Feature Articles—Child Care
What is good child care?
Sara Gable, Ph.D., Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Good child care programs provide a healthy and safe place for children to be social, to learn and to grow. Good child care depends on many things. The three most important are the number of caregivers who work with children, caregiver education and training, and the way that caregivers get along with children.
Number of caregivers and children in the group
Children do best in small groups because it is easier to interact with each other and to get care and attention from caregivers. Missouri licensing rules regulate how many children can be with a caregiver and how big the group of children can be in a licensed child care program.
In Missouri family child care homes, the standards say:
- For one adult caregiver who is licensed to care for 10 children, a maximum of two children under 2 years of age.
- For one adult caregiver who is licensed to care for six children, a maximum of three children under 2 years of age.
- If the family child care home is not licensed, Missouri law says that no more than four unrelated children can be in the child care program.
- If a DFS-registered family child care home is not licensed, Missouri law says that no more than four unrelated children can be in the child care program.
In Missouri child care centers, the standards say:
- For children birth through 2 years old: One adult with four children; groups no larger than two adults with eight children.
- For children only 2 years old: One adult with eight children; groups no larger than two adults with 16 children.
- For children 3 and 4 years old: One adult with 10 children.
- For children 5 years and older: One adult with 16 children.
- For groups of mixed-age children: For children 2 years and older, one adult with 10 children, and only four 2-year-olds present in the group. If there are more than four 2-year-olds, the group can have no more than eight children.
Caregiver education and behavior
Many people think that providing child care comes naturally, but teaching and caring for children in groups takes special skills. The best child care providers have education and training about children. Licensed caregivers in Missouri are required to have 12 hours of child care training every year. Education and training are important because they teach caregivers how to help children learn and grow. Caregivers learn how to plan the day, provide nutritious foods and offer fun activities that children will like. Caregivers also learn how to get along with children and families in positive ways.
When you see a good caregiver interacting with children, you will see her/him:
- Smile at children a lot
- Talk in ways that children understand
- Show children a positive attitude
- Show children they care about them
- Take care of crying children
- Help children understand how they feel
- Answer children's questions
- Encourage children to get along with each other
- Make the most of daily routines to help children learn
- Create moments for children to learn new things in a fun way
- Help children handle failure and learn ways to be successful
- The best caregivers know what children can do and understand what it is like to be a child.
The first years of life are very important to children and to
families. Finding good child care helps your children to learn and
grow and helps you to have a clear mind when at work because you
know that your children are receiving safe and healthy care.
For more about child care see GH6233, Finding and Selecting Good Child Care: A Guide for Parents Returning to Work.
Last update: Tuesday, August 25, 2009