Childcare Perks
1. It'll make him healthier. Sure, he's going to have the sniffles more often than a stay-at-home tyke. But the bugs he's exposed to may strengthen his immune system, which in turn may protect him from chronic conditions like allergies, asthma, and even leukemia. According to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, kids who attend daycare are 30 percent less likely to develop the most common type of childhood leukemia. The researchers think the immune-system boost from the infections may be why.

2. It'll prep him for school. "Daycare centers are more stimulating and cognitively enriching than in the past," says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., an investigator for a recent National Institutes of Health study that found that at age 4, kids who'd been in daycare did better on literacy and number-skills tests.

3. It'll jump-start his social life. Daycare tots learn to be more cooperative and are more assertive than kids who stay home. Because they have to get along with lots of other children, they learn they don't always come first and how to make friends, says Hirsh-Pasek. A lesson always better learned sooner rather than later in life!

How to Find a Quality Center

To make sure your kid reaps the benefits, look for:

    One staffer for every three babies between 6 and 18 months; a 1:4 ratio for kids between 18 months and 2 years; and a 1:7 ratio for 2- to 3-year-olds

    A max of six babies per "class"; eight 18- to 24-month-olds; and fourteen 2- to 3-year-olds ? A staff with certification or degrees in child development or early-childhood education

    State government certification (Accreditation by a national organization is a plus.)

    A good gut feeling of your own: Is the center clean? Do the kids look happy? Are babies sleeping on their backs, and older kids being supervised? Is it a place you'd feel confident leaving your child?