There are so many child care facilities these days. It can be a daunting task to select the right one for you and your child. It can be emotionally and financially difficult to turn your child over to the care of someone else, and it never gets any easier after the first time-you just learn what works for you and what to look for. Whether you’re on a limited budget or money is no object, here are some tips to help you look beyond the obvious and find the best possible environment for your child. Let’s give you a basic outline so you can be empowered rather than intimidated.
For first time parents, what to do, what to ask, and how to narrow down possibles is confusing and frustrating sometimes. We’re going to assume here that you don’t know that many other parents that can give you a word of mouth recommendation. et out the phonebook. Depending on the size of the city you live in, there may be a long list of facilities. Start off with a list of 5 to 10 nearest your home or work. If you can help it, you don’t want to spend too much on gas going to and from daycare, as the daycare itself is usually not cheap. Once you’ve gotten your initial list, start calling. You’ll want to speak to the manager or supervisor , not just a secretary.
Before ever setting foot in the facility, you want to first ask what the child/teacher ratio is. This needs to be low for all age groups, but look for especially low ratios for infants. This means how many children per teacher in the classroom. A good number would be one teacher per four infants, in fact any more infants per teacher than that, I’d move on to the next facility-with a class size of 8 on the high end. For children between one and two years, same thing, 1:4, with a class size of 12 at the most. Those numbers should vary minimally the older the child is. Make sure and write the ratios and class sizes down beside the name of each facility you call, these will be impossible to remember when you want to compare.
What training are the teachers required to have? It’s very preferable and beneficial to your child that the lead teacher in a facility always have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Child Development or Early Childhood Educatioin. Is the facility licensed by the state you live in? Are all teachers certified in infant/child CPR? What is the average teacher turnover at that particular facility? Always ask these questions over the phone before you commit to a tour. Aside from the importance of the answers to them, is the attitude with which they are answered by the manager. Were they forthcoming, polite, and eager to answer all your questions? Don’t feel guilty in the least about asking detailed questions over the phone. Remember, your child may be in their hands.
Once you’ve gotten the initial information out of the way, including the questions outlined for you, plus cost, hours, and other basic information, you’ll want to look over your stats and decide which ones you may want to visit. It is very important not to make an appointment to tour a daycare facility. They need to be open to potential and current parents coming in unannounced, and they need to be comfortable with that.
When you arrive at each location, make sure you check in at the office, explain who you are and what you need to see, and make mental notes of how helpful the staff is, as well as how secure the facility seems to be with addressing people who come in. You’ll also want to pay attention to how the staff is in person, their appearance(are they neat, professional looking), and note any questions you have right off the bat and ask them. They should always take you on a full tour of all classrooms, play areas outside and inside, and meal prep areas. This is a good time to find out what kind of standards they use for the meals they serve. Do they have a cook, or do they use prepared meals? How many snacks are the children given during the day? Also, as you’re walking through, pay close attention to how clean the classrooms, hallways, and changing areas appear to be. Is there a designated area for staff to wash their hands with instructions on proper handwashing procedure? Ask if toys are cleaned each day, and with what kind of products (bleach is best). Do the infants and children in the facility look clean, and relatively engaged in what is going on? Also make a note of how comfortable the temperature inside the building is.
One of the most important things you are looking for when on your tour is how are the teachers interacting with the children? With infants, you want to see teachers constantly stimulating and interacting with them. If all the babies in the class are crying, what is the teacher doing? Are they calm or frazzled? When observing children at play, outdoors or in, are ALL the caregivers watching ALL the children constantly? If you see teachers standing in one group laughing and talking while the children play, end your consideration of that facility. They need to be spread out, interacting with the children, not other teachers, and observing that the children are safe and accounted for. I can’t emphasize this enough.
Be sure and ask if there is a nurse on duty in the building during all business hours, as well as a supervisor. Ask for a copy of an example of the teaching curriculum if you’re considering enrolling an older child, and use your judgment when looking over it on whether it’s right for your child. Also, most facilities recommend, as do I, a pre-enrollment visit for the child, for only an hour or two. This is always a very good idea for alot of reasons, but mostly, you want to see how your child is when you pick them up. Were they ready for you to pick them up, were they happy, reluctant to leave, etc…Your child’s mood is the biggest indicator of how good the facilty is for them.
Once you’ve satisfied yourself that you’ve found the best possible childcare experience for you and your little one, it’s not nearly as hard to leave them in the mornings knowing you’ve done everything you can to ensure their safety and general wellbeing. The tips I’ve outlined should give you the best possible chance of avoiding a bad experience, and in alot of cases, you’ll find your child will benefit, if not thrive, in the environment you’ve so carefully chosen for them-daycare doesn’t have to be a bad thing for your child. Remember that, and take notes! Now you’re on your way.