Making the decision to put your child in daycare is not easy. You often wonder what is going to happen in daycare centers, if you can trust the people who work there to take care of your child, and many other things. The reason for this is that some daycare centers are exceptional but there are also daycare centers that are beyond ba d. The bad centers that make parents worry about who is taking care of their children. If you choose a good daycare center you can rest assured that your child is going to be well taken care of. The key to choosing a great daycare center is to thoroughly conduct your research and carefully think out your final decision.
Steps to Find a Good Daycare Center
Write down everything that is important to you in a daycare center, this includes everything that you want in a daycare center. Some things to consider when writing this list is if you want a daycare center close to your house or close to work and if you want a small groups for your child or larger groups.
Use all of your tools available to look for possibilities. You can talk to family members and friends about centers that they would recommend, you could also ask your doctor or daycare referral agencies for daycare centers that they would recommend. Look on the internet and in the phone book for a list of possibilities. When doing your research you want to keep your list in mind so that you only choose centers that meet your criteria.
Once you have compiled a list of possible daycare centers you want to call them on the phone and ask a set of preliminary questions. No matter how tempted you might be, do not skip this step because it is very important to choosing a great daycare center for your child. When talking to the staff on the phone you are going to want to jot down your first impressions about the daycare center. When jotting down your first impressions you are going to want to make notes of why you felt that way about that center. Here are some of the questions you are going to want to ask in the phone interview:
- What are their policies, hours, fees, activities, and philosophies on teaching children?
- Are they flexible to help you with your schedule?
- Will they accommodate your special requests?
- What is their teacher to child ratio?
- Do they change activities frequently?
- Do they have experienced teachers?
Cross off all of the daycare centers that gave you a bad feeling. This will allow you to narrow down your choices, which makes interviewing them in person easier.
Visit all of the centers that remain on your list. When you visit the center you are going to want to show up unannounced, this way you will get a real look at how the daycare center run. Calling ahead to make an appointment can allow the center to adjust their program to impress you. When you are at the center you want to get a list of the activities that they are currently doing, most centers will have some type of calendar for the parents. You are also going to want to look around at the facility to make sure that it is a clean and safe environment for your child. You also want to check to see that the child to teacher ratio is the same as what they told you over the phone.
Jot down your thoughts about the center as soon as you leave. You can also make notes during your walk through. Your gut feeling is an important part to consider.
Narrow down your list again. Cross of the centers that you only felt were o.k. or the ones that gave you a bad feeling once seeing what really goes on.
Of the centers that are left begin checking their references. You can ask the daycare centers for references, if they will not provide you with any do not consider that center. You will want to find out what parents thought or think about the center, and if their child no longer attends, ask why.
Take your child for a visit to the center. Allow your child to interact with the group that they would be in, including the teacher. You want to watch how your child acts in the daycare center, check to make sure that they are comfortable and happy.
Once you have found a place that meets your qualifications and makes your child happy you are going to want to enroll your child. If there is, waiting lists put your name down on the waiting list, and find a temporary place for your child to go to in the meantime.
Signs of Good Daycare Center
Number One: Reputation
The people, including daycare referral places, should be happy with the daycare center. There should not be any major or unresolved complaints with the center. If the people have doubts about the place or are simply unsure about the center chances are you will be too. With a daycare center, you never want to settle for second best.
Number Two: Caring and qualified staff
All of the staff should be enthusiastic; they also need to interact with the children in a positive way. They should show through their actions that they really care about the children. You as a parent will be able to tell if the staff is meaningful or is just going through the motions with the kids. The staff should also follow the same philosophy that you have when it comes to feeding, sleeping, and disciplining children, if your philosophies do not match you should not even be considering that daycare center.
To be a qualified teacher they staff should have at least two years of college, plus a background in early childhood development. All of the staff should be First Aid and CPR certified; some states also require a food handlers permit if the staff is going to be handling food. If this is, a requirement in your state is sure to find out about it at the center that you choose. The center should follow their state guidelines for the child to teacher ratio. Here is a look at the child-staff ratio that is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Birth to 12 months - 3:1 with a maximum group size of 6
- 13 to 30 months - 4:1 with a maximum group size of 8
- 31 to 35 months - 5:1 with a maximum group size of 10
- 3 year olds - 7:1 with a maximum group size of 14
- 4 to 5 year olds - 8:1 with a maximum group size of 16
- 6 to 8 year olds - 10:1 with a maximum group size of 20
- to 12 year olds - 12:1 with a maximum group size of 24
Number Three: Safe and clean facility
You want to look to find a center that has clean floors, walls, bathrooms, kitchen, and changing areas. They should also be well lit and properly ventilated. The center should have policies on the proper way to keep things clean, when and how often hands should be washed, and keeping toys and equipment in safe working order. The center should also have an emergency plan posted on the walls of each classroom, along with fire extinguishers, and first aid kits. Teacher storage areas should be child proof.
Number Four: Rules and policies
While a great center will be flexible it should still follow set hours, enforce policies about sick children, and requires checkups and immunizations to help prevent the spread of illness. There should also be an open door policy, meaning you can come by the center anytime that they are open to see how things are doing. If there is not an open door policy, this might signal that they are hiding something.
Number Five: Schedule of activities
They should have a schedule that allows for playtime, quiet time, individual activities, meals, snacks, and group activities. Television and video time should not be included. The center should teach a wide variety of topics, while teaching things that are appropriate for the child's age group. The toys that are offered in each classroom should be age appropriate, but at the same time, they should be fun and allow the child to be imaginative and creative.
Number Six: Current license
Just having a license does not mean that the center is going to be the perfect choice for you and your child, but they should still have a license. Your local city services department or even a licensing board at the state level should give the license. Keep in mind that licensing laws vary from state by state, so know what laws your state has in place. To find out about your state's licensing laws go to Department of Early Learning to look up your state.