We’ve been approaching child care all wrong.

And it took a global pandemic for it to reveal itself to us. Think back to the “before times.” Many of us measured child care in time increments rather than time spent. And understandably so—working parents were managing (quite literally) their survival within the 9-5 work culture.
“My daycare is open from 8am-5pm.”
“The sitter is available from 7-10pm.”
“We can choose between a half-day or full-day summer camp.”

So, what’s wrong with time increments?

Children spent many months of being home with parents, following a time-blocked schedule of academia for their federally-mandated studies. We were doing school, but just in another location. Right? No. Whether or not your household was able to follow the given time-blocked schedule every day, it still felt like something was missing from school. The kids felt it and the parents felt it.

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We were missing the bonds children develop with people outside of their family. Their opportunity to try new things outside of their comfort zone—making connections beyond the four walls of their home. Practicing (and sometimes failing) at being members of society with a loving guide.

We were missing enrichment.

If school is just about time-blocked activities, virtual school would’ve been a rousing success of learning. Checking the box of spending an increment of time isn’t enough. It’s the quality in which that time is spent that can significantly impact a child’s growth and development.

How child care factors in.

Obviously, a quality education is what every parent wants for their child. However, when it comes to figuring out child care outside of school, most of us just default to filling in a block of time. “Kid coverage.” We have a gap of time that no parent is available to be around, so we need to find another capable adult to be around then.

What if we started to think about child care in terms of enrichment, rather than just someone clocking in for a shift of time? For those hiring nannies, especially with kids of young ages, you might’ve already thought about this some. However, the same theory applies to even the most transactional child care settings.

Enrichment in practice.

Hiring the 3 times/year date night sitter can still be about enrichment. Even if they’re only coming in to transition a child from dinner to bedtime and the majority of the “booked time” is while the kid is asleep. The time between eating and sleeping matters immensely.

We all build routines to support the cycle of our days. We do certain things in the morning to help transition our brains, bodies, and emotions into our daytime activities. Transitioning back into that at night is just as crucial. As adults, we’re always reevaluating these processes. Children, however, are still learning that these processes are an important part of caring for themselves.

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What if instead of getting someone to fill the time, you find someone who’s invested in helping your child develop a healthy bedtime routine. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What activities will they do after dinner that help them to wind down?
  • How are they learning to do their part around the house at the end of the day?
  • What care does their body need after eating and playing all day?
  • What choices and activities help to settle their mind before falling asleep?

Regardless of the amount of time a child care provider spends with your child, they’re helping to shape who they’ll become. Lest we forget, they’re little sponges ready to absorb anything and everything around them.

Let’s stop thinking about planning child care in just increments of time, but rather as opportunities for enrichment. Take care to build a network of care providers that can craft experiences that will further the development of a child into a whole and complete human.

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