Daycare for Under Two Year Olds: What Can I Expect?

How much is too much to expect from a 2s program? And is a 2s program suitable for a younger age? A PSP Member shares the summary of a question she posed to the group.

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"Thank you everyone who replied to my question about childcare options for my son... Your advice was extremely reassuring! I'm still looking for the perfect spot, but here are the responses I received."


Daycare at that age is about structure, and learning to be on their own:

"I think right now at 19 months, and even in any 2's program, it's really about getting a feel for structure and being 'on their own'  (i.e. walking in lines, getting ready for the next activity, eating snack/lunch with friends, circle time, clean up, etc etc) as well as interaction into new, social settings. At first, I really wanted my daughter (now 4 year old) to learn all of those things you mention, colors, shapes, etc however as she went through the 2,'s and even 3's program at a great school, I was told it will come into play naturally as it's intertwined within their everyday learning, yet not forced. I am by no means a preschool specialist, just a mom who learned that by seeing my daughter go through it."


Preschool may be better than a daycare:

I have had two kids go through this process. Since your child will already be 19mos, I would look for a place that is more like a preschool than a daycare. I agree that, at the beginning, all they need are hugs and kisses but by about 18mos or so, they crave more. Unfortunately, a lot of the preschool type places don't start until 2 yrs old. My daughter, now almost 9, was in a place that was separated by rooms. As the kids aged to 2, they were in more of a preschool structure. For my son, now 4.5, he was in daycare and I moved him out on his 2nd birthday because he was somewhat stagnant. It may be partly because the other kids were much younger and perhaps if there were more older 1s, the place would have been ok for him. One in his 2s program, he really thrived with his colors and words. Just my experience...not sure if it helped. Good luck with your search."

Similiarly, another member responds:

"There are 2s programs which tend to feed into more formal private preschool and preK programs but I don't think most are academic focused. I think you would still want play based at that age but obviously play gets more age appropriate and does still involve learning. I don't know how different they are than daycare overall as it would probably depend very much on the particular daycare and 2s program. For me, when thinking about leaving daycare at 2 vs waiting for 3 it has more to do with the composition of other kids. Most are much younger/babies as I found the older kids leaving for 2s programs etc. so if you are looking at more daycare type of options I would inquire about the age of other children as at that age I think it's super helpful for them to have similar-aged/slightly older playmates. That's just my perspective. Hope that helps."

Related Reading on PSP: What is the difference between preschool and daycare?


Whatever you decide, it shoud come after potty training:

"Tone it down. Learning school stuff only starts when they're potty trained."


At that age, it's about play!

"A 2s program should be play-based absolutely. However, within their play, children are constantly learning so you want to find caregivers/teachers who help nurture their natural curiosity without pushing or stifling. The structure should be clear but open-ended with children knowing what comes next without being so dependent on the clock. The basics come naturally to children and rarely need to be directly taught if children are in an enriched environment with interesting materials and opportunities. There should be no worksheets, and much time for small group activity and self-directed learning (center time or choice time with interesting materials). Whole group time should be minimized to circle time/morning meeting and snack and meal time and goodbye as children at this age are not ready to do everything in a large group. I think you should pay attention to teacher/caregiver background and philosophy vs. what type of daycare because you will find great and lousy ones in all different shapes and sizes. Many daycares/preschools are trying to "prove" to parents that they are teaching and have a curriculum these days by sending worksheets or having children trace and this is not developmentally appropriate. Children at this age should have lots of time to use their senses, experiment and explore with wonder their world."


"At two it's still all about love and play!!!  Play is super important at all stages of childhood! Google "the importance of play" there have been some great academic studies and articles recently on the subject.). Best of luck with the transition."


"I think finding a place where your child is safe, the environment clean and the childcare providers are engaging should be top on your list.  Anything academic will come in time as the child is ready.  Pushing any academics on children before they are ready has proven to backfire as early academics do not make 'smarter' kids.  The best thing is for your child to have a good experience and be happy, safe and loved."


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