When’s The Best Time To Start Daycare In Calgary?


Written by Marlene Alcon Kepka


| 9 MIN READ |


This is one of those questions where I can answer easily and with certainty. It depends. There are many factors at play when you decide on exactly when to start at a Calgary daycare.

The main factors you should think about is…

  • What age should your child be to start daycare? Are you comfortable?
  • When does your maternity leave end? Going stir crazy?
  • Have you chosen your child’s daycare? Is there a waitlist?
  • Routine, time of year and the rest of it

As you can see it’s more than a “I have to get back to work!” mentality. There are a few things to think about before starting child care. Let’s take a look at each of these in depth and see what nuggets we can pull out.

What’s The Best Age to Start Daycare?

First let me say that there is not perfect age to start at a Calgary daycare. Some families have to put their kids into childcare early and others never do.

There are better ages then others. But don’t feel bad by putting your child into care or not.

The first year of your child’s life should be spent with the parents. Preferably both, full-time. Next best would be with one parent full-time. Third would be part-time with each parent.

There have been studies that being there as much as possible is crucial for your infant. They need to bond with you and benefit from time spent with parents.

If you can, try to spend as much quality time with your infant as you can.

The first year and the next four are all very important for your little one. Its their first 2000 days. Those first 2000 days are vastly important. Parents can struggle with finding experiences and teachings for their child. This is where daycare can step in.

Child care centers can focus on those first 2000 days and really get your child off to a great start. My daycare, 2000 Days Pre-Kindergarten, focuses on the first 2000 days and we even supplement their early years with Highscope.

Highscope is teaching method that focuses on the early years and getting the most out of your little ones. You want your child to be safe, have fun and learn. Highscope does all this.

That doesn’t mean you as the mother or father couldn’t do this yourselves. It’s very time consuming and difficult to do on your own. Sorry, I got a little off topic on how important the first 2000 days are.

Back on track to the question when you should start daycare. My answer is around 1-2 years of age. This age range is perfect because your child has gotten to know you and bonded over the first year.

Now you need to get back to work or want a few days a week to run errands. Heck, maybe to get some yoga in. That’s fine.

The one to two year old range is also a great start to getting them social. Social and emotional development is very important in the early years. Did you know empathy is learned and not genetic?

You need to teach you little ones how to be a good human being. And it can be hard to find the time.

So my definitive answer on when is the best time for your child to enter a daycare is… As quickly after 1 as you can. Get them learning, playing with theirs peers and exploring as much as they can.

Back to work? Yes!….or….Oh no!

Some parents can’t wait to get back to work while others dread it. After running a daycare in Calgary for over 8 years I have heard it all.

From the very excited to get back to their career to some who would rather stay at home with their little one.

Going stir crazy is normal. After 8-12 months with your new baby and with little sleep some parents need to get out. They need adult interactions and time away. You’re not a bad parent if you do this.

Many psychologists and doctors agree that time away from your child is beneficial for them AND for you.

As a mother of 3 I have given myself time, time with my husband and time with friends. Am I a bad mother? I sure hope not!

Starting child care can be a financial decision. When does maternity or paternity leave end? Maternity leave is usually 55% or 33% of your weekly wage.

See here. Many parents have no choice but to go back to work. And that is totally okay.

Picking A Childcare Centre Is Hard To Do

Another big factor deciding when to start your child in daycare is the child care centre itself. Do you have one picked out? Is there a short list? Have you toured many? Are you on a wait list?

Not having your preferred childcare center picked out could make the timing of your child care needs difficult.

Daycares in Calgary usually have some type of wait list. So getting on one early is usually a good idea. You don’t want to start work or get some of that YOU time I wrote above without your child in a childcare centre.

You want to find daycare centres that are on the way to work. Or closer to home. Once you have a list of 5 or so you want to tour them.

Asking a lot of questions and narrow it down to 2. Here is a checklist you can take with you to help.

Don’t underestimate the time it can take to get into a high quality childcare centre. There are times that are better and worse.

Usually the summer is a better time to get in then in the winter. This is because of general fluctuation through the year.

A lot of factors go into picking a daycare. Some parents are very picky and need a lot of time. Which is a good thing. Your child will thank you for it.

But in doing your research the time is ticking by. Getting a head start on finding an amazing daycare centre will help with proper timing.

Routines and Timing It All

As mentioned before the time of year does matter when enrolling your little one into childcare. Fall can be a hectic time as children are going back to school so daycare is top of mind. Spring is also another busy time to find care.

Winter and summer are usually slower and would be a better time to enroll. But that can be difficult on families as there are vacations to think of and Christmas can be a busy time.

Your family routine can also affect when to put your child into daycare. If your child isn’t on a good napping and sleep schedule then you might want to wait.

If your child doesn’t have a decent routine for their daily lives in place. Maybe waiting until they have something down might be a good idea.

I say this because I have seen hundreds of children dropped off at our daycare and the ones with a solid routine fair better. Not all but it helps a lot.

Going to a child care centre is stressful enough for your child. Adding no routine and difficult naps make the stress that much worse.

I have seen parents desperate to get their child into care with little routine and nap schedule. And it always works out.

It takes a little longer for your child to enjoy their time and start benefiting from the daycare environment.

If You Want The Most Out Of Daycare…

To get the most out of childcare for your family then I would recommend starting at around 1. Maybe you only go for 2 or 3 days a week and see how it goes. Then up to full time after 6-12 months.

The cost can be on the high side. We know Canada has some of the highest daycare fees around. So if you’re going to spend the money you might as well get the most out of it. Go early and find the best childcare center you can afford. Of course I’m biased as I own a daycare.

But even if I didn’t. All my years teaching early years children and talking to hundreds of families have taught me that the early years are beyond crucial. They are the time your child will be whomever they are in the future.

Not to stress parents out but in the firs 2000 days, roughly 5 years, your child will be the person they are for life. Truly little will change with them after that. Yes, friends will have a small affect and you will have a small affect. Other family and life experiences will have a small affect.

But most of your child’s personality and life success will be determined within those 2000 days. I strongly believe daycare can give them the social and emotional development they need. It can give them the academic start they need to thrive in school.

I had my own children in 2000 Days Pre-Kindergarten. My son, Owen, went through the program from 1-5 years of age. I can see on a daily basis that going to daycare has made him a more social and successful child. He is 8 now. I am glad he went and got the most out of it.

Now if you can’t afford childcare then you as the parent should try to schedule activities for your child. Have a daily routine and teach them. It can be a lot of work as the parent or guardian, but it will pay off in the end. I promise.

Do you think one/two years of age is the perfect time to get your child into daycare? Why or why not?