Selecting the right child care is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will make during the early years of your child’s life. It demands thorough research on your part as you narrow down the most suitable environments for your little ones.
Jackie Edwards, editor, researcher, writer and mom of young children has done the research and offers you the best advice on choosing a child care center. Check the links to other articles she has worked on as well.
There are lots of things to consider. Aside from the conventional concerns that will undoubtedly mean a lot to you (location, convenience, cost etc.), there are many other factors that are worth thinking about – factors that take into consideration the atmosphere of your new childcare, the methods used by teachers, the layout of the place and the happiness of its children.
So, whether you’re a first-time parent or you’ve searched for childcare before, we have you covered. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts when the time comes to find the right day care.
DO understand the power of play.
Every child has their own individual way of learning and a carefully prepared day careenvironment is essential for inviting children to explore, examine and investigate the various activities that are set up there. As they are guided by their own interests, children can test out their ideas in a structured yet creative setting, which will help them acquire skills that are the foundation stones for lessons such as reasoning, numeracy, handwriting and social interaction. Make sure that you choose a day care facility that understands the need to give children the freedom to explore a variety of activities in their own way.
DON’T forget to ask about how they approach special educational needs
If your child has any specific learning requirements, this is likely to be the first thing on your checklist. But if your child does not require any additional support, it doesn’t mean you should ask about it. The way some day-cares approach learning difficulties and special learning requirements will tell you a lot about their facilities, priorities, and ethics.
DO find someone you get along with
Although it is paramount that your child gets along with your au-pair or a nanny, it is of equal importance that you choose somebody who you get along with too. A live-in nanny will most likely begin to feel like ‘one of the family’; they will share many treasured moments with your family. They will most likely need to share most of your core values and above all, you must be able to trust them. If they are essentially helping you to raise your child, you should select somebody that you like and trust, on or off the clock. You should also ask for (and look at) the paperwork. Make sure they are licensed and accredited. If their license is expired, and renewal plans are not clear, you may want to look elsewhere.
DON’T settle for a day-care purely based on logistics
While there are definitely steps to take when choosing childcare and cost, distance and convenience are all factors that you will consider, try not to choose a day-care purely based on these. A day-care that takes 5 minutes to get to holds no weight in whether it’s the right choice for you; same goes for one that won’t cost you much. Brainstorm ideas and hone in on the things that are most important to you, as well as some of the more practical factors to consider, whether it be learning development, the happiness of the children or the ethics, know what you care about and use that as a starting point.
DO talk to staff
Pop into a day-care and see if you can have a quick chat with one of the staff. Learn about what they do and gauge a feel for their ways of teaching, ask them about their methods, why they decided to work in child-care and whether the play time they conduct is child-focused or more teacher-led. Give yourself a feel of the place that your child will spend time in.
DON’T visit a day-care when it’s quiet
You need to get more than just a feel of the facility. When you enter, you should hear noises from happy and engaged children, as opposed to staff. Observe how well the staff encourage the children’s learning and development during playtime.
DO drop in unannounced to notice the setting
You should look out for day-cares that have quality settings. Take a walk around the parking lot – are the children safe from approaching vehicles when going in and out/playing? It the facility welcoming and clean? Ask about the playground – does somebody regularly check the area for hazards? Is the play area and kitchen clean? These should all be on your checklist when looking for day-care.
DON’T be afraid of ‘live-in’ care
When choosing the right childcare, most parents tend to rule out the option of having live-in care. They assume an au pair is too expensive or they worry about living with a stranger, but au pairs are usually quite affordable, depending on the number of children you have, the city you live in and the responsibilities they will be required to undertake. And if you do decide to take that route…
DO consider what sort of environment your child will thrive in
The most important part of choosing the right day-care is how comfortable and happy your child will be in his/her new environment. Take your little one with you when looking for a facility and notice how they respond to each place.
Choosing the right place for your child to learn and play is an incredibly big (but fun) decision. Research various facilities and services, decide on what your uncompromising features are and involve your little one in the process. Happy hunting!