How Day Care Improves Children's Social and Cognitive Development

Reuters reported results of a National Institutes of Health study that shows children who received high quality day care scored highly in academic achievement later as teenagers. This long-running study suggests that child care has lasting benefits on a child’s cognitive development. Additionally, other studies, such as the Abecedarian Project by the FPG Child Development Institute, propose that individuals who were in day care as children showed better social competence into adulthood. The research displays positive news for parents who return to work after having children.

Social Development

According to a study by the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education, early education improves a child’s sociability and behavior, and children who start day care or preschool under the age of 3 have better peer relationships 2. Because day care brings children together and encourages communication, sharing, creative play or games with peers, it essentially compels children to engage in social interaction. The National Institutes of Health study also shows that children who were in day care have a tendency for more impulsiveness and risk-taking behavior as teenagers. This behavior is not necessarily a bad thing, as risk-taking is necessary for exploration and gives confidence for learning new things.

Cognitive Development

James Griffin of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says that day care provides a boost to academic achievement by preparing children with school readiness skills. Children in day care must participate in activities, follow directions, learn responsibility and even gain some academic concepts, all of which prepare them for school life. Individuals in the Abecedarian Project were more likely to go to and graduate college if they received early education, and they were more consistently employed.

High-quality Day Care

Most studies surrounding the support of day care define high-quality day care. The amount of time the provider spends with children as well as the amount of warmth and support contribute to high-quality day care. The Neighborhood Nurseries Initiative suggests children in rooms with well-qualified staff, appropriate physical environment and structured routines resulted in children who were more cooperative and sociable. Knowledgeable staff and facilities that provide your child with opportunities to have fun, make friends and learn independence are characteristics of high-quality day care.

Day Care Activities

Many day cares are activity-based and follow a daily routine, which children learn to expect. Providers that show a positive attitude and respond to children’s vocalizations or questions give children a sense of security and importance. Providers will also ask questions and encourage children to respond. Activities might include:

  • singing
  • music
  • movement
  • book reading
  • free play
  • art or other academic experience