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!
14 thoughts on “A Guide to Choosing the Best Child Care Center”
I like what you recommend about visiting the center when it’s in full service. It makes sense that getting an idea of the surroundings when they are busy can help you know what it’ll be like for your child. This could be particularly helpful for me because my kid seems to be somewhat shy and knowing what sort of environment he’d be in every day is important to keep my mind at ease.
Thanks for the great tips on choosing the best child care center for my son. I love the idea of bringing him and seeing how he responds to each place before making my final decision. Your advice has really empowered me to be ready for this big change in our lives and I really appreciate it.
That sounds like a good idea to go in when all the kids are there and see how the teachers let the kids play and learn. My schedule has recently gotten extremely busy, so I find that I can’t spend enough time with my daughter. I’ll have to use your tips to find a child care program for her to go to.
Thanks for sharing! I find the part about visiting a care center during playtime in order to get the first-hand impression especially useful. My sister wants to return to work after the maternity leave, and now she’s checking different options for her daughter. I’ll definitely share this useful information in order to make her searches of the childcare services easier.
I like that you mentioned that you should visit a child care facility during the busy time of day. That way, you can hear the children playing regularly and decide if it is a good fit. I am trying to find the right daycare for my son while I am at work during the day. I will keep this in mind as I search, thanks.
It was really nice that you said that the staff should be able to inspire and encourage the students to learn, so when it comes to choosing a daycare, I have to make sure that area is filled with sounds of happy and engage children. That’s a good thing to consider especially since my I’m planning to take my niece to a daycare center next year. I want to make sure that I’ll be leaving her in an area where she’ll learn but be happy at the same time. Thank you for sharing.
I’ve been wanting to find a good child care center, and I think that being able to learn some more would be good. I’m glad you talked about being able to talk to the staff when looking at a child care option. I’m going to have to do some research and see what we can find! Thanks!
I agree with you that it is important to pick a daycare based on not only the logistics but also whether or not it is a good environment for learning. My son is 4 and I have been thinking about putting him in daycare so I can work two jobs and save up money. I’ll have to make sure that the daycare he ends up in cultivates positive qualities.
The past couple days my brother was telling me about his search for a daycare service for his son. He has been asking the family for tips to make sure that his son is in a good environment. It makes sense for him to find somewhere that has all the things necessary for his son to thrive and I will let him know this.
Thanks for your tip to choose a daycare that has a good environment for little kids. I appreciate how you said that they should let your kids play while they are there. My husband and I have a daughter with a lot of energy, and we are looking into daycares that she would be able to play and run around at.
There is a lot that you should do before choosing a child care center and I like that the article gives so much advice. I think it is particularly helpful to pay attention to the suggestion they make about talking to the staff. After all, you will want to make sure that the staff is trained and experienced in taking care of kids before you entrust your child to their care.
I agree that you want to find a child care service that your child gets along with. Finding a place with teacher or specialists that really connect with your child would help them enjoy it a lot more. My husband and I both started working full time again, so we’ll have to find a good daycare for our son that he honestly enjoys.
You made a great point about talking to staff and getting an idea of how they teach and why they’re in child care. My husband and I are looking for a public child care program that we can take our daughter to while we work full-time. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us best.
I like what you said about asking a daycare’s staff to see how they go about teaching. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to make sure that her kids are taken care of properly in the coming weeks. I’ll share this information with her os that she can look into her options for child care centers that can help her with this.
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