The Essential Guide to Daycare in India
Here are 3 statistics that you should know:
- 1 in 3 Indians live in nuclear families ie. ~400 mn people
- 20% increase in proportion of working women in urban areas over last 45 years
- 1 in 4 children born in urban India do not have support of skilled attendant
While statistics are hard to come by, the proportion of double working parents and single parents in urban India is on the rise like in the western world. All of this means that double working parents have 3 broad options:
- Either of the parents, usually the mother, work with flexible timings
- Invite family member(s), usually the grandparents, to stay with the family until the child becomes independent
- Find professional help, usually a part-time or full-time nanny or a daycare
The choice comes down to the parenting philosophy and trade-off between income earned and cost of professional help. The mushrooming of daycares in cities seem to suggest that the third option is becoming increasingly attractive for parents.
As seen in the chart below, enrolment of children in formal childcare is a popular option across the world:
What is Daycare?
The service is known as daycare or childcare in India, the United Kingdom, North America, and Australia and as crèche in Ireland and New Zealand. Below are some of the usual characteristics of a daycare:
- Target age group: 0–6 years (some extend upto 12 years)
- Timings: Varies, typically runs between 4–8 hours, 6 days a week
- Staff: Majority female which includes founders, ECCE qualified teachers, and supporting caregivers
- Size: 20–40 children with mixed age group
- Models: Per time (hour, day, month, or year), per child, or per activity
- Set-up: For-profit, proprietorship or partnership
- Regulation: Loose to non-existent
- Facilities offered: Play pen or area, sleep area, kitchen
Now there is some confusion between the various terms thrown around — preschool, playschool/playgroup, boarding school, and daycare. While there are overlaps, we have given a simple interpretation for each:
- Preschool: It is a catch-all term for all education and care services before the child attains the age of 6 years or enters grade 1, whichever comes first.
- Playschool/playgroup: These are care-based groups, usually targeted at ages 1.5 years to 3 years, that foster social interaction and play time. They are typically based on PlayWay, Montessori, Waldorf, or Reggio-Emilia as pedagogies.
- Boarding school: Boarding schools are full-time education and care institutions that typically start at age of 6 years.
What are the types of daycares?
- Private daycare chains: A company usually runs these as franchises. They are all under the same management and have the same policies and rules. Teachers and supervisors are assigned to children, and assisted by caregivers. They usually have a large number of children. Examples include Kidzee, Eurokids, or Kangaroo Kids.
- Private or stand alone nurseries: These are run by individuals or a group of individuals. They are only located in one place and do not have branches. They have teachers assisted by caregivers. Staffing and space decides how many babies they may take care of.
- Home based daycares: In India, this is a common form of daycare, usually run by homemakers. The caretaker runs this out of his/her own house. One or two people are in charge of all the babies, sometimes with an assistant. They take on a very small amount of children and are less structured.
- Daycares attached to schools: Certain schools may choose to set up a daycare attached to their school. This might have a much more regulated environment. Qualified teachers are usually on hand to take care of the children.
- Workplace daycares: Companies sometimes have onsite daycares for children. Working parents can bring their baby to work and leave them at the daycare until the end of their working hours. It is easy for working parents to pop in and check on their child. It is unusual in India, though that is slowly changing.
In many countries, but especially in India, there are taboos around daycare. Often, the mother is expected to remain at home at least until the child starts school. However, this may not be practical in every circumstance. This could affect the mother’s career as well as the family income. Although family care is an alternative, often it is not available. Daycares does not have to be a choice between being a good parent or not.
- Time for yourself — Between work, chores and day to day life, you might be busy all day. Daycare can give many parents a break during long, exhausting days.
- Work-life balance — Once you have a child, taking care of them becomes the most important thing. But having a fulfilling career and an income maybe equally important. In this case, daycare can give you peace of mind. Your children can be taken care of in a safe, structured environment while you perform at your best.
- Specialized care — Reading up on the developmental goals your child needs to reach is important but tiring. There is a lot of mixed signals out there. Most of these signals also go against the principle that every child is unique. Engaging them in activities takes time and effort. While you might try your best, some mistakes are bound to happen. Daycare staff, however, are trained professionals whose goal is to make sure your child meets those development goals.
- Development — A daycare can greatly contribute to a child’s social, emotional and physical development. Activities can help improve their motor control and inculcate good habits (eg. toilet training). They learn to do basic things such as arts and crafts and are more prepared for a structured environment of school.
- Social Interaction — Children who stay at home may have little social interaction before school. This can often scare them on the first day. In daycare, however, they are exposed to peers at a young age. They learn to speak properly, share their things, and make friends.
- Independence — Many children suffer great separation anxiety when without their parents. If it happens when they’re older, it’s harder to reassure the child. Kids in daycare, however, are used to being without parents from a young age. They learn to function on their own and rely on adults other than their family.
Choosing the Best Daycare
All parents want the best for their child. So, what should you look for when choosing a daycare?
1. Safety and Reliability
The Government of India has certain rules in place to set up playschools and daycares. These rules also take into account the safety of the child. While they may be stringent, they are necessary. However, every parent should take the time to build a checklist that is customised for their child. Some of the major factors to consider include:
- Does the daycare have a secure wall and boundaries? (Older children may walk or crawl away)
- Does the daycare have security guards? Are they alert and sufficient in number?
- Does the daycare give identity cards to parents and children? Are they strict about handing kids to parents only?
- Are the electrical points covered? Do the windows, stairs and balconies have grills?
- Are the toilets clean, hygienic and free of germs?
- If they have a splash pool, is it safe and secure?
- Is there a nurse on the grounds with medical training and supplies?
- Are the play areas and toys safe and clean? Is there anything that could injure or harm a child?
- Are the floors and windows clean and washed regularly?
- Is the drinking water safe and filtered?
- Are the refrigerators kept clean and cool for food storage?
- Is the food cooked at the daycare clean and safe?
- Are the beds and sheets clean and free of stains?
- Is the daycare registered and licensed?
- Do they follow all the regulations outline by the government?
- Does the daycare check qualifications and backgrounds of teachers and caregivers?
- Do they conduct background checks for all other staff?
- Do they have a schedule with pickup and drop off time?
- Do they have policies for holidays and days off?
- Do they have procedures in place for emergencies, whether medical or otherwise?
- Do they follow an appropriate child to adult ratio? (Ideally, 3:1 for younger children, 4:1 for older children)
Reputation and Standing:
- Do they have ratings by an independent authority? Are they rated highly?
- Do they have a good standing in the community?
- Do other parents recommend them?
2. Setup and Activities
The daycare should provide a stimulating environment for the child to grow and develop. This can be confirmed in a number of ways:
Physical Development Activities:
- Does the daycare have outdoor activity areas?
- Do they invest in motor skill development?
- Do they let the children play games such as hide and seek, tag and other games?
- Do they encourage the child to develop social skills?
- Do they have separate play areas for different age groups?
- Do they teach children to talk and communicate effectively?
- Do they have picture books and story books?
- Do they keep books for different ages?
- Do the teachers help and encourage students to read and develop their skills?
- Do they have reading out loud and story sessions?
- Do they have a playhouse?
- Do they have supplies for arts, music and other activities?
- Do they have toys such as blocks and clay?
- Do they have time aside for singing, dancing and other fun activities?
- Do they encourage children to engage and be creative?
3. Staff Qualifications
The daycare should have staff that is qualified to handle the unique mental, physical, and emotional needs of extremely young children.
- Do the teachers have the right degrees to teach young children? (Ideally, they should be qualified in Early Childhood Development)
- Do the caregivers have the right qualifications?
- Do they carry out background checks for all third party staff eg. bus drivers, security guards, etc?
- Do the staff have the right personalities to deal with young children?
- Do they make sure the staff is patient, caring, and well trained?
- Do they make sure that no staff member is left alone with a child?
Affordability is a huge consideration when choosing a daycare. Most daycares cost anywhere anywhere between INR 1,500 to INR 15,000 per month. There are certain factors that can affect the cost for a daycare.
- Do they have a set fee structure?
- Is the location of the daycare in a high end area, making it more expensive?
- Do they offer a discount if siblings are in the facility?
- Do they offer extra facilities (SMS updates, meal options, etc.)? Since these drive the cost up, are they necessary for you?
5. Timings and Location
The timing and location are important determinants of flexibility that parents will have with their child.
- Do the timings match your work timings?
- Do they make accommodations for longer working hours if needed?
- Do they remain closed on weekends?
- Do they have a holiday schedule? (eg. closed for Diwali or the summer)
- Do they have a location close to both your home and workplace?
- Do they have a location that is safe, secure and easy to find?
- Can you reach them quickly in case of an emergency?
Going through all this may seem like a heavy task to some parents. There are alternatives available to daycare. They all have their advantages and disadvantages.
- Babysitter — A babysitter comes in to temporarily take care of a child for a period of time. Some babysitters may also keep children in their own homes, similar to home daycares. Parents may choose to hire one when they are at work or out in the evenings. This option provides the greatest flexibility. However, they are unlikely to impart professional care and education. They may also be unreliable and quality might be erratic.
- Nanny — A nanny is a full time caregiver who stays with the child all day. Nannies take complete responsibility of the child’s physical well-being. They generally live in the house and may help out in other things. This option provides the most amount of support for parents. Nannies are, however, very expensive. Their accommodation and meals will also have to be provided for. They are not likely to be qualified to help the child develop.
- Family care — Grandparents or other relatives may be able to keep the child at home during work hours. This is the least expensive option (not considering the monetary and emotional cost of parents living together with young couples). Also, it allows children to know their family. However, they are also unlikely to help the child reach developmental goals. Aged parents may also find this a taxing task.
- Childcare sharing — In some cases, parents may create groups to rotate childcare among different members. This can work out well by giving everyone some time off. However, disagreements may arise as to the method of care. Timings may not match for everyone, and there may be times when no one is available.
Whether you choose to put a child in daycare or not depends on case to case. What is most important is that you consider all options carefully. This will help you make an informed decision to choose the best for your child. A daycare is sharing responsibility, not transferring it. This is necessary for the well being of both you and your child. You should keep in mind that daycare is a viable, safe alternative to family care or staying at home.
If you still have doubts, take a look at this adorable video of a day spent at daycare:
Request: If you appreciated the article, you could make a difference to other parents by writing a review about your child’s first school on www.firstcrayon.com.