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Is one day at childcare better than two?

We all know that there are many social and developmental benefits for children who attend high-quality early education and care settings, but how many days is the right number of days? It’s a common question asked by parents and carers keen to ensure their child’s start is comfortable and positive. It’s little wonder then that some parents consider starting with one day with a view to gradually increasing the days as they go.

In practice there are a number of reasons why a one day enrolment can be tricky. Children who have two or more days have a continuity that helps them build friendships that encourages a sense of security. Seeing each other on a regular basis from a young age assists in creating those connections. Lynn Connolly, SDN Senior Practice Lead, points out, ‘It’s not just about the relationships it’s about the skill of building them.’ 

Educators often find that children who have the continuity of two or more days are able to more readily tap into the benefits of high-quality early education and care settings. They have the momentum behind them to get into the important business of play, starting to read social signals and learning about themselves. When you’re enrolling a child for one day, educators will prioritise helping the child to settle. This means it can take longer to build those social relationships and develop a strong bond between educator and child.

‘It’s the benefits of rhythm and routine that really help children develop those skills they’ll need on their journey. Primary and kindergarten teachers can always tell when a child has had a strong start at an early childhood service,’ says Lynn Connolly.

And it’s this social rhythm that’s really enhanced by enrolling in more than one day. Children have the opportunity to build empathy by watching and observing other children and seeing their reactions. Learning a new routine outside the home environment is also easier with increased days and knowing what to expect in these routines helps children feel safe and secure. This all forms the foundation for social skills that help manage emotions and stress.  

"There’s that instinct that says, I’ll get them in the door with one day and build up. We would advise the opposite. Start big and cut back, if needed” says Lynn Connolly. Lynn also emphasises that there are other options available to parents and carers who are keen to ease their child in slowly. Lynn suggests considering a number of shorter days and also welcomes parents to bring the child to visit the setting.  “Do lots of visits before. Make the most out of orientation. Come as many times as you can. We want it to feel like a safe space.”  

Of course, every family is different, but if you’re considering a one day enrolment talk to your service and see what options are available. If two or more days are possible for your family, there are real benefits and as Lynn points out, ‘when you’ve selected a really great centre they’ll become part of the journey with you and having more support around your child is always a great thing.’ 

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