Parents Not Nearly Interested Enough In Children’s Life In Daycare, Study Claims

Parents’ have very little knowledge of their children’s day-to-day activities in daycare, a new study finds.

Nearly 1.5 million children in Canada grow up with daycare workers taking care of many of their daily needs. While parents hope that daycare providers will let them know what goes on while their children are in care, a new study finds that the majority of parents “ought to be more involved in the daycare experience, a major component of their child’s development.”

Nina Howe, a professor in Concordia’s Department of Education and a lead author in the study, investigated what parents really know about their children’s care. Howe explains:

“We suspected that most parents know very little about the education, training, and background experiences of their children’s educators or what goes on during the child’s day. No one buys a car without doing some homework, so why don’t parents do some homework when selecting childcare?”

More and more women are leaving their children in daycare, and Howe believes that families are choosing childcare centers based on proximity to home or office locations rather than the center’s philosophy or teacher’s abilities.

The study will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Early Childhood Research. Howe was mainly interested in whether parents noticed a difference in the quality of their children’s education after changes in curriculum had been implemented.

The researchers singled out several aspects of the daycare experience, from the activities provided for the children to the education of the center’s teacher. They based their research on over 40 not-for-profit daycare centers in Halifax, Montreal, and Winnipeg. Researchers interviewed 261 parents. While 75 per cent of parents reported some knowledge of the center’s philosophy, this information was largely from written statements issued by educators, not collected by conversation or a parent’s initiative.

Only 40 per cent of parents knew how much education their child’s teacher had.

Howe maintains that this is a vital aspect of a child’s success in daycare. Research indicates that teachers with more formal training “provide more developmentally appropriate activities for the children and have stronger relations with parents.” During formal education, teachers generally take courses and practicum’s that teach them to “establish a good rapport with parents and keep the lines of communication open.”

“Parents are often unaware of the role that teacher education plays in providing high quality care for children; they think that an attractive center with a warm and nurturing teacher is sufficient,” Howe explains. “While these factors are important, parents need to know what the center philosophy is, what kind of activities are offered to the children, how the day is organized, and so on. Considering that many children spend eight to nine hours a day, five days per week in childcare, this is a critical question.”

Apparently, Canadian parents aren’t the only ones who are largely unaware of the goings on at their child’s daycare facility. Statistics show that nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 are in some type of child care. Children of working mothers spend an average of 35 per week in a formal childcare setting. Ashley Schoolcraft, who works with children ages one to two at a child development center near Sacramento, CA, suggests that it is “important for parents to be involved so children make connections with home and daycare.” When children’s routines and environments at daycare differ greatly than those in their home, it can be very difficult for children to adjust. Parents are the only ones who can ensure that children are adapting well to an integration of both environments.

Schoolcraft explains that teachers fill out “daily sheets” for each child, detailing their activities throughout the day. The daily sheets even specify children’s daily development in five arenas: cognitive, social, physical, emotional, and language skills.

“Parents do like that part,” Schoolcraft told The Inquisitr, but then admits that while “about half actually read the paper,” only one or two parents “really ask about the activities.”

Schoolcraft has a BA in Elementary Education, and a Child Development Associates Certificate. Recently, she notes, the center she works for sent out information on all the teachers and staff at the center, to better inform parents. “But,” Schoolcraft notes, “I think people just trust the [center].”

Do you think that parents are interested enough in their children’s activities while in day care?