Contrary to some popular myth, not all daycare centres are “more or less the same”.
Some may practice play-based learning approaches which have been proven to help most children’s development and overall learning. So, if you’re searching for something like “Child care near me”, it might be sensible to make this one of your selection criteria.
Why ‘child care near me’ is only part of the story
It is now widely accepted that children do not all start on the same platform for learning and developing. Probably largely to do with genetics, some may be more or less receptive to different teaching and learning approaches than others.
This is not necessarily linked at all to potential intelligence – something that has been a controversial and often distracting subject for well over a century. What is being discussed here is that children typically have different needs in terms of what is the optimum learning environment in their circumstances.
Almost anyone with experience in trying to help young children develop and learn will have witnessed major differences between kids in this respect.
Some are eager to learn and will do so spontaneously under almost all circumstances, seemingly requiring only moderate assistance and guidance as they do so. Others, perhaps the majority, might be less spontaneously driven and require a more stimulating environment designed to encourage them to seek out new skills, information and experiences.
A third group may be, at face value, very reluctant to learn new skills and be seemingly far happier being left to their own devices. That might, in some cases, negatively impact their development progress.
To be clear – virtually all children WILL learn. However, the rate of their learning and its breadth and diversity, will all typically be significantly influenced by the nature of their learning environment.
This means that selecting an appropriate daycare centre is critically important.
What is a ‘play-based learning environment’?
While individual children have their own unique needs, one thing that the vast majority of them share is a love of play. Very few children, even allowing for things like normal shyness, will refuse to participate in games and play.
Play can be entirely random in terms of adult perceptions, though that can be misleading, as children often have their own rules and structures in play that adults are simply unable to see. There is a very significant learning benefit to allowing children the time to play games to their own rules and thereby entirely free of adult structures, expectations and objectives. Many of these benefits are in areas such as socialisation, though there can also be knock-on benefits in areas such as counting, arranging by size and throwing/catching (bodily coordination) etc.
It is possible though for experienced practitioners of early learning techniques to design some games that by their very definition, require children to learn as they participate. These can be adjusted to take into account things such as age and individual interest levels.
In a nutshell, that latter activity is behind the concept of play-based learning regimes.
Such regimes are often very effective at smoothing out the different motivational levels between children, encouraging those that might be slightly less motivated to learn to participate by virtue of the context being a game with other children, rather than a ‘lesson’.
There is a large difference between simply allowing children to play 100% to their own devices and with toys, and defining a game or games that have a development component.
Some daycare centres may specialise in the latter. If you’re interested in play-based learning for your children, it would be advisable to specifically research that rather than just “child care near me” on the internet.