Choosing a daycare can be a tough decision. For one thing, not all daycare centers are the same; for another, even a good daycare with a positive reputation may not be the right one for your family.
To help you make this important choice, here are some tips on how to choose the right daycare for your family’s needs.
Locate the Daycare Centers
If you are not sure what centers are in your area, try placing a call to your local childcare experts. Look in the phone book or do an internet search to see what’s out there, and to locate childcare agencies like the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency.
Ask about Requirements
When you’re on the phone with the CCR&R, ask them what the laws are in your area about licensing, violations, and, if applicable, financial assistance. There may be laws about the child-to-caregiver ratio and how and where to complain if you believe a daycare center is in violation of a licensing requirement or has some other problem.
Make an Unannounced Visit
Your first visit should be unannounced. Simply come into the center and, without being disruptive, ask to observe the daycare. Take note of how you’re treated – were the staff welcoming? Did they ask for and listen to your observations and opinions of their facility? Look at how the kids are acting, too – are they getting plenty of attention? Are there enough adults present? It’s amazing what you can observe in just a few minutes.
If you like what you see and are considering that particular daycare as a possibility for your child(ren), it’s a good idea to follow up your unannounced visit with a scheduled one so you can be shown around the whole facility.
An Educational Approach
Do you want the daycare your child attends to have an educational approach? If this matters to you, find out about the daily activities and see if they meet your criteria. See if the activities are educational but also age-appropriate, and taught in a manner that you think would work for your child.
For example, some daycare centers take a playful approach which might be just what your child needs. Others are more academic and regimented, which may be more like your cup of tea. So finding out details about the daycare center’s activities is important.
Make sure that the center’s hours fit your schedule. What is the plan if you get held up and can’t make it to the daycare center at closing time? Also, how flexible is the daycare about hours? You may have to pay for a whole day even if your child is only there for a few hours, depending on their policy.
Health and Nutrition
You’ll want to know what kind of food is being served at the daycare. Look for healthy, easy-to-eat foods that are age-appropriate. If you breastfeed, ask about their storage and preparation of breastmilk.
Hopefully, asking some of the right questions will help you make the right decision for your child’s daycare. Never be afraid to ask the daycare staff any questions you may have.