Choosing a daycare provider may present more challenges than other decisions that require fewer emotional, financial, logistic, and health-related considerations. Whether motivation comes from a need to meet job responsibilities, benefit from professional guidance in child development, or other reasons, it deserves the utmost respect. Vital checkpoints can help you choose a service that provides the most value for your child and the peace of mind you can achieve from making a careful decision.
Evaluating a Center
The quality of leadership at a center determines the policies and direction that influence the impact on your child. When your evaluation starts at the top of an organization, you can eliminate every other concern if it does not meet your expectations. The status of a center’s license, transportation arrangements and policy for checking your child in or out presents considerations to consider above everything else.
Consider two years’ experience and a bachelor’s degree in a child-related area as minimum qualifications for a director. Teachers need to have at least one year of experience. A continuing education program for the director and all staff members shows a commitment to understanding what children need as they learn and grow. States issue licenses that allow centers to operate, but they do not guarantee quality. A review of national accreditation organizations can give you a basis for deciding on the best service for your child.
Checking on Health and Nutrition Standards
Center policies regarding immunizations, cleanliness and food handling need to rank high on your checklist of questions. You need to know that a facility maintains up-to-date records of immunizations for all members, and an investigation of handwashing requirements can relieve your concerns. Make sure to inquire about arrangements for infants and toddlers’ needs for breastfeeding, on-demand feeding, diapering procedures and sanitary processes. Childcare.gov recommends visiting a facility to observe conditions before making any decisions about your child’s care.
Examining Program Content
When you release your child to the care of someone else for a whole day, you want to know how a center uses the time. You know that your child enjoys a mix of interests that includes time for play, naps, stories and activities. Centers can describe how much time children spend playing and whether they get to choose their play partners. Teachers who actively participate in play with the children to facilitate the learning process provide the kind of support you want.
Ensuring a Quality Environment
Children need a pleasant environment that contributes to learning and the overall enjoyment of a shared experience. A visit to a center can ensure that you get an assessment of factors that meet your standards.
Children need a space for playing actively or quietly, resting and interacting with others in a pleasant environment. When you visit a center, a look at the layout can reveal whether the caregivers and children can move around easily. The printed materials must meet your expectations for cleanliness, creativity, and various information sources with enough to provide one for each child. When centers offer technology access, you may want to inquire how often they use TV or computers each day.
A designated, fenced area for outdoor play and exercise may indicate regular use, and your questions about the length and duration of supervised activities in the fresh air can resolve your concerns. As you visit the outdoor space, the size and age-appropriateness of the equipment deserve attention. A center’s website can present descriptions of the types of lessons that it offers. Many facilities show pictures of activities for your review before you decide to request an on-site visit.
Measuring Ratio of Supervision
Child care regulations present data to help you understand whether a center complies with the requirements for group size and child-to adult ratios. With guidelines for age groups that range from infants to school age, they specify the maximum number of children that a trained adult may supervise. The data shows how many adults must watch groups of each age and the group’s maximum size.
Expecting Parental Involvement
Your child’s development provides a basis of interest for a professional provider to share with you, and an understanding of a communication plan can facilitate desirable outcomes for everyone. You may want to talk to a caregiver when you pick up your child to learn of any concerns or to share information at drop off. If the facility offers technological communication regarding your child, it must explain how to access it securely. A scheduled interaction with the staff at least two times each year facilitates understanding and creates bonds that benefit your child’s welfare. When you know the processes and procedures that a center observes for sharing information, you can help with transitioning your child from one classroom to another and prevent confusion that often upsets children. Psychology Today cites the importance of establishing a cordial communication link with caregivers that may benefit your child most of all.
Relying on Written Documentation
An understanding of a facility’s policies and procedures can prevent misunderstandings later. Most centers provide written documentation that contains information that sets out their terms of service. You have a right to review the written details of policies that affect your relationship with a center and the care of your child. Many facilities include them in an information packet, or you may request them before you sign any agreement.
• parental handbook
• cost of care
• permissions and fees for field trips or programs
• hours of operation
• dispensing of medications
• teaching philosophy
• termination of an enrollment agreement
Choosing a Daycare Center
While the research on child care facilities may seem burdensome and time-consuming, it can provide the information you need. The peace of mind you receive from study and evaluation can prove far more valuable than you may imagine.