Modern economic realities often demand that both parents work outside the home. Mom and dad still want the best for junior, so they entrust his care to daycare assistants. About a third of such positions work part-time. This fact, coupled with low educational requirements, makes it a career you can try out before making a full-time commitment.
A daycare assistant takes care of the basic needs of children before they enter kindergarten by providing meals and snacks, changing their diapers and teaching them about the world. She may handle ages ranging from babies to toddlers, and must balance physical activity, rest, lessons and play. She keeps records of children’s progress, monitors them for emotional or developmental problems, and discusses any issues with other daycare staff, teachers and parents. During the summer, she may also watch older children who are on school break.
To prepare their charges for kindergarten, a daycare assistant often introduces them to basic concepts and simple lessons. She may read to them, teach them songs and play games. She imparts life skills, such as sharing and getting along with others, and good hygiene. Different techniques crowd her toolbox: she can rely on storytelling for language learning, finger-painting for art, dancing for exercise, and landscaping in a sandbox for science. She fills the children's day with activities that simulate creativity and learning, and yet introduces them to the structure of the educational system.
Educational requirements for daycare assistants vary by state, setting and employer. Some states do not have any formal requirements, although some require a minimum of a high-school diploma. Those working in Head Start, a federal government program for low-income children, must be at least enrolled in a program that leads to an associate degree in early childhood education or equivalent. Many states require employers to provide training for assistants before they can work with children. Assistants may also need to pass background checks and be current with all immunizations. National certification is available from the Council for Professional Recognition and the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation.
If you find being a daycare assistant rewarding, you can advance in the career in at least two ways. You may become a preschool teacher who focuses on educating children aged 3 to 5, although you will still provide some child care. Requirements for the profession vary by state and range from a high-school diploma to a college degree. You can also develop policies and standards for childcare facilities, and hire daycare assistants, by becoming a childcare center director. Requirements for this career also range from a high-school diploma to a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Work Environment for Childcare Workers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: What Childcare Workers Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Childcare Worker
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Preschool Teacher
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Preschool or Childcare Center Director
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images