Things to Look for
The daycare selection process involves a lot of observation and even more questions. You should start your search about 6 months before you’ll need the care. Typically, the best centers fill up fast so you want to have enough time to reserve a spot. If you find your perfect preschool, ensure your spot by finding it early. There are a lot of different characteristics and criteria that make a daycare right for you and your family. This list will give you an idea of what to look for. Also keep in mind that you may weigh criteria differently. Some families may value location while others may value class size or facility quality. Every family is different which means they have different needs and priorities.
A good reputation.
Great daycares are known for having a welcoming and nurturing atmosphere. Find references from current and past clients. Consider stopping by the center and asking parents as they come and go. Use this time to also gauge your first impression of the facility. If you respect and value the opinion of your references, then your choice will be highly affected by these insights.
Flexibility is important, but there should be clearly established rules and regulations for everything from operating hours to pick-ups and drop-offs. The daycare should be able to supply you with its policies. This way you know the daycare takes the safety and development of your child seriously. Look for a strict sick-child policy. Be sure to find out which illnesses will keep your child home and for how long. A strict policy may be of inconvenience but a tough policy is what’s best your family, the staff and the center. An open-door policy is another great practice your daycare should have. If the daycare doesn’t encourage unannounced visits, then the chances are, it has something to hide. A good daycare will prompt you to come at your own convenience and incorporate you into its program. Obviously, children are welcome but parents and families should feel the same. At the end of the day you should look a daycare with clear-cut policies.
An engaging program.
The best daycares have structured schedules, have plenty of time for physical activity, quiet time, group programs, individual activity, free time, snacks and meals. Video and Electronic time should take up little to no time of your child’s day. If they are part of the day make sure they are age appropriate and educational. The best daycare will have a wide variety of age appropriate toys that will encourage your child’s growth. They should prompt imagination and stimulate creativity. A large outdoor play area is also essential. Your child should have a chance to play, jump, run and climb every day.
Caring and qualified staff.
A trained staff is a major advantage centers have over nannies and home day care providers. Daycare employees are educated, with at least two years of college with a background in early childhood development. Staff should have CPR, first aid and other emergency trainings. Observe how the staff interacts with children. Teachers should be enthusiastic, well prepared and responsible. Talk to staff and make sure you share the same philosophies. Great daycare caregivers will ask you detailed questions about your child. Lastly, make sure the daycare has plenty of staff so that it can maintain appropriate ratios and provide your child with the attention he or she needs.
If you have to pack your child’s food, find out if the center has guidelines regarding nutrition. If the preschool does have a food plan, ask for a menu and meal times. Does the center encourage healthy food habits and cover all the food groups? Make sure the center takes allergies into consideration.
Clean and safe facilities.
A great daycare has to be clean and sanitary. Floor, walls, walkways, kitchen area, and bathrooms should be in great condition. Trash cans should be emptied daily. The building should be adequately cooled, heated, well-lit and ventilated. All Staff should wash their hands regularly and encourage proper hygiene. Look around and make sure there are safety rules posted and that they are followed. Check to make sure the toys and play equipment are in good condition as well as cribs and bedding. Windows and doors are in good shape with no splinters or paint chips. Be sure to find out where medicine is stored. The center should be childproofed, with outlet covers, dulled edges, covered radiators and much more. Lastly should be secure so that strangers can’t get in.