The childcare expert helps you find the best daycare for your child.

The question:

My 3-year-old son needs a high level of personal attention. I'm now a single mom and must now go back to work. What kind of daycare would best meet his needs?

The Childcare Expert Answers:

How lucky for you and your son that you were able to spend those first three years at home getting to know each other and enjoying one another. Placing him in a daycare situation is going to be a big step for both of you to find your independence. I have a number of suggestions on types of daycares that could cater to his personality. But only you as a parent that knows him best can decide which would work for both of you.

First of all, are you at all able to have a loving family member care for him? Younger (at heart) grandparents are especially wonderful for this as they have a "vested interest" in your son's upbringing and would have an easier time with a busy, inquisitive child.

Barring the possibility of family helping, there is the family daycare home. I especially like this option because it has the feeling of home (if done right) and yet it would enable your son to have the interaction with other children of ages near his. This helps with giving the child a sense of belonging while learning to interact with others that he may not have experienced by staying home with you. Just be sure to find a provider that has some structured activities as well as a balanced amount of play. After all, these are the years for him to get ready for school.

The other option you would have is to take your child to a childcare center. For a child that requires a "high level of personal attention" as you describe, you would want to find a center that has a lower ratio of children in the group he would be in, possibly 1 teacher to each six children. This may be hard to find, but at 3 years old he needs to start making the transition. A childcare center would have the added bonus that they generally provide more educational opportunities and support to their employees. They also have more funding to provide bigger and better activities and field trips to expand your son's base of experiences.

Whatever you decide, be sure on your choice. The hardest thing for your son in this circumstance would be to move from one provider to another too frequently. He needs to feel the security he had at home and yet feel like he can spread his wings. After all, he's becoming a big boy and that's a big deal!

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