Selecting the ideal daycare can be one of the toughest decisions you make in early parenthood. How can you know if you’ve chosen one that fits your family’s needs? A preliminary search of locations, reviews, and recommendations can narrow down the options, to begin with. When you’ve focused in on only a few alternatives, then it’s time to do a little homework.
Here are six indicators you can look for in the most ideal daycare center for your child.
1. Good health and safety policies.
Kids do a wonderful job of passing germs around. Many parents in this delicate time worry about how likely it is that their kids pick something up from the daycare, especially with the COVID-19 crisis at hand. That’s why you’ll be better off if you ask questions early on.
What symptoms will prevent a child from being allowed to attend daycare? What’s their response if a caregiver shows signs of illness? Choose a daycare with a robust sanitization policy that regularly sanitizes the toys and the spaces and has all the smoke detectors and other safeguards in place.
2. Happy, loving caregivers interacting with the kids.
How does the staff interact with the kids? Ideally, you’ll find care providers playing with them, talking with them, teaching them, and kneeling down to be on their level and giving them the attention they need. One trait that all quality caregivers have in common is that they absolutely love children, and they are happy to be working with them. As it can be a little bit of a struggle for kids to deal with missing their parents as they start daycare, friendly and loving staff members can make a huge difference in easing separation anxiety feelings.
Especially if the kids are very young, pay attention to the ratio of caregivers to children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there should be at least one adult for every three babies under the age of one year. To get the most authentic view possible of this situation, you may find it useful to come by and observe one day.
3. Frequent communication between the care center and parents.
With children’s inability to clearly communicate, maintaining good contact with the center’s staff becomes imperative. Consistent, comfortable, and clear communication with care providers will ensure that your child receives the individualized help and attention they need.
As you check out different daycares, find out how they accomplish this. Do they have a good check-in situation where you can touch base with the staff and let them know how your child slept and what they’ve eaten? Some daycares have interactive software that enables parents and caregivers to regularly check-in and share pictures, videos, and other updates of what’s going on. Other daycares accomplish the same goal with different means.
4. A stimulating curriculum.
If you can find the curriculum online, checking this out is a great place to start. Here you’ll see what the kids will do all day and compare these activities to those that other centers offer. One of the great advantages daycares have over babysitters and nannies is the quality of education they can offer to the kids, so make sure you’re getting the full extent of this benefit by finding a center that prioritizes fun, valuable educational activities. The ideal daycare will have a structured plan that balances physical activities, time for reading and learning, group activities, snacks, meals, and free time.
Taking a close look at the contents of the classroom is also quite useful. A daycare with many old toys and television probably doesn’t have as good of a curriculum as a daycare full of mind-stimulating toys, art supplies, games, clay, books, etc. Children who enroll in centers that provide early-learning education opportunities naturally get a head start in learning social skills, math, and other language skills they need in school.
5. Good licensing and accreditation.
A state-level license is the minimum license any daycare should have, so always check for this. The license confirms that the center passes minimum health and safety standards and is legally permitted to be open and running. Any daycare that does not have this document readily available should be avoided. Often you can find this document on a center’s website before you even go in.
In addition, some child care centers have accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which requires rigorous approval of how professional centers are run. Only 7000 centers in the US have achieved this degree of quality, so if the center you’re considering can show you this, it’s usually a good sign.
6. A qualified staff.
Another benefit daycares have over babysitters and nannies is their qualified staff members. Many caregivers have degrees in childhood development or childhood education in addition to emergency response training, and they can be an extremely positive influence on your little one.
Employing trained care providers will improve the quality of your child’s attention and interaction with the staff. It will also improve the chances that your child spends the day learning, growing, and developing rather than just sitting around and doing passive activities like watching TV.
Find an ideal daycare that has all of these qualities, and you’ll be able to rest easy that your child will be safe and happy while you’re away! Take the time to find a daycare that shares your goals, and you’ll be glad you did. Start looking for daycare soon before you need one, though. With limited staff, many daycares have long waitlists!
Featured Image by AURELIE LUYLIER, You’re Welcome! in Pixabay