When added to the two to three hours many parents already admit to allowing at home, preschoolers in child care may be spending more than a third of the about 12 hours they are awake each day in front of the electronic baby sitter, said Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle and a researcher at the University of Washington.
That's double the TV time he found in a previous study based on parental reports of home viewing, according to findings published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. The study is the first to look at TV watching in child care in more than 20 years.
These data reopen the question of how healthy daycare is for many of our children. I've already discussed how detrimental TV watching is to child development, so I'm not going to retackle that issue today. Rather, I'm going to challenge the whole idea of daycare in today's culture.
I've always been a proponent of daycare for families who have no choice: if you're going to starve or lose your home with only one parent working, by all means, maintain a dual-income family. However--and I know I'll catch heat for this--I just don't see how daycare providers could do a better job of parenting a child than that child's parent(s). For those families who do not absolutely need to maintain dual incomes, I believe it is best for one parent to stay home with children.
Some parents argue that anyone can take care of a child's creaturely needs: feeding, dressing, hygiene, etc. On the surface, this is true. But on a deeper level, it is bogus. Compare to an adult's creaturely needs, such as sex. Could another woman come in and feed and dress a man? Of course! Would it be OK with a spouse to farm out the responsibility to meet that need? Of course not!
The comparison is important, because meeting a child's basic needs involves a high degree of intimacy. Feeding, bathing, dressing a child offers many opportunities for connection, teaching, and affection. Ideally, parents perceive those moments as opportunities to be claimed and relished, not farmed out to others.
If necessity forces you to place your child in daycare, make sure that the facility is not only safe, but that the child's schedule is designed to foster the basic needs of children: activity, exercise, creative play, rest/downtime, solid nutrition, moderate stimulation of the full range of senses, and a mixture between social engagement and solitary time.
I challenge those families who are a financial condition where two incomes are not necessary to meet the family's basic needs (impressive homes, expensive cars, lavish vacations, and a summer home are NOT basic needs) to consider having one parent stay home with the child for a majority of the day. Of course, parents and children need breaks from each other, but the child's most important need is his/her parent's presence.