About 80% of children receive child care outside the home before they start school. Many children aged 5 to 12 also receive care outside the home before or after school. Sources of care include relatives, neighbors, licensed and unlicensed private homes, and child care centers. Care can also be provided in the home by a relative or nanny. Child care centers can be licensed, accredited, or both. Accreditation usually requires that the center meet higher standards than those required for licensing.
Care outside of the home varies in quality. Some care is excellent, some is poor. Care outside of the home can also have benefits. Children can benefit from the social and academic stimulation of quality child care.
Early exposure to music, books, art, and language stimulates a child's intellectual and creative development. Group play stimulates social development. Outdoor play and occasional vigorous play help dissipate pent-up physical energy and stimulate muscle development. Opportunities to initiate their own activities help children develop independence. Nutritious meals or snacks should be available every few hours. Television and videos contribute little to the child's development and are best avoided. If they are used, the content should be age-appropriate and supervised by an adult. There are many resources available through local and national organizations that can help parents assess child care settings. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports materials provided at the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education web site, which include checklists about good child care environments.
Last full review/revision July 2007 by Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD