best age to start daycare

Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience, and one of the many important decisions you’ll face is when to start your child at daycare. The age at which you introduce your child to daycare can have a significant impact on their social, emotional, and cognitive development. 

In this article, we’ll explore the best age to start daycare and provide valuable tips for each age group. Whether you’re considering infant daycare or wondering about options for older children, we’ve got you covered.

Infancy (0-12 Months): Building Strong Foundations

Starting daycare during infancy is a significant decision that can have long-lasting effects on your child’s development. Here’s a deeper look into why it’s an excellent choice:

Early Socialization

Infants are born with an innate curiosity and a remarkable capacity to learn from their environment. Daycare exposes them to a rich tapestry of experiences, including the sights, sounds, and interactions with peers and caregivers. These early social interactions are the building blocks of your child’s social skills. 

Through observing and engaging with others, infants develop the ability to make eye contact, smile, and eventually communicate with gestures and sounds. These social skills lay the foundation for future relationships.

Professional Care

One of the most significant advantages of infant daycare is the presence of trained caregivers who understand the unique needs of babies. These professionals are skilled in providing specialized attention, ensuring that your baby’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs are met. Whether it’s feeding, changing diapers, or naptime, caregivers create a safe and nurturing environment that promotes healthy growth.

Parental Flexibility

Returning to work after having a baby can be a challenging transition. Infant daycare provides parents with the flexibility they need to balance their professional and family lives. Knowing that your child is in good hands alleviates the stress of returning to work, allowing you to focus on your career while providing your baby with a supportive early learning environment.

The transition into daycare can be overwhelming for both you and your baby. To ease this transition, consider starting with shorter daycare sessions, gradually increasing the duration as your child becomes more comfortable. Frequent visits to the daycare center, allowing your baby to acclimate to the new environment, can also help.

1 Year Old: Exploring Independence

Around their first birthday, children reach a stage where they are eager to explore the world around them and assert their independence. Here’s why starting daycare at this age is a great choice:

Language Development

Interaction with peers and caregivers is a vital activity for language development. Children at this age are like little sponges, absorbing new words and expressions rapidly. In daycare, they have the opportunity to engage in conversations and learn from their interactions with others. This early exposure to language can have a lasting impact on their communication skills.

Social Skills

Playing with other children fosters essential social skills such as sharing, cooperation, and empathy. Through play and group activities, children learn to navigate social dynamics, resolve conflicts, and build relationships. These skills form the basis of healthy social development, which is invaluable as they grow.

Routine and Structure

Daycare provides a structured environment that helps children adapt to schedules and routines. This sense of predictability can be especially beneficial as they approach preschool age, where routines become more prominent in their daily lives. Establishing these routines early on can ease the transition to formal education.

Before your child starts daycare at this age, consider visiting the daycare center together. Spend time exploring the environment, meeting caregivers, and observing how your child reacts to the new setting. This familiarity can help ease their transition.

2 and 3 Years Old: Preparing for Preschool

As your child enters the toddler years, daycare continues to play a crucial role in their development:

Preparation for Preschool

Daycare serves as an excellent stepping stone to preschool. It introduces children to a more structured learning environment, helping them become familiar with:

  • classroom settings, 
  • routines, 
  • and early educational activities. 

This preparation can make the transition to preschool smoother and more comfortable.


At this age, children are eager to assert their independence and make choices. Daycare provides a safe space for them to explore their interests and preferences, fostering self-confidence and decision-making skills.

Peer Interaction

Interacting with peers is an essential aspect of daycare. It promotes vital social skills, including conflict resolution, cooperation, and teamwork. Children learn to share and navigate the complexities of social relationships.

If your child is in the process of potty training, communicate with daycare providers about their progress. Consistency between home and daycare can be crucial for success in this milestone. Also, if you’re starting daycare at this age, ensure you understand their potty training rules. Some daycares have guidelines for pull-ups, change of clothes, and ages for which a child must be potty trained. 

4 and 5 Years Old: Preparing for Kindergarten

Starting daycare and preschool at age 4 or 5 can provide valuable preparation for the transition to kindergarten.

Academic Readiness

Many daycare programs offer early education components, introducing children to pre-reading and math skills. This early exposure to academic concepts can give them a head start in their formal education journey.

Emotional Resilience 

Exposure to different social situations and challenges at daycare can help children become more emotionally resilient and adaptable. They learn how to cope with separation from their parents, handle frustration, and adapt to new environments.


Strong friendships formed at daycare can provide a valuable support system as children enter formal education. These early friendships can ease the social transition to kindergarten and help children feel more comfortable in their new environment.

When selecting a daycare center for older children, look for one that aligns with your goals for your child’s academic and social development. Consider their curriculum, extracurricular activities, and the qualifications of the teaching staff.

6+ Years Old: Afterschool Programs

For older children, afterschool programs and daycare services continue to be incredibly valuable.


Afterschool programs offer a safe and structured environment for children when parents are at work. Knowing that your child is in a secure and consistent setting provides peace of mind for working parents.

Homework Assistance

Many afterschool programs offer homework help, ensuring that your child stays on top of their schoolwork. This support can be especially beneficial as academic demands increase in elementary and middle school.

Enrichment Activities

Afterschool programs often provide opportunities for kids to explore their interests and talents. From art and music to sports and science, these programs can enrich your child’s extracurricular experiences.

Involve your child in selecting an afterschool program that aligns with their interests and extracurricular activities. This not only ensures their engagement but also helps them develop a sense of ownership in their choices.

Acing the Start of Daycare with Cadence Education

The best age to start daycare depends on your child’s individual needs and your family’s circumstances. Regardless of the age at which you choose to start daycare, be sure to:

  • research and visit potential facilities, 
  • talk to caregivers, 
  • and prioritize a safe and nurturing environment.

Remember that every child is unique, and the best age to start daycare is the one that aligns with your family’s needs and your child’s developmental stage. With the right approach, daycare can be a positive and enriching experience for children of all ages.

Consider Cadence Education if you’re looking for high-quality daycare services that cater to children of all ages. Cadence Education offers a range of programs designed to foster children’s development and prepare them for future educational milestones. Visit the Cadence Education website or contact us today to explore our offerings and find a location near your family.