When it is time for you to place your child in daycare, it helps to know what to look for ahead of time as you sort through the dizzying array of options. Leaving your child with someone else is already hard enough, but if you can make your decision based on the right considerations for you and your child, you will find the right daycare for your family.
Whether you are looking at a daycare in a private home or in a larger facility, look for these elements as you search online and take your tours.
A legitimate daycare should be licensed by the state. Every state has different regulations for daycares, so if you aren’t aware of the requirements in your state, look up licensing requirements on the state website. Then you will have a better idea of the way the daycare should be run.
The daycare should have their license visible in their facility or make it readily available for parents to review. Also, your state may provide quality ratings. Seek out a daycare that is rated highly, and that continues to improve its performance. Obtaining a license indicates the childcare facility is being held to the highest standards of the state.
Do You Agree with Their Policies?
While discussing the option of placing your child in a daycare, ask about the policies the facility follows.
- How does the organization handle discipline?
- Are the children exposed to television and how often?
- What is the sick child policy?
- Is there an extra fee if you pick up or pay late?
- How do they handle naps?
If meals and snacks are offered, determine how the caregivers handle any dietary differences, particularly if your child has a food allergy. The prevalence of peanut allergies has caused many daycares to eliminate the presence of peanut products entirely. Find out before packing snacks or lunches.
Ask plenty of questions up front to eliminate surprises down the road.
Affordability, Convenience, and Hours of Operation
Obviously, you need a daycare you can afford. When discussing tuition and fees, make sure you understand how and when charges and invoices are made. Some daycares charge on a weekly basis, while others charge for the month. Your facility might provide additional care or activities for an added fee. Most will charge a late fee for late pickup and for late payment. Find out how much before it becomes an issue.
Choose a daycare that is easy for you to visit and drop off. Try not to add to your morning and afternoon commute by selecting a daycare in the opposite direction from your work. If you work odd hours, you may have a challenge to find care, so be very clear about the hours of operation so you can plan ahead or choose another daycare.
There are multiple methods of communicating these days.
- How does the daycare keep you in the loop about your child’s activities, behavior, and health?
- Does it offer a parent portal where you can register and pay tuition online?
- Can you get text notifications in case of emergencies?
- Are the teachers and director open to discussion about your child?
The best thing a daycare can do for parents’ peace of mind is to keep the lines of communication open. You should have the reassurance that you can find out about your child anytime. Determine if you can drop in unannounced. Ask how you are expected to let the daycare know about absences and other issues.
If you feel like your concerns are not heard, it may not be the situation for you. On the other hand, when communicating with the staff or director, make sure to listen to their ideas as well. Extending this courtesy will do wonders for your relationship with your child’s caregivers.
State licensing requirements typically set a specific staff-to-child ratio for the various age groups. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidelines.
- Up to 12 months — maximum child to staff ratio is 3:1; the maximum group size is 6.
- 13 to 35 months — maximum child to staff ratio is 4:1; the maximum group size is 8.
- 3 years — maximum child to staff ratio is 7:1; the maximum group size is 14.
- 4 to 5 years — maximum child to staff ratio is 8:1; the maximum group size is 16.
As the children get older, the child to staff ratio and the maximum group size increases, indicating a higher level of independence of the child. Overcrowding or high child-to-caregiver ratios indicate a facility that does not follow best practices and may endanger your child.
Teacher Qualifications and Training
A creative and intelligent teacher with training and education shows a commitment to teaching your child in the best way possible. Ask if the staff has early childhood education degrees and if they receive regular professional development training and continuing education.
Some skills teachers learn need to be sharpened periodically plus best practices and methods change over time. Other skills, such as safety-related skills, may not be needed often and a regular refresher is a crucial part of a safe daycare environment.
In addition to qualifications, look for a well-organized space with plenty of enrichment activities and toys. Age-appropriate materials help children learn valuable lessons about the world around them. Children who are exposed to a wide variety of experiences often become life-long learners, an essential trait for today’s (and tomorrow’s) world.
Wrapping It Up
Take your time researching daycare facilities for your child. Early childhood is crucial for development. A teacher who knows how to present information in a way each child understands can help nurture your youngest family members, so they are well-adjusted and curious members of society.
Make sure the daycare you select is licensed by the state and has an adequate staff-to-child ratio appropriate for each age group. Look for teacher qualifications and observe how the staff interacts with the children.
You should be able to have an open line of communication at all times, and a good daycare provides plenty of opportunities for you to see how your child is doing. Finally, if something feels wrong to you, even if everything in this post checks out, listen to your gut. You want to be reassured that your child is in the right place.
About The Author
Jeffrey Thomas is the President of ThomasKelly Software Associates. ThomasKelly specializes in cloud-based products, including EZChildTrack, for the education and social services domains. In his free time, Jeffrey enjoys spending time with friends and family, biking, and watching any Houston-related sports.