Child care continues to evolve, and so far the changes that are taking place are favorable. Both parents and child care providers agree that something had to happen to bring attention to the importance of quality child care. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, as with other businesses, the child care industry was impacted. From people staying home or socially distancing to the cost of food and other goods increasing, in some cases, enrollments for many child care services decreased with some having to close their doors. That’s one of the stories. On the other hand, the pandemic helped the industry by putting into focus how vital child care is to working parents. In this article, we will take a closer look at several trends that will impact the child care industry over the next few years.
There Are More Child Care Options Available
Parents have several different types of child care available from which to choose. While traditional care providers and centers will always exist, they are no longer the only option. Depending on the type of care required, families can use a nanny for an infant, move to an in-home service provider for a toddler, and when that child reaches preschool age, use a child care center. Some families will even keep different types of services on hand as backup in cases of emergency.
Many families use a combination of care providers, depending on the time of year. For example, during the school year one type is used and another through the summer months. The options don’t end there. Parents have access to child care co-ops, babysitters, and drop-in child care, as well.
Drop-In Care Is Becoming Commonplace
Flexibility has helped change child care operations. Over the past year or two, child care providers stopped expecting children to be scheduled for five days per week, every working week. Instead, they have chosen to meet the changing work schedules of many parents altered by the pandemic. For many, this meant finding child care for only part of the week.
Child care service providers have adapted and are arranging shorter schedules for children, ranging from one, three, or four days per week. Additionally, with shift workers, many child care operators have chosen to change their hours of operation to accommodate early, late, and weekend shift working parents in need of child care.
Technology Enhances Provider/Parent Connection
Parents can rest easy knowing that the child care service they have chosen uses various forms of communication technologies. While it is commonplace for parents to be able to connect via email or text messaging, some child care services have enhanced communication with parents. They have added video streaming from the classroom.
This permits parents to log on and check in on what their child is doing during the day. Parents with this type of access tend to be far more relaxed about leaving their children in the care of others while they work. Although not all child care providers use video streaming, it is gaining in popularity and is a feature that attracts many parents when looking for a child care provider. There are also software programs that many child care centers use to streamline the way they do business.
Corporate Child Care Raises the Level of Quality
Although this trend started before coronavirus, it has become more prevalent since the pandemic. Companies have found that one way to attract and retain quality workers is to provide various on-site perks. This began with common staff rooms, lunch and break areas, vending machines, and gyms, and now includes in-house child care.
Some companies have created dedicated space within their buildings that is used for child care, and offers services from professional providers. Other businesses, without the space to create corporate child care, offer incentives such as partially-funded or free child care service at a provider located close to the office – often within walking distance.
Child Care Is Safer Than Before
A lot of attention has been placed on the safety of children in child care in recent years. Many child care providers have taken increasing safety measures at their centers or home locations. Such security measures include contactless check-in and check-out, video monitoring, detailed background checks and screening for potential new employees.
The goal of today’s child care provider is to have a safe environment for children to spend their days, while their parents are at work. The safety protocols extend to staff training, checklists, and tracking tools to protect children on-site, and when they are on supervised field trips or other outdoor activities away from the child care site.
Early Education Is Part of Child Care
Child care is not babysitting. The majority of child care providers have implemented a curriculum that focuses on early childhood learning. Research shows that preparing toddlers early will give them a competitive edge by the time they reach kindergarten age.
Children who participate in child care will learn fundamentals that will give them the tools needed for when they enter the primary school system. This takes some of the pressure off of busy parents, and bolsters what children are also learning at home.
As trends come and go, some pave the way for the future. In the child care industry, there have been many trends that have enhanced how these services are delivered. The pandemic helped focus attention on the need for child care, especially as many of the frontline essential workers and nurses were working women. It is also credited for ushering in several new trends. Drop-in child care is an example of a trend that is becoming a standard offering at many child care centers today. The same applies to increased safety and security, flexible hours, and different types of child care services are other trends that are becoming available. Will these trends improve child care? More likely than not. In recent years, the child care industry has been and continues to go through many iterations in response to the needs of parents. The trends noted above have so far enhanced the industry, and will probably continue to do so into the future.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.