What Do Toddlers Learn in Daycare?

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    Every day, millions of children will laugh, learn, and play at one of the thousands of child care facilities across Australia. Daycare is a great option for parents who have busy work schedules and their children who can gain from daycare's many benefits. A good child care centre gives children a safe and nurturing place to explore the world around them while also learning and acquiring important skills needed to thrive both in school and in life. Here are five advantages of placing your child in an early education program at an accredited child care centre.

    Your child's preschool days are filled with social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. The cognitive skills learned at this stage—like basic counting and vocabulary—may seem simple, but they will set your kid up for a lifetime of knowledge. 

    Preschool also helps with the development of social skills and positive self-esteem. "If kids feel good about themselves and know how to feel proud even if they make a mistake, everything else will fall into place," says Josie Meade, a teacher at the Creative Kids preschool in Manhattan Beach, California.

    Things Your Child will Learn at Daycare

    Social Skills

    Attending daycare allows children to develop social skills early on, valuable for their social and emotional development. Learning how to deal with other people will enable children to grow, and the earlier a child begins to build their social skills, the easier it will become. Interacting regularly with other kids means learning how to better relate to their peers and better understand their emotions and ways of solving problems.

    Another way kids can benefit socially and emotionally is by learning important values early on, such as sharing, working together, kindness, and respect for others. These traits will become invaluable as they progress through the developmental years and into adulthood.


    When children interact with people other than their parents, peers or adult caregivers, they learn to trust other people and be more confident. This can reduce separation anxiety when kids start school. In addition, small children have difficulty understanding the concept of time, leading to feelings of anxiety when separated from their parents. Through the daily routine of engaging with another group of supportive adult caregivers and fellowship of other kids around them can help them to overcome fears of being separated from their mom and dad.

    Cognitive skills

    Children can benefit cognitively from the activities and learning games offered at a quality child care centre. They will learn language skills, colours and numbers, and more. In addition, children learn and develop thinking skills by playing and exploring the world through their curiosity. Therefore, a good daycare facility will include several types of learning exercises each day, often disguised as "play", so children are more likely to enjoy the learning process.

    Immunity to Illnesses

    Another often overlooked advantage of daycare is that children are more exposed to illnesses, building up their immunity to them. This can mean fewer sick days during the upcoming school years. Also, a good child care facility will teach students the importance of proper hygiene techniques, from how and when to wash their hands to the appropriate way to blow their noses and dispose of tissues.


    The structure and routine in child care facilities give children a sense of stability and familiarity each day. Most programs follow set schedules for snack time, naps, and activities. This instils a routine that teaches children discipline around their daily tasks and consistency that allows them to feel more emotionally secure. Time management is often cited as one of the keys to success in life, and learning this valuable skill as a child can build habits that will carry throughout a young person's entire life.

    About learning in the early years

    Babies are born ready to learn, and their brains develop through use. So your child needs a stimulating environment with lots of different ways to play and learn. He also needs plenty of chances to practise what he's learning.

    Babies and young children learn best when they have warm, engaged and responsive relationships with their main carers. So you have a vital role to play in helping your child learn through these early years. You are your child's first teacher, and your child will keep learning from you as she gets older.

    How babies and young children learn

    Your young child learns through everyday play and exploration in a safe and stimulating environment. Your child's relationships with you, other family members and carers – for example, early childhood educators – are the foundation for your child's healthy learning and development. Lots of time spent playing and interacting with you and others help your child learn the skills he needs for lifelike communicating, thinking, problem-solving, moving and being with other people.

    Your child learns best by actively engaging with her environment. This includes:

    • observing things, watching faces and responding to voices
    • listening to sounds, making sounds and singing
    • exploring – for example, putting things in her mouth, shaking things and turning things around
    • asking questions – for example, 'But why?'
    • experimenting with textures, objects and materials like water, sand or dirt
    • doing things that stimulate all of her senses – touch, taste, smell, vision and hearing.

    Your child also learns by being involved in his learning. This could be as simple as:

    • choosing books to read
    • pointing to pictures in books
    • selecting objects and toys to play with
    • picking out vegetables for dinner
    • measuring out the flour for muffins.

    If your child has the opportunity to try lots of different activities, it gives her lots of ways to learn and chances to practise what she's learning. So, for example, your child needs to have inside and outside activities, physically active or quiet, free play or more structured, and so on.

    Your child needs your support for learning. For example, he might sometimes require you to show him what to do. But he doesn't need you to give him all the answers. Letting your child make mistakes and find out for himself how the world works is a big part of learning. Also, praise and encouragement when your child tries hard will keep him interested and help him feel good.

    What young children are learning


    You and your family have a vital role in what your child learns in these early years.

    Self and relationships

    From you and your family, your child learns that she's loved and important. First, she learns trust – for example, 'I know you'll be there if I fall over. Next, she starts learning to understand her own needs, thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes. Eventually, family relationships teach her about getting on with other children and grown-ups.

    Language and communication

    When you talk and listen with your child and read and sing together, you're helping him learn about language, written and spoken communication, and conversation skills like taking turns and listening.

    Space, place and environment

    At home with you, your child learns about her size and shape – for example, 'I'm bigger than our stool but not as big as our table'. She also learns about her place in her community and her influence on the world around her. For example, 'My home is in this street, the park is down the road, and my friend lives in a different street', or 'The plants grew because I helped to water them'.

    Health and physical fitness

    When it comes to healthy eating and physical activity, you're a key role model for your child. For example, if you choose to have an apple rather than a snack bar for morning tea, your child is more likely to do the same. If you go for a walk rather than watching the TV, your child learns that exercise is a good, fun way to spend time together.

    Numeracy, literacy, handwriting and music

    You help your child build early numeracy skills with everyday counting – for example, 'How many bears are on the bed?' or 'Can you put all the red pegs into this basket?' Or you can sing nursery rhymes with your child that include counting.

    And your child develops early literacy through reading and storytelling with you, playing simple sound and letter games like listening for words that begin with the same sound, and looking at pictures, letters and words in the environment – for example, on signs and in catalogues.

    Your child's handwriting skills develop when you encourage him to draw, scribble and write. For example, if you're writing a card or a shopping list, you could give your child some paper and a pencil so he can join in. 'Writing' also helps your child understand the connection between letters and spoken sounds.

    Singing with your child, putting on music for her to dance to, giving her musical instruments to play (homemade is just fine), and finding dress-up clothes for her to use are all great ways to get her started learning about music drama and dance.

    Skills can develop in Daycare

    Social Skills Beyond The Family

    Perhaps the most obvious thing that kids learn from being in daycare versus what they can learn from their parents is socialising. Sure, parents teach their kids some basics, but there is a natural bond between parent and child that doesn't cause the child to be challenged. Put them in a social world, however, and that changes.

    Even though it's on a very basic level, these kids are learning how to be around one another and figure out-group dynamics. Daycare offers moments for children to experience both liking and disliking others and how to share properly. They are also seeing more creatures just like them and thus learning from them.

    An Artistic Skill

    Carol Veravanich, a teacher and mother, argues, in an article published on, that children will not learn things like maturity or respect from daycare. This is because these are things that are taught first and foremost in the home. However, she does go on to describe the importance of daycare programs that are focused on artistic endeavours such as art or music.

    Things like art help a child explore their creativity in ways that aren't fully understood. They're also seeing that against the creative exploration of the children around them and not just within the confines of their home. Not only that, but they also learn some technical skills. However, if we're talking about mastering skill and rhythm, music classes and sports programs are equally as vital.

    Mastering Their Motor Skills

    When a child is put into daycare, they are automatically put into a learning experience whether we know it or not. This is because other children surround them at different stages of mastering their bodies. This means that a child's motor skills can improve greatly since they will have to keep up with kids who have already learned to crawl or even walk.

    On, Claire Lerner, a child-development specialist at Zero to Three in Washington DC, talks about, for instance, how a six-month-old watching how an eight-month-old folding "laundry" while playing house can impress upon the child to physically do the same.

    What Separation Anxiety Is Like

    Several children aren't faced with the reality that they have to leave their parents until kindergarten. This can result in tearful reactions when suddenly separated at the school doors. But daycare offers children the opportunity to slowly separate from their parents (if only for a couple of hours) at an age where they aren't fully aware of what's going on. It's a slow, kind way of giving them the emotional tools to deal with separation anxiety.

    At this age, children must spend quality time with their parents to develop. Mammals are like this by nature, but they also need to learn that they will slowly have to leave the nest as they get older. And the world outside isn't always as daunting as it may appear to be at first.

    Give And Take

    In an article on this very topic, published by, an interesting thing they mention has to do with the ability to "give-and-take." The example given in the article has to do with nine kids in a daycare facility who all want to play with the one Elmo doll the daycare has. Of course, when presented with this circumstance, a child needs to learn how to share, but they also will experience what it feels like to let these things go. Maybe they'll find another toy they want to play with more, or perhaps they'll sit and cry about the fact that they can't play with it.

    Teachers will often encourage the children to share or implement a system where each child has a certain amount of time to play with the toy before passing it off to the next person. Whatever the circumstance is exactly, it's a great learning experience for them.

    A Sense Of Community


    There's a big difference between tribalism and having a sense of community. If you do enough research on tribalism, you will see how detrimental it can be to the development of a society and, most importantly, the individual. But having a sense of community is highly beneficial to both the spirit and confidence of a person. So these are things that are important to instil in children at a young age. And it's something that daycare naturally does.

    A sense of community doesn't need to do with religion, creed, gender, or race. It's simply about being in an environment with people who have a commonality and care for each other. It's basically like Cheers, a place where "everyone knows your name."

    Quality daycare is a community where children can laugh, learn, and play together while under the supervision of those who have their best interests at heart.

    A Regular Schedule

    As most adults do, children thrive on structure. Routine schedules are something most parents make sure they put their kids on at home, and quality daycare extends these values in a way that will prepare them for the bigger schedules of adolescence and adulthood. These daycares have organised playtimes, meals, and nap times for all kids that they are pretty strict about.

    Many parents in parenting communities around Australia seem to agree with this benefit. For example, circle of Moms mother, Dora, found that these structures at daycare greatly benefited her 15-month-old son: "He is in a structured classroom which I love because that is how I was with him at home. They have a daily schedule that they follow: circle time, snack times... art class, reading time, etc..."

    Playful Exploration

    When young children are playing with toys suitable for their age, they begin to examine the properties of these objects. They learn how to coordinate things by colour and generally categorise objects. We all know that shapes and colours are very important to developing cognitive skills in young children, but we may not be able to give them all of these opportunities at home. Or, at least, we may not be able to expose them to it as much.

    In daycare, one of the prime objectives is that they are constantly given time to explore playfully with things like toys and with each other, nature and the space around them. This gives them more opportunity to learn how to be creative in reaching solutions when faced with practical problems.

    How To Have A Friend

    Typically, stay-at-home parents spend a great deal of time trying to organise playdates with other kids so that their children will be exposed to people their age and build the necessary skills needed to make and hold friendships. Daycare is just an extension of these values. It kind of highlights these values. After all, kids are constantly around each other on a day-to-day basis. This gives them further opportunity to learn the necessary skills it takes to make a friendship and continue it.

    All of this, of course, is structured and supervised so that the children can play and make friends in an environment that's safe and secure. In addition, by being around one another, they will learn how to manage each of their growing and differing personalities.

    Learning Independence

    Remember what it was like to leave your home and head off to high school for the first time? Remember how scary that felt? You were out there in the big bad world without your mom and dad to protect you. You had to figure out where you belonged fast or face the consequences. And if you couldn't find a place or simply didn't want to, you had to learn to be on your own. Well, that's the point...

    When children leave home and go to daycare, they are learning some very important things about independence. Sure, it's the first attempt at learning independence, but we all need to leap. Unfortunately, unless you're constantly away from your child, this is not something they'll learn at home.


    The University of Texas does even a study at Austin that found that parents who put their children into daycare were more involved in school life as their kids got older. This means that the benefits are not only there for the children, but their parents as well.

    Most daycares include story time, group activities, individual play time, quiet/intellect-stimulating play, and theatrical/creativity-stimulating play. Some daycares have music and dance during the day, but some include these as extra after-care programs.

    About settling in at child care

    Some children settle happily in their new child care setting within a few days or weeks. Others get upset and cry, even after the first few weeks. ... And most children settle eventually. Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development.

    Regarding cognitive development, studies have found negative effects, no significant links, and positive daycare effects. Research has shown that daycare hinders the quality of parent-child relations, does not hinder it, that the adverse effects are small and transitory, or intermittent.

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