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    Day Care Centers Do More

    Day care centers are doing a lot more than changing diapers and feeding kids nowadays ... they're also feeding the parents and cleaning their clothes, too!

    Something useful, nothing new continued...

    Alan Simpson, spokesperson for the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), agrees. "Many early childhood educators recognize that the children in their program need a lot more than just early learning services," he tells WebMD. "Educators want to work with families to make sure children are getting all the things they need to foster their development."

    What's new is apparently the resources used to assist families. Aronson singles out web cameras, while Simpson points to the errands that some day care centers run for parents.

    The NAEYC does not keep track of child care programs that offer additional services, but Simpson says there has recently been much discussion at early childhood education conferences about novel ways to help families.

    Lee Scott, a representative of the Primrose Schools, says the extra services have arisen out of demand, and produce a win-win situation for parents, kids, and centers. "We find our families are just rushing constantly, and if we can ease some of that, it creates a good feeling about the school, and of course, it creates customer loyalty," she tells WebMD.

    Finding Quality Child Care

    Ellen Palumbo's 7-year-old son attended Primrose in Cary, N.C., when he was younger, and now her 3-year-old daughter is a student. She is grateful for the free take-out dinners that the school gives out from time to time, but she mostly appreciates the fun activities and lessons that her children have learned. Her son learned to volunteer for community events, and, so far, her daughter has learned to not open doors to strangers.

    Early childhood education experts hope that more parents will have Palumbo's mindset of thinking of children first in choosing a day care center. There is worry that some people may become distracted by the glitz of services catered to attract busy moms and dads.

    "Parents usually choose cost and convenience rather than quality," says Aronson. "The difference between good quality and what is mostly available in this country -- which is mediocre quality -- is about 10%."

    One of the main problems, explains Aronson, is that young parents are expected to make decisions about early education for their children without much experience on the subject. She says early care should be seen as part of the education continuum that involves the elementary, secondary, and college levels, and not separate from them.

    Aronson also recommends that parents look in the American Academy of Pediatrics web site for advice on how to choose a good early care program.

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    Reviewed on July 14, 2003

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