Day care has come a long way since the babysitting jobs of the 60's and 70's that paid about fifty cents an hour. Local teens and older children of friends made good babysitters back then. All they had to do was serve an easy dinner to the children, clean up afterwards and play with them for a short time before tucking them into bed. Most of the sitting was done on Friday or Saturday nights allowing the parents to enjoy a night out. Today, day care means a whole lot more.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 65 percent of women with children six years old or younger are working outside the home. For single parent households and in families where both the husband and wife work full time, access to quality day care is essential. If relatives or grandparents aren't available or able to step in, ongoing day care is sometimes the only choice. There are several options available today. Many corporate employers have started adding on-site day care facilities, in-home caregivers are available, and full or part time day care centers are located in almost every area.
Some centers concentrate on younger children, from birth through toddler, while others welcome children of any age. Some facilities offer "drop in" childcare, an option for affordable short-term, high quality care. Schools, gyms, organizations and churches now offer events such as Parent Nights Out. Some communities organize child care co-ops.
Nannies are also an alternative, however, a more costly one as it usually means full-time in-home care by a person who may or may not reside with you. Nannies can be male or female; however "mannys" are becoming increasingly popular. As children grow, their day care needs change -- a nanny for the newborn, drop-in care for the toddler, an educational on-site day care for preschoolers and after school activities for the over five crowd. Summer needs may vary from those during the school year and parents may switch programs or have children attend camp for a break from the regular routine.
Many day care centers are evolving into highly structured learning centers and offer a wide range of activities. Simple arts and crafts projects are still available, but the addition of early learning programs has become popular as research shows that children respond to academics at an earlier age. Today's parents want their young children to start developing skills that previously were not taught until much later.
In some centers, add-on extracurricular activities such as gymnastics, ballet and martial arts are offered for an additional fee. Instructors come to the center weekly providing on-site instruction. This works well for those parents who are short on time and cannot fit weekly lessons into their already busy schedules.
While printed handouts or newsletters have worked well in the past, keeping today's parents up-to-date on the activities and events going on is accomplished by many centers on websites which even include the weekly menus. Emailing requests for an update on your child's conduct is easy and improves the likelihood of getting a quick response. Learn about the options available to you in your town. Check them out and ask lots of questions. Good communication between the provider and the parents is critical to a successful day care situation for your children. Take the time to know your children are safe and happy, and you'll all have a better day.
Karen Fusco is the co-author of "Busy Moms: The Heart and Soul of a Home", an ebook filled with time-saving and stress-reducing tips and ideas to help build a stronger home, a stronger family and a stronger you. Karen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.