What to look for when you’re shopping for a daycare or early childhood education facility
When you’re pregnant, you register for all of the supplies your new baby will need.
But what about after the baby is born, when mom and dad are ready to return to work? Have you thought about childcare? Who will you entrust your child with for the 8-plus hours while you’re at work? Finding the right childcare facility is not as absolute as picking out a new stroller.
Believe me, I know.
I will never forget the first day that I dropped off my 18-month-old son, Griffin, to daycare. We ended up moving him to three different childcare centers to find the right place. Here are some tips to help you find the right early childhood education center for you:
Take a Proactive Approach to Finding a Daycare for your Child
Start looking for daycare as soon as possible. Most childcare centers book up fast, so make sure you find the right one by touring facilities before you head to the hospital.
When you’re on the tour, observe how children are treated:
- Do they treat children with respect, flexibility and patience?
- Are they able to meet your child’s developmental and emotional needs?
- Is there a sufficient number of teachers to meet the needs of all children in the classroom?
- Do they practice good hygiene?
It’s important to find a daycare or childcare facility that strives to create a safe, secure, loving and fun place for little ones. Look for places where the staff knows all of their little students’ names without looking at their file.
While love and care should be a priority, is education part of their program? Most child daycare programs introduce a new theme every week around which they wrap their lessons. Even the 1-year-olds are busy with crafts, flash cards and story times. Most importantly, it’s important to identify a daycare with administration staff that works with parents to discover what their child needs and how to make their childcare facility a home away from home.
Health and Safety Should be Paramount to Childhood Daycare Facilities
While watching how the staff interacts with children is important, it’s also vital to examine the facility:
- Does it offer safe indoor and outdoor areas and equipment?
- Does it have orderly and clean work areas?
- Are there non-toxic play materials?
- Are healthy meals and snacks offered?
Additionally, are there cleanliness protocols for every classroom that include cleaning all toys, chairs, tables, floors, etc.? You should see hand sanitizer dispensers mounted on the wall of every classroom.
Not only is it important to meet state and national standards in terms of cleanliness and health, but take note if the childhood daycares participate in federal programs for children. It’s important that daycare facilities adhere to stringent nutritional requirements ensuring that your child has healthy balanced meals. With menus specially designed to include fresh fruits and vegetables daily, milk served with all meals and no main course meal repeated within a ten day period!
Physical health is important but how does the staff and even the decor appeal to your child’s senses? Some early childhood education centers have murals on the walls and a soft and playful pallet of colors to coax a feeling of calm.
Final words of advice for parents looking for the right early childhood education center
At the same time, don’t judge a book by its cover. If the daycare center doesn’t have state-of-the-art toys and shiny, new gizmos, what really matters is how the teachers interact with your child. The ultimate litmus test is whether or not your little one is happy.