Grandparents Vs. Day Care: Who Does It Better?

By Nitya

Feb 10, 2009 3:20pm

With our shaky economy, more working parents are turning to their own parents for help caring for the kids.  My mom calls it "pick up halmonis."  (Halmoni is Korean for ‘grandmother’ so, in other words, grandmothers who pick up their kids from school everyday while mommy works.)

In an extreme example, my pieces on GMA & Nightline yesterday featured the exasperated, put-upon grandmother of the octupulets — a retired school teacher on a fixed income — who not only is the primary caregiver for six grandkids under the age of 8, but, she says in the interview, also pays for their rent and expenses, too.   

But I digress.

A new study out of England suggests that kids who are cared for by their grandparents are "less ready for school" than toddler who are put in day care or structured nursery school. (Don’t tell that to the President and First Lady who have said that having grandma Marion Robinson in the mix makes them feel like it’s basically the next best thing to being home themselves.)

The study by the Institute of Education looked at 4,800 UK children born in 2000 and 2001. By the age of three, those who were in daycare showed a better understanding of colors, letters, numbers and counting, sizes, comparisons and shapes than those who were cared for by their grandparents.

Interestingly, the granny-care kids had better vocabulary. As the British paper the Guardian reported: "Dr Kirstine Hansen, research director of the Millennium Cohort Study, from which the data was taken, said: "Grandparents tend to make more of an effort to sit down and talk to children to make up for lack of physical activity, but there’s also some evidence that they are more likely to use better grammar, have better vocabulary themselves and correct children more, unlike other people."

The jury is still out as to whether the differences that exist at the age of 3 even out by the time the kids are in school for some period of time. 

I have incredibly fond memories of spending time with my grandmother when I was very very young.  They’re not vignettes, more like impressionistic images of her smiling face and her soft hand holding mine. I suspect over the course of a lifetime, loving care beats out knowing your letters and colors early.

(Thanks to Nightline’s Vicki Mabrey for the heads up on the Guardian’s reporting.)

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