More and more, research tells us that our children’s healthy development depends on safe and positive experiences during the first few years of life. If you are a parent who works or attends school or training during these early years, choosing quality child care is one of the most important decisions you will ever make for your child.
To help you make the right choice for your child, we have identified what to think about when choosing a child care program.
1. Look Around
When you’re visiting a potential site, pay attention to how the staff interacts with the children. Ideally, a caregiver should be on the floor playing with the kids engaged in activity. In their early years, babies need to be in close, loving, and interactive relationships with adults in order to thrive. That’s why it’s especially important that babies’ first caregivers be warm and responsive, and that even in group care, infants and older babies get a healthy dose of one-on-one time.
3. Do a policy check
Find out specific information on policies such as discipline, biting, sick and illness policy, security, release protocols, vacation policies etc. Ask questions! Don’t be afraid to take all the time you need, or to ask for a second visit.
4. Should you bring your bring your child?
A lot of parents question if they should bring their child on a tour. Yes, if you’re able to bring your child it’s a great idea. This will allow you to see initial interactions of the staff and your child. If you find that to be distracting, ask if the program offered a time where your child can connect and see the classroom.
5. Find out more about the program philosophy.
Find out about what educational philosophy the program follows. Ask questions about the curriculum offered and how the staff are trained to implement different activities. Find out how a program differentiates activities according to the individual needs of each child
6. Keep talking.
Until your child can clearly communicate, you will be relying on what the caregiver tells you about your child’s day. Make sure you can communicate comfortably with each other. When you first hand off your child in the morning, you should tell the caregiver how your little one slept the night before, if he is teething, and whether he ate breakfast. At the end of the day you’ll want to know similar information. Find out how the program relays pertinent information on a daily basis.
7. Trust your gut.
Every parent knows when something doesn’t feel quite right. You may be turned off by a center everyone in town raves about or clash with a highly recommended sitter. If that happens, keep searching. Children deserve, and thrive under, good, nurturing care. If something just doesn’t feel right about your situation, investigate other options.
8. Be open to change.
You’re not married to a particular program, and if things don’t work out, you can always make a switch. Yes, you want consistency for your child, but that doesn’t mean you can’t alter arrangements. Children are resilient; as long as they’re having a positive experience with their new caregiver, they’ll be just fine.
No matter what your work hours, you are still your child’s essential caregiver — the most consistent source of love and support in her life. Under your care and guidance, along with the help of your well-chosen childcare program, your child will flourish.