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Childcare's Affect on Kids

Confused about the news on childcare's effects on kids? There seem to be both benefits (quality care can contribute to social and intellectual development, for instance) and drawbacks (the more time spent in daycare, the greater the risk of behavior and learning problems). But the vast majority of kids turn out fine, says Becky Spritz, Ph.D., a child psychologist at Roger Williams University, in Bristol, RI. To gauge how your child's doing:

Talk to her.

A regular chat on the way home can be revealing. You might ask, "What was your favorite activity today? Was there anything you didn't like?" For babies, check to see if yours has more trouble than usual when separating at dropoff.

Observe her with her caregiver.

Does your toddler smile and rush to give her a hug? Many babies will also smile and approach (by crawling) if they're happy to see someone. If yours is upset or retreats, can the caregiver calm her? How well does she know your child? Are the reports on her likes and dislikes consistent with what you see at home?

Note her development.

When kids are struggling, they may regress. If your child was potty trained before entering childcare but now has lots of accidents, she may be having a tough time.

Consider how she's doing at home.

Does your baby seem much fussier than usual, for instance? A significant difference in eating, sleeping, and behavior patterns may also signal a problem.

Ups and downs are normal, but if your child continues to have trouble after a few weeks, you'll want to take a closer look at the situation.