November 8, 2005

Metafilterers Ask: What Should You Ask When Evaluating Childcare?

There are some good-read, government-published guidelines from places like Canada and the UK, where professional childcare is a little more widely available, but most suggestions--observe the carer/set-up all day; interview parents, not just the carer or the daycare center chief; watch closely for reactions and unspoken nuances to your questions--presume a lot of self-awareness on the parent's (i.e., your) part.

For example, "Ideally, you'd want the daycare to treat your child(ren) as close as possible to the way you treat them." But face facts, if you're really honest about occasionally plopping the kid down in front of The Wiggles so you can safely ignore him for a while, do you want a carer to treat him "as close as possible" to this? Or better?

At the park this morning, the kid showed up with a bucket and some digging tools, enough to go around (which they immediately did). But there was one nanny who would spirit her kid away immediately any time another kid started playing near him. And another kid, who was hoarding several shovels and animals--which attracted a steady stream of would-be sharers--screamed whenever anyone got near them, and the nanny would just say, "No, those are Chloe's and she doesn't want to share." Never mind that Chloe is about 16 months old.

From these [admittedly incomplete] breaches of the playground's social contracts, I had to wonder if these kids' parents knew that their caregivers were training their kids not to share and not to play with anyone. And how would you know beforehand?

Evaluating child care providers []


I support the right of my kid to not share, at least not INSTANTLY. Others kids have to learn that they have no right to expect someone to just hand something over because they ask or because the thing looks fun or because there seems to be extra from their POV.

Sharing doesn't mean, "Oh, you want my toy. Okay here take it and I'll go find something else." It's about teaching your child to take turns with another child. The "learn to share" aspect of development is crucial to a child's ability to consider other's needs (aka to realize they are not the only one in the universe with needs) and to learn to problem solve with others. It's not just about being "nice;" it's a major social development.

As a Child Development major currently working on my degree I've taken several classes discussing just these kinds of things. As infants and toddlers there is no understanding whatsoever of sharing... to a child of that age, it's kind of like "What's mine is mine and what's yours should be mine too."
But of course, we all know that a vital part of growing up is learning to share. With that said, do you "share" everything that belongs to you? I know that I'm not one for sharing my food and my drinks and I certainly won't share some of my personal belongings with my friends... they're mine, stay away :O) The important thing is to praise children at such a young age (up to 3 or 4) when they DO share, and to encourage sharing, but never to force them to share something that truly belongs to them, especially if there is an emotional attachment to the item. Only when a child reaches the age of about 4 or 5 do they truly start to understand what sharing means.

In our facility, parents are not encouraged to bring their children's personal belongings along with them and if they do the children are told that if it's a toy they don't want to share it's totally okay, but that they have to leave it in their cubby because it wouldn't be fair to have it out in front of the other kids. They seem to do fairly well with this and of course if they want a moment alone with the toy in the cubby we try to make time for that to :O)

The best thing you can do when putting your child in any kind of childcare of course, is to ask the policies! Some places/individuals you will find have some very unique ways of handling things!

[this goes a long way to describing/expanding on the "social contract of the playground" I mentioned. The norm here is parent/carers shadowing toddlers who do, in fact, think that everything is theirs. "Sharing" is more a catch-all term for the navigation of a hundred potential grabby freakouts a day. In that setting, caregivers who don't go along with that for whatever reason--either by whisking their kids off at the first eye contact, or by helping the kid guard a pile of toys in the middle of the sandbox--stand out. I guess the reason I brought it up here is that I still don't know how parents would be able to get a sense for that kind of thing in advance of hiring someone. -ed.]

Don't share your food or drink? You must be single and without children.

[has it been so long since you had roommates, Kaz? labels on food in the fridge? Meanwhile, I eat so much slightly used food off the kid's tray, you'd think I was a busboy at Outback Steakhouse. -ed.]

the other possibility, of course, is that these nannies are doing EXACTLY what the parents would do in that same environment, and that their employers expect them to teach the child/ren this way. I've been around plenty of *parents* who whisk their tots away from other approaching tots, or who guard the loot their child has brought to the play area.

If I was a germophobe, or if I had a child with some autism spectrum disorder that caused him to have personal-bubble issues, I'd want my caregiver to protect his space. Just thought I'd bring this up, since it didn't seem anyone else had...

[good points, and a generous glass-half-full interpretation. I wouldn't be surprised at all if some parents were all, "share my butt, pal, why not get your kid some toys of her own instead of trying to freeload on the stuff we brought for our kid to play with?" It is uptown Manhattan, after all. -ed.]

Lol to Kaz's post about single and not having children... I'm not single, but don't allow my boyfriend to drink/eat from my plate, cup, etc.. and though I don't have children as of yet, when I do rest assured I won't be "sharing" my food with them either... I'm very OCD about that stuff! :O)

As for knowing in advance whether your nanny/childcare provider will be one of "those" you speak of who disallows your child to share any toys and teaches what many would consider bad manners, my best suggestion really is to say something about it. Set the ground rules... some nannies may really not know how the parents would feel about other kids playing with their child's toys and as Micaela pointed out, some parents might not want their little darlings to share.

One suggestion is to set aside a bag for the park and say something like "We always take this bag with us because it has enough toys to go around for the little ones who are usually there." Or let them know your daughter loves to play with the other kids... anything that lets them know you appreciate the "social" aspects of the park.

Or you could just send in the spies to scope out the situation and ditch the nanny who doesn't play along.

It's a sticky situation though... I would not be too thrilled if my child were the one being encouraged to not share and be nonsocial.

The focus on sharing seem to have drifted from the original inquiry about what to ask child care providers.

Especially for those seeking in-home care for an infant (licensed or unlicensed), it is very important to understand the safety issues and the circumstances that lead to inflicted injuries.

In-home care is frequently better for infants than center based care. It is also 4 times more likely to result in fatal inflicted injury.

A very good research article was published in the Nov American Sociological Review

Parents need to discuss the inevitability of frustration and anger, the danger of shaking, the circumstances that can lead to inflicted injuries (especially when an infant is colicky or irritable ) and secure a pledge from the provider that they will call if they even feel they might not be able to handle that stress. Just granting a provider the option of choosing to call can help.

And needless to say, you need to do that with babysitters and any other person who cares for a child. After you read the ASR article, you will not assume.

[Thanks for bringing a very important focus, George. -ed.]

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