Quality is all that matters in child care

    Panic has its uses – often only evident after the fuss has died
    down. The latest furore is focused on child care. Nurseries are
    allegedly “turning children into thugs” before they are out of
    nappies.

    The National Institute of Child Health and Development in the US
    has followed the progress of over 1,000 children since 1991. It’s
    study concludes: “The more time children spend in child care from
    birth to the age of four and a half, the more adults tended to rate
    them as less likely to get along with others, as more assertive,
    more disobedient and aggressive.”

    The British study, the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education,
    decided that extensive use of group care particularly before the
    age of two is associated with, “higher levels of anti-social
    behaviour at the age of three.”

    Take a closer look at the research, however, and the problem is not
    child care for the very young – but the quality of care that’s on
    offer and the degree of work undertaken to develop the parental
    role at home. Children require responsive individual attention for
    significant parts of the day provided by highly qualified and
    motivated staff who aren’t constantly changing.

    We know if a parent is depressed or otherwise less able to cope,
    the appropriate investment of attention in a child is a pipe dream.
    Yet, this latest “row” reduces the benefits of a range of child
    care to an erroneous conclusion – mother is always best.

    Some good may emerge, nonetheless, if this latest scare is
    transformed into an opportunity to fight even harder for a better
    skilled work force and a greater display of sensitivity to
    children. At present, some nurseries are run like junior squaddie
    camps to a rigid routine to suit staff. It doesn’t have to be like
    that. A relaxed structure in tune with the latest ideas in child
    development is advocated in a scheme by the profit-making Grass
    Roots Group, involved in child care, called “Care Aware.” Its
    informative manual shows how many child care practices go against
    the grain of what is best for the child and suggests alternatives.

    For instance, children should be able to nap when they are tired
    and not only at the allotted time. It also advocates play as fun
    for its own sake not a timetabled opportunity for adult controlled
    junior cerebral development. It doesn’t require expensive research
    to deduce that if babies are treated like battery chicks by poorly
    paid adults on automatic pilot, they soon grow angry. Who wouldn’t?

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