like they’re letting their children down, or making life more exhausting for them than it needs to be.
With a simple home routine in place and lots of love, your child will thrive between home and daycare life.
You’ve just got to find your own balance.