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No guilt, mama: Day care is good for your child’s social + emotional development

You're giving your kids a social and behavioral boost if they're in day care.

No guilt, mama: Day care is good for your child’s social + emotional development

It's a decision many parents agonize over and one many have felt guilty about. But if you're considering day care for your child that guilt is really unnecessary, mama. Day care doesn't just give parents the time they need to provide for their family, it also provides children with important social interactions that may improve their behavior.

A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health concludes that "high-quality centre-based childcare may be linked to lower levels of emotional symptoms." Basically, being around children their age, under the supervision of professionals is really good for kids' emotional and prosocial development.

The study comes from France, a country where state-run nurseries are well regarded (but reportedly hard to get a spot in), and where most children start preschool at the age of three.

The researchers followed the development of 1,428 French children from birth to the age of 8 in order to better understand how day care before age 3 might impact development differently than other common childcare methods in France, like staying home with a parent or family member, or with a babysitter who cares for a small number of children in their home or the child's.

The study found the children who attended high-quality center-based care for at least one year had lower rates of emotional, conduct, relationship and attention problems later in life than kids who were watched by a family member or babysitter. The study's authors suggest interactions with trained staff in the centers, along with having to follow rules and getting extra stimulus from playing in the supportive environment give kids a social and behavioral boost.

The French study's findings didn't surprise some experts. Good early childhood education programs (like Head Start, for example) have been proven to have long-term benefits for kids, and while society often looks at day care as simply a place to park children during the workday, a good day care is so much more.

It's not just a place to be supervised, it's a place to learn and socialize, too.


"The evidence is clear that high quality, early childhood care is beneficial for children," Dr. Jillian Roberts, a child psychologist and associate professor at the University of Victoria, told Global News. "These programs include not only play and socialization, but also educational and nutritional components from highly-trained early childhood education professionals."

As Vox reports, it's likely not so much the educational lessons that center-based care provides, but the stability that children (and their families) benefit from, especially when we're talking about children under a year old. A recent Vox report highlights a decades-old America study called the Abecedarian Project, in which families were provided with high-quality childcare from birth. The kids who were in that day care are adults today, and the science suggests they're still benefiting from it.

A 2014 study compared the cardiovascular health of men who had been in that day care as babies to men who were not, and found "one in four males in the control group is affected by metabolic syndrome, whereas none in the treatment group are affected."

Going to day care early had a positive impact on those children, and for some of the children in the recent French study (whose parents were asked about their care at 4, 8 and 12 months, and then again and 2 and 3 years old) going to day care as a baby led to better behavior and relationships.

The study's results are just another reason for governments to consider investing in state-run or subsidies day care centers. Parents (even some in France) are struggling to find and afford day care. Investing in these programs helps two generations: Our and our children's.


Of course not every family needs or wants full-time, center-based childcare, but would probably still like some of those prosocial benefits. High-quality part-time preschool programs allow kids to be exposed to the educational aspects of high-quality day care (and give stay-at-home parents a minute to catch their breath) without as high a price tag or as much in-center time as full-time care.

The science isn't suggesting that professionals at a day care center should replace parents (and we know there are plenty of stay-at-home mamas and dads who are providing amazing, enriching care to their children every single day) but rather that professional care can complement a parent's.

The point is, moms should not be made to feel guilty because we have to work, or because we can't afford a nanny, or even because we just want a couple mornings a week to do the grocery shopping without a toddler. It truly takes a village to raise a child, and if we're lucky enough to live in a village where we can find high-quality day care, our children can benefit from it.


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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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