Choosing a daycare center involves being patient, observing, and asking plenty of questions.
Your choice of daycare depends on your needs and preferences. Some parents are more interested in location because they want their child close by. Other parents are interested in the people who they will leave their children with all day long. Keep in mind, the best daycare centers are probably full so start searching at least six months in advance. In addition to your unique needs, here are seven things to look for in a good daycare center.
Ask to see credentials and licenses. Double check these by calling social services.
Remember licenses aren’t everything and they don’t guarantee quality care. Evaluate the caregivers themselves.
If you stopping by unannounced is not encouraged by the center, look somewhere else, chances are they have something to hide.
#2 Qualified caring staff
Daycare centers have this advantage over nannies and other care providers. Daycare center employees are educated and usually have a minimum of two years of college, knowledge of CPR, and early childhood education.
Caregivers should be enthusiastic, responsible, and prepared. Find out the caregivers philosophy on discipline, sleep, feeding and other care issues. When talking to the caregivers, they should ask detailed questions about your child’s health and care.
The center should also have enough staff for your child to get the attention and care they need.
For babies, the ratio is one caregiver for every three children if a group has six infants, one for every four if a group has eight babies.
For toddlers (12 to 28 months), the ratio is 1:3 for six children and 1:4 for eight or more children.
For children between 21 and 36 months, the ratio should be 1:4 for a group of eight children, 1:5 for a group of ten, and 1:6 for a group of 12.
For children 30 to 48 months, the ratio should be 1:6 for a group of 12 children, 1:7 for a group of 14, 1:8 for a group of 16, and 1:9 for a group of 18.
For 4- and 5-year-olds, the ratio should be 1:8 for a group of 16 children, 1:9 for a group of 18 children, and 1:10 for a group of 20 children.
How the caregivers are treated by the management is also important. Do they have healthcare? Are they given an education allowance? Vacation time? These things can play into whether they are happy employees who are happy around your children.
A good daycare center should be welcoming, friendly, and known for its nurturing environment. Ask for names, references, or even stop by randomly during pickup time when parents are there and talk to them.
Be mindful of the first impression you create as well. Be respectful and courteous.
It’s important for daycare centers to be flexible and allow parents to pick up their children at any time they want, but there should be clearly established regulations about opening times and closing times and how to handle an emergency. All this should be written down and copies handed out to every parent.
You should also look for sick child policy. What illnesses require your child to stay at home and for how long? If their sick child policy is very strict it may be inconvenient but in the long run keeping the rest of the children and the staff healthy makes sense.
Structured schedules with lots of time for physical activity and group reading sessions, individual activities and meal times as well as free time is a balanced curriculum for any daycare center. Videos and TV should not be part of the day.
Look for a wide range of age appropriate toys that encourage development and stimulate creative and imaginative play.
Will the center provide food or are you required to pack some for your child? Do they allow you to pack sweets? Centers that don’t restrict candy may not be the best choice.
If they have a meal plan, find out what that is, when they serve it, and what kinds of snacks they provide your child.
#7 Cleanliness of the facility
- Floors, walls, walks and the kitchen area should be clean.
- Toilets and diaper changing stations should be far away from the food prep areas and be adequately lit and ventilated.
- Does the center follow basic rules of safety?
- Is equipment in good repair and are hazardous substances far from reach?
- Is the bedding fresh and firm?
- How much space do the children have to play? Is there an outdoor area?
Taking all of these things into consideration before you decide on a daycare will help you choose the right one for your child.
What is your most important need when it comes to daycare for your child?
First published at: www.babycenter.com
Featured image source: www.advantage4parents.com