Finnish children under the age of three generally spend up to ten hours in daycare
Mothers regard shorter days as a good idea, but part-time daycare is not always possible
It is quite common today for children under the age of three to spend up to ten hours at daycare centres, says Birgitta Vilpas, a participant in the development unit of early childhood education in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
The main operators in this unit are the four municipalities (Helsinki, Espoo, Kauniainen, and Vantaa), the University of Helsinki, and the Centre of Expertise on Social Welfare in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.
In the view of Vilpas, the group of children under the age of three is extremely important, as that is where the foundation of everything else is laid.
”The quality of day care services fluctuates a great deal in various day care centres. Everything has become so strict, with occupation and utilisation rates, which are being monitored. It is cost-effectiveness that talks”, Vilpas argues.
Children under the age of three are also taken care of in groups of 16.
Even though each child has a care-giver of his or her own, it is often possible to divide the full group into smaller groups for only part of the day.
According to a recent report, parents tend to reserve longer days in daycare for children under the age of three than for those aged three to six.
For example in Helsinki, almost 80 per cent of the parents of children under the age of three reserve the maximum time or more than seven hours per day in care.
However, daycare development consultant Sirkka-Liisa Ihalainen says that one cannot conclude much from the figure.
”The figure does not tell the whole truth, as families can make a reservation for full-time daycare, but they will not necessarily use the entire time”, Ihalainen notes.
No more accurate information than this is available, as at the moment no research exists on the number of hours children spend in daycare on a daily basis.
However, the situation will change, as Helsinki and some other municipalities intend to devise a digital system which would be used to monitor the number of hours children spend in daycare each day.
For example, such a system could be based on a timecard model, which would record the arrival and departure times of children.
The parents could make a reservation for part-time or full-time daycare for their children.
Part-time daycare is less than five hours a day, while full-time care is either five to seven hours or more than seven hours per day.
Finnish parents would willingly reduce the number of hours their children spend in daycare.
”Fewer hours in daycare are a good idea, but they are not always feasible. Even if the employer accepted six-hour working days, it is not economically possible”, says Hanna Miikkulainen, the mother of 2.5-year-old Nea.
Payment transaction specialist Hanna Miikkulainen and her husband Heikki Miikkulainen, the head of a sales group, picked up Nea from the Kartanonranta daycare centre in Kirkkonummi at around 5 pm on Thursday.
Nea had spent eight hours in care.
From February, Nea’s days will shorten to part-time daycare, as the family will be having another baby.
Professor of psychology Liisa Keltikangas-Järvinen says that the content of daycare should be discussed more in Finland.
Keltikangas-Järvinen stresses that the solutions and development of the daycare system are parts of a larger social question.
”In discussions, housewives and daycare services are usually set against each other. Politicians do not have to intervene in anything, as women have been incited to argue with each other. And anyone who says that women should stay at home is labelled as an old fossil”, the professor argues.
According to professor Keltikangas-Järvinen, a child under the age of one should not be put in daycare.
From the age of 18 months, a child starts to develop the ability to be detached from his or her first affectionate relationship.
After that, a child can be put in a small group with two other children of the same age.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Quality of daycare services fluctuates in Finland (20.6.2011)
Finnish children go to day care at an earlier age than before (22.10.2007)
FACTFILE: Municipal day care predominates in Finland (19.4.2005)
University of Helsinki: Research Database Tuhat: The Development Unit of Early Childhood Education in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area