Introduction

Introduction
Half of young Quebecers under the age of 5 attend a daycare governed by the Ministère de la Famille.

Half of young Quebecers under the age of 5 attend a daycare governed by the province’s Ministère de la Famille. On average, they spend 7.5 hours a day in a childcare centre. Being concerned about the effect these daycares may have on early childhood development is therefore only natural.

Julie and Jeremy are the parents of 2-year-old Eliane, who attends a home daycare. “When Eliane comes home from daycare, she always has something new to show us. We see that it’s good for her development,” says Jeremy. “Just being in contact with the older children at the daycare also helps her develop independence. Her educator plays an important role in teaching her how to interact with others,” adds Julie.

According to Nathalie Bigras, early childhood education professor at UQAM, when a child is offered quality experiences at daycare, we can see the benefit in all aspects of his development. Children who attend a quality daycare generally demonstrate more developed language skills and better math skills than those who don’t. They are also better prepared for school.

Quality daycare is, therefore, one way to offer children additional stimulation, which complements the stimulation they receive at home. “The idea is not to structure a child’s learning to such an extent that you initiate formal schooling prematurely, nor is it to leave the child to develop on his own, but rather to fall somewhere between these two approaches. The educator supports the child by observing his strengths and challenges, and by suggesting activities that will encourage his development,” explains Bigras.

To help them, educators can use an educational program called “Meeting Early Childhood Needs,” developed by the province’s Ministère de la Famille. This program presents 5 principles to support children in their development.

1. Each child is unique. Educators must develop an in-depth knowledge of each child to be able to recognize and to respect each child’s characteristics, pace of development, needs and fields of interest.

2. Children are the primary agents of their development. This means that a child first learns spontaneously by experimenting, observing, imitating and talking with others. The educator serves as a guide to support the child’s quest for independence.

3. Child development is a comprehensive, integrated process. This principle recognizes that development occurs on many levels: emotional, physical, cognitive and linguistic. An educator’s interventions should therefore aim to stimulate all aspects of a child’s development.

4. Children learn through play. For children, play is the ultimate means through which to explore the world, to experiment and to learn.

5. Cooperation between educators and parents is essential for the harmonious development of the child. A good relationship between a child’s parents and educator reassures the child. It fosters a special bond between the child and the daycare staff. “Parents know their children best and can show educators the best way to adapt their interventions to the individual child,” notes Bigras.

These principles guide educators and help them optimize the pedagogical tools available to them to support the child’s development. This educational program also suggests strategies for laying out the premises, organizing materials and activities, and interacting with children and parents.

For Raphaëlle’s mother, Nathalie, these principles are very important. “The educational program such as it is applied in our childcare establishment corresponds to my values. It encourages my child’s development while respecting her pace,” she explains. “I also feel like I’m a partner in my daughter’s education.”