to re-pose the radio 4 question - Is childcare good for CHILDREN?

(860 Posts)
IceBeing Tue 04-Mar-14 08:40:12

Our dearest Justine and some bloke from the family childcare trust were on radio 4 this morning talking about childcare costs.

They focussed on Mums who would like to work more but cannot afford to due to childcare costs, and a proposal to make more free time available for 2-3 yos.

They both made a compelling case that this situation was bad for the Mums (because they want to work and can't).

They made a reasonable (but by no means obviously correct) argument that it was better for the economy for these Mums to work.

But they were then asked something along the lines of:

" Is increased access to childcare good for children? I mean if it isn't there isn't really any point? "

And they didn't answer AT ALL. They went back to the previous economic answer. Well actually Justine didn't get a chance to respond - so no accusation in her specific direction!

But what is the answer?

Is taking a child out of the home and putting them in nursery for an additional period between 2 and 3 yo (which was the proposal being discussed) actually good for the child?

Do kids in nursery earlier do better/worse at school? Are they happier/less happy? Is this a simple case of happier mummy, happier toddler?

WooWooOwl Tue 04-Mar-14 08:43:56

It's too general a question.

Children are different and childcare settings are different, so I'm firmly on the fence.

Some children can thrive in good childcare, but not all childcare is good. In general though, I think increased access to childcare is good for families because of the financial benefits, and if something is good for families then it stands to reason that in the long run it would also be good for children.

IceBeing Tue 04-Mar-14 08:46:36

Well I am on the fence too....the obvious benefits to a family of having everyone in work who wants to be in work keeping up their skills etc. but my DD goes to nursery and she would so very much rather be at home with us. All she ever reports back from nursery is that it is too loud, there are too many people and she doesn't like it. sad

Princessgenie Tue 04-Mar-14 08:52:42

I think it depends on the situation at home, the child Andre child are setting.
My daughter loves nursery. I know she loves nursery because when we pull up outside she gets giddy and shouts for her key worker. When she sees her friends when she gets inside she kisses me, says bye and runs off to play. When we go on trips she asks if her key worker can come and play too.
She also loves 'mummy' days. Which are the two days a week it's just me and her and she has my undivided attention and we go out, visit friends, do activities, paint (generally each other and the carpet) make trays of jelly to put our feet in etc. and she loves 'mummydaddy days' which are the weekends where she gets both of us.

I think the right combination, and the right child care setting can be marvellous for a child.

Princessgenie Tue 04-Mar-14 08:53:16

* Andre should be 'and the'

Burren Tue 04-Mar-14 08:54:29

Children have usually been looked after by people other than their parents (whether by extended families or hired childcare) throughout most of history, because the idea of the SAHM (and even more so, the SAHF) is a very new one in the scheme of things. How exactly would we judge what is 'good' for children in general or not? The studies seem to say entirely contradictory things.

I fail to see why this is a women's problem, though. The world would end before I stopped working.

IceBeing, that must be tough if your daughter isn't happy in her nursery, though. Could you explore a nanny share or a childminder?

IceBeing Tue 04-Mar-14 08:55:33

hmm I wonder what we are doing wrong then...DD is definitely not happy. She only goes two mornings a week...maybe that is the problem.

treaclesoda Tue 04-Mar-14 08:55:51

some children do love nursery, some hate it, no matter how good it is.

My nephew, now an adult, was a perfectly typical child, he enjoyed the company of other children, was sociable etc but even as an adult he remembers how much he hated nursery when he was little (although presumably he can't remember back to age 2, but the nursery took them up to age 8 in an 'after school' setting).

Then I've known other children who very clearly enjoy it and are reluctant to come home when their parents come to collect them.

Its hard to know how many fall into each category.

HoratiaDrelincourt Tue 04-Mar-14 08:56:48

I'm not particularly happy about the fact that pfb spent up to 40h/w in nursery. But we did our sums and that was the only way we could afford to have any other children.

For us, the benefits of having one or more siblings far outweighed the theoretical disadvantages of being in nursery. And we found a setting most suited to his character and needs.

Ofsted, EYFS and ratios together make for an excellent basic provision for children. Of course there's bad apples, and always room for improvement, but we don't shove twenty babies in a room with one harassed 18yo and Peppa Pig on a loop. Those requirements make childcare expensive but that's inevitable.

IceBeing Tue 04-Mar-14 08:57:10

TBH the biggest issue I have is that when we spoke to the nursery workers about DD not seeming happy to go to nursery they basically looked at us like we were idiots and said 'no kid would rather be at nursery than at home'.

But even that isn't the point really...kids can hate things that are beneficial to them...

But what studies and what contradictory things do they say?

treaclesoda Tue 04-Mar-14 08:59:43

I don't think studies are particularly relevant tbh, in the sense that no matter what the studies say, you know your child best. And you know your family situation best too. And your work situation.

I don't mean that to be critical, I just mean don't be afraid to follow your instinct.

IceBeing Tue 04-Mar-14 09:00:58

I also think the nursery ratio thing is a bit bogus.

my DD doesn't get 1:3 provision she gets 6:18 provision. The difference is the quieter kids don't actually get to interact with the nursery workers in any other way than nappy changing...

Sorry! I should stop anecdoting! Please - if people have actual research data then do point to it!

IceBeing Tue 04-Mar-14 09:02:10

treacle obviously personal circumstance is important but the data are also important (if they exist). If my kids is (hypothetically) losing/gaining IQ points by being in nursery I need to know that to make the best decision for us all.

monkeymamma Tue 04-Mar-14 09:06:54

Icebeing, we increased DS's nursery time from two mornings to two almost full days and he finds it a lot easier to adjust just being there that bit longer.

My opinion fwiw is that from 18m to 2 onwards it positively benefits the child to have some time in nursery but prior to that it is a necessity for the parents and, though not harmful to the child, probably not as beneficial as 121 with primary carer. That said, it does help the parent a bit in a way which is arguably beneficial to the family as a whole. Eg my ds did not wean well and wasn't interested in food/was very fussy, but once he started nursery he loved eating with the other children and has become a brilliant wee eater. He also refused daytime naps till he started in the baby room at nursery where they got him into a much better routine with sleeping. Nursery have also always been much more committed to properly messy play than I can really manage at home, for which I'm very grateful!

OrangePixie Tue 04-Mar-14 09:07:47

I've long been of the opinion that all these debates about childcare, nursery hours, wraparound school care, child ratios etc. NEVER ask what is best for the child.

OrangePixie Tue 04-Mar-14 09:10:49

FWIW I think nursery is good if used in moderation. I don't think 50 hours at week at six months old is good.

treaclesoda Tue 04-Mar-14 09:11:53

but any gain/loss in IQ or whatever is so hypothetical that it still won't tell you if it applies to your dd or not. eg I know from studies that breast fed babies are more intelligent and more likely to be a healthy weight than ff babies, yet my dd was ff and she is top of her class at school and also much slimmer than most of her peers. So all the data I the world couldn't have predicted that.

I'm honestly not trying to criticise, I think it's natural that you are really stressed out by your daughter being unhappy, and I'd just be wary of reading too much into studies because there will be so much conflicting information and you could end up even more upset, worrying about doing the right thing.

BrianTheMole Tue 04-Mar-14 09:16:52

I think it depends on the child. My dd hated nursery, she never really settled, and in the end I took her out. Ds on the other hand absolutely thrived in nursery. Loved it. It may make a difference that he didn't start until 3, whilst dd went at 12 months.

Kendodd Tue 04-Mar-14 09:17:00

I think one problem is that whether childcare is good or bad for a child some people have absolutely no choice (unless they want to raise their children in poverty on benefits) but to use it.

CelticJuggler Tue 04-Mar-14 09:19:36

I didn't want to go back to work and put my DS in a nursery. My DM stayed at home and that's what I thought I wanted too.

Huge mistake on my part. Since starting nursery (because life isn't a fairy-tale and I had to return to work as we need money to survive) my DS has thrived.

He's more sociable, less afraid of situations and meeting people, his language skills have improved immeasurably and it's been fantastic to watch. Having said that, he's only there part time as my work has been fantastic in allowing me a very phased return.

He asks to go everyday, and I certainly benefit as well as I can go to work and be "me" not "mum" (twee as that sounds, it's very true, and I am happier and more content to spend hours playing with trains, going to play parks etc in the time that we do have together).

On the other hand, my friend's DS hates it. He's now being cared for by family while his mum works; he would perhaps have been better in a childminder setting.

I don't think there IS a definitive answer - like many things in this life, children are individuals and there is no right or wrong way.

WorraLiberty Tue 04-Mar-14 09:20:18

I agree Kendodd, I think that's the crux of it.

Often when someone is worried about sending their child to nursery, other parents will say, "Your child will be absolutely fine", but how do they know?

What if the child isn't fine but the parents still have to work?

Ubik1 Tue 04-Mar-14 09:21:22

If I could have held on, I would have waited until DD3 was 3 before I put her in nursery. But financial pressures had become so acute that I had to put her in for 2 days aged 2. The nursery was lovely but she screamed and bcame hysterical at every drop off. It was incredibly stressful.

But now she is 4.5 and loves nursery. Goes every day.

I've no idea what the best thing is. I think parents can only be 'good enough' in this world and life may not always be perfect for the young child. This has always been the case and, whatever challenges, most people turn out to be perfectly healthy happy adults.

Burren Tue 04-Mar-14 09:21:49

IceBeing, what a strange thing for the nursery workers to say. My son, almost two, goes to a childminder whom he adores, and he loves the company of the other children there, and when he's at home, chatters endlessly about them. Any time we pass her house he wants to go in.

Might your little one benefit from a quieter, childminder-type setting? I honestly don't think it's true that all children would always rather be at home.

Orange, I would have a lot more sympathy with that line of argument if the corollary wasn't always the assumption that the mother, not the father, should then stop working, in order to stay at home.

FruitSaladIsNotPudding Tue 04-Mar-14 09:25:55

I think good childcare, from the age of 2ish, is definitely good for children. I'm less sure about babies, but since it is necessary for so many families, good, affordable childcare should be available.

maillotjaune Tue 04-Mar-14 09:26:21

It isn't just a clear cut 'is it good for the child' question that needs asking.

For many families the question is 'is it better for both parents to work and if so which childcare will be affordable and suit the child's needs?' - I don't think you can look at the childcare in isolation.

Unless you don't need to work but wonder if your child would benefit from time in a nursery situation - but this wasn't what was being discussed on R4.

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