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It is something I have always thought about, but never asked. We have put our kids into kindergarten/nursery even though my wife doesn't work. We decided that the benefits for our children outweighed the negatives. I believe that it makes the kids more sociable, teaches them to share, and to operate responsibly socially.

The negatives are there, of course; I love the fact my kids benefitted from having mum at home all the time (nursery was always part time), but they always seemed ill for 6 months, which meant I had to suffer more and more ridiculous illnesses, costs are obviously high now (up to £1200 pounds per month) and there's a lot of anxiety to start with on both sides.

We are literally dropping our thirsd child any day now, and I want to ask myself it is really is the right thing to do. It feels quite mean to do it, with mum home all the time, but I am sure there are great benefits.

Whats your take on it?

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Literally dropping a child? No, that's not the right thing to do ;-) Children are fragile with many small bits. They can be difficult to glue together again if they break. (Sorry for this joke, but I felt I had to comment on the literal. Just for fun!) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 18 '11 at 11:19
    
We're in a pool, so it will drop straight into water, so it is literal Torben ;) –  Hairy May 18 '11 at 11:27
    
Wow, I've hear good things about that method! Wish you all the best! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 18 '11 at 12:48
    
This is so dependent on the country. In Poland toddler day care costs 800 PLN per month, and a Nanny costs 1000 PLN. In other countries a Nanny would cost several times as much as day-care. –  Lennart Regebro May 18 '11 at 13:54
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At the risk of having my answer there downvoted, I think this question is related, and might have useful information for you: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/1191/… –  Beofett May 18 '11 at 14:27
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2 Answers

Edit: This answer was written before I realized that the OP is in the UK. It is very US-centric, citing problems (such as poor nutrition) caused by the way the US regulates and funds day-care facilities.

Pros:

  • Day care frees up time that a parent who would normally be charged with child care can use to work or tend to other responsibilities.
  • Day care can give a child who is not used to being around other children the chance to learn to make friends before they go to school for the first time.

Cons:

  • It is extremely rare for a day care to do more than "kid warehousing", so unless you've found an exceptional one, your children may be missing out on the chance to learn pre-school skills that they need.
  • The idea of children socializing (i.e. teaching correct social behavior to) other children is absurd. Adults (such as parents) should be teaching children correct behavior. Otherwise, they won't learn what you want them to, they'll learn only what makes sense to a toddler as clueless as they are.
  • Day care is expensive.
  • Day care typically exposes your children to a bunch of kids from families that don't share your social values, at an age where your children are too young to understand the difference, or to communicate to caregivers that they are being hurt or bullied.
  • Day care nutrition is usually very poor.

Other:

  • Every day care is different. In an exceptionally good day care, some or all of the cons above may not apply.
  • Kids not in day care can just as easily learn to make friends by playing with other kids at a playground, going to a playgroup, or getting along with cousins at family events.

Conclusion:

A really good day care can be a workable solution for kids whose parents need to work, kids who are very timid and have trouble making friends, etc. However, the popular idea that somehow day care workers are magically better at instilling good manners (or worse -- that children should socialize one another) than good parents is simply false. Kids at home with an attentive parent get much more attention, more opportunities to learn, and more individualized treatment than children in day care generally do.

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I would add this is the UK we're talking about. If the child is under 4, they have to have a maximum of 4 kids to their charge. I also admit, we vetted our Nursery to ensure they did structured learning. As for the the other cons, I'd have to down mark that, as it's not fact that nutrition is poor, just a subjective opinion. Behavour wise, I wasn't intimating the children teach each other how to socialise, mroe that they are forced to oeprate within guidelines set by the nursery which teaches them a social code. –  Hairy May 18 '11 at 11:22
    
and Nursery kids don't get bullied if the staff are on the boil. we have an educational body in the UK called Ofsted who make reports on these institutions, and the local councils also monitor them. I should have said this was eaimed at the UK, not the US –  Hairy May 18 '11 at 11:23
    
Can you provide proof Hedgemadge, not opinion? –  Hairy May 18 '11 at 11:29
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It's one point madge and off the topic of the question, I just found it less than helpful for the answer or a comment as to how a vast majority of children are there. Same as the kid warehousing, I'm sure they exist but I saw many day cares that were not like that. I think you are mostly overgeneralizing. –  MichaelF May 18 '11 at 13:27
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The vast majority of daycare standards in the US are made at the city, county, and state level. National standards are minimal because it's not the federal government's job. –  Karl Bielefeldt May 18 '11 at 21:33
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We put our son in day care for one year, basically the one before Kindergarten, more for him to socialize with some other kids - get more structured play time and make some friends so when he started kindergarten it was an easier transition. So we looked for a pre-school that had kids going to the same school as my son, and found one that was pretty good. They did in class learning, play time, snack time (though its more what we sent not from the school) and they did the ABC's and early numbers - basically skills they knew our kindergarten would expect.

Not sure about Mage's experience but sure in some areas of the US there are guidelines that are lacking, like many US regulations that go for a common denominator but you can find exceptional pre-schools if you look. Find ones where the parents are involved, in my town education brings out the parents who are very involved in PTO and class communities. From pre-school we got more of an introduction to the town, we were new, as well as got play dates and learned about the teachers in the school.

In talking with other parents I knew most pre-schools required specific snacks for the day, or lunches if it was full day, but had limits on what to bring due to food allergies.

My wife got more time to herself, to do things around the house, or met other parents so it was a positive.

In the US day care is not cheap, though you can find affordable options, but you get what you pay for.

You will get illnesses, kids first exposures seem to be in schools and pre-schools, expect that more as the kids get older.

I'd say if you can afford it, and your wife needs more time to focus on younger kids, it might be worthwhile, its also a good way to get your children more used to groups, group play and learning how to interact.

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