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What’s the Best Staff-to-Child Ratio for Daycare?

If you’re like most parents, you pay extra attention to all the new information that’s coming out about keeping your kids healthy. Obviously there are important things like nutrition, medical care, managing allergies and other illnesses, and doing everything you can to give your children the best possible advantage early on in life. There is no end to the amount of information out there, and it may seem difficult to take it all in. But it’s also exciting that so many new perspectives are constantly available.

One of the issues you might be hearing more about lately are staff-to-child ratios in daycare and school settings. It’s generally understood that lower ratios are better – that is, fewer children per staff member – but there are a lot of different perspectives on this too. What’s the best possible ratio in daycare, and why?

This is an important question for any parent of a daycare-aged child to ask. Why? Because daycare is no longer what it used to be. There has been a great deal of compelling new research about the social and intellectual benefits of high quality daycare, and parents are understandably interested in taking full advantage of these benefits. The question of staff-to-child rations is therefore important – especially if you’re on the verge of deciding which daycare center is right for your family.

Generally speaking, three children to every one child (1:3 staff-to-child ratio) is a good benchmark for making sure your child is getting all the attention and personal guidance she needs throughout the day. You’ll find that many of the most reputable and meticulous daycare centers out there make sure they maintain this ratio, or close to it.

On the other hand, if you come across a daycare center with much higher ratios, such as 7 or 8 children for every staff member, you can safely assume that each child will receive less individual attention. Staff at these daycare centers also tend to be more stressed out, and less likely to consistently have positive interactions with your child.

The equation is very simple: Fewer children for every staff member means more individual attention for each child. But it’s not just about having more staff or fewer children in a daycare center – it’s about how skilled, educated and dedicated your daycare staff truly are. In the very best case scenario (such as children’s medical daycare), you’ll have excellent staff-to-child ratios in addition to staff that are highly educated in key areas like assisted learning and early child development.

A higher level of daycare

Lower staff-to-child ratios are one factor that can help you decide on a daycare center. Other important things include assistive learning devices, staff education, logistical help including nutrition and transportation, and structured activity versus free time. Parents of children with special needs (whether those needs are physical, developmental, or learning-related) should pay special attention to whether a daycare center can not only meet the need, but go beyond expectations and provide a truly productive and wonderful daycare experience for children of all abilities.

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