At What Age Should a Child Enter Daycare?

At what age do experts recommend that your child enter kindergarten? And what are the reasons for delaying this decision? Find out!
At What Age Should a Child Enter Daycare?
Pedro González Núñez

Reviewed and approved by the child educator Pedro González Núñez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

A question that comes up sooner or later in the pediatrician’s office, especially when both parents work, is at what age do experts recommend that children can enter daycare.

But is there some kind of consensus on this? Below, we’ll tell you about it.

What options are there for caring for children while their parents work?

Depending on who you ask, the answers will be different.

In the United States, for example, maternity leave is only 12 weeks. Therefore, it’s common for many parents to choose to take their children to daycare when they’re only a few months old.

Some mothers take advantage of the pending vacation time to combine them with their maternity leave and therefore spend the first 5 months of their child’s life with them. But this option isn’t available to everyone.

In any case, once the leave is over, the possible options are few and this decision becomes one of the most difficult decisions of our lives: Should my baby enter daycare? Should I leave them in the care of their grandparents or a family member? Or should I hire an outside caregiver?

A mother working at home while holding her baby.

What do professionals recommend about the age of a child when they daycare?

Most pediatricians and experts recommend waiting until the child is 2 years old to take them to daycare. This is because, before that age, the needs to socialize are still limited, as the little ones play mostly in parallel and not with peers. Therefore, the negative can outweigh the positive.

An important aspect to consider is the risk of becoming ill, something that becomes constant in the first years of schooling. Let’s not forget that the immune system of young babies is still very weak and dozens of children gather in the nursery. Therefore, the circulation of viruses increases.

In addition, during the first months of life, children must strengthen the bond with their closest people: Their parents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, and other relatives.

“The best way to make children good is to make them happy”

-Oscar Wilde-

The problem of high ratios

Another important issue is that, in general, nurseries are forced to work with a very high ratio.

Although they abide by the law, this is high for a single caregiver and implies that children can’t be offered the necessary stimuli or sufficient care for their age.

Observation capacity is also lost, as a monitor in charge of several children of one or two years has to be more aware of taking care of them than of observing them. In this way, opportunities are wasted to get to know each little one better, discover what motivates them, what they like, where they’re progressing better, and where they may be delayed.

Even so, if there’s no other option, daycare is still a viable choice, as they are institutions that function properly and take good care of children. In fact, most try to adjust the ratios as best they can.

Regarding the infections that children get in nursery schools, these are usually mild and keep them out for just a few days. However, the risk of developing more complex diseases is greater than when they’re not exposed to viruses so early.

Preparing for daycare

When choosing to go to the nursery, experts recommend looking for a quality site that has a special unit for nursing babies. In addition, a few months beforehand, the child should have their first social contact with other children.

From 18 to 24 months, it’s best to consider nursery school, so that your little one begins to establish their schedules, their routines, learns to share with classmates, and the rules of coexistence. When you anticipate what they’re about to begin, you further improve their adaptation.

Toddlers reading books.

So, at what age should children enter daycare?

After explaining all this to you, we can consider 18 months as an opportune time to send children to daycare.

Without trying to demonize nursery schools that do a great job, we must think that the priority for the young baby is to strengthen ties with their closest loved ones. Therefore, it’s best to look for other options during the first months of their lives, whenever possible.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.