CRÈCHE (Fr. for a “crib” or cradle), the name given to a day-nursery, a public institution for the feeding and care of infants while the mothers are engaged in work outside their homes, or are otherwise prevented from giving them proper attention. Infants are usually admitted when over a month old, and are kept till they are capable of looking after themselves. The advantages of such institutions are that the attention of skilled and trained nurses is given to the children, the food is better and more adapted to their needs than that given in their homes, the surroundings are cleaner and healthier, and habits of discipline and cleanliness are instilled, which, in many cases, react on the mothers. The nurseries are usually under medical supervision, and the small fees charged, which average in London from 3d. to 4d. a day, and on the continent of Europe about 2d., are much less than the cost to the mother who places her young children under the care of neighbours when at work or away from home. Institutions of this kind were started in France in 1844, and have been established in the majority of the large towns on the continent of Europe. In the industrial centres of France and Germany they have helped to check infantile mortality. The state or municipality in nearly every case grants subsidies, but few are maintained entirely by public authorities; voluntary contributions are depended upon for the main support, and the organization and management are left in the hands of private societies and charitable institutions, although some outside official supervision with regard to the number of infants admitted to each institution, air-space, and ventilation and general hygienic conditions is considered useful. In Great Britain the establishment of such institutions has been left almost entirely to private initiative; and in comparison with the continent the provision is inadequate and unsatisfactory, Paris having nearly double the proportion of accommodation for infants to the population that is provided in London. The National Society of Day Nurseries was founded in 1901 for the purpose of providing a bureau where information may be found of good methods of founding and managing a crèche.
See the Report of the Consultative Committee upon the School Attendance of Children below the Age of Five, issued by the Board of Education (1908).