Choosing a childcare center can be a difficult and long process. To help make this important decision easier and less stressful, consider making search and review plans. Then, add these strategies to make sure you’ve covered the major details. Remember that even a good center with a positive reputation may not be the right one for your family. It’s up to you to get all the details to make the best childcare choice for your family’s needs and it begins with learning how to choose the right childcare center.
LOCATING CHILD CARE CENTERS
To begin, you might not be sure what childcare centers are in your area, so start this quest by trying to place a call to your local child care experts or do an internet search to see what’s out there... If you live in the United States, agencies like the Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Agency might also be of great help to you.
VISITING CHILD CARE CENTERS
One great way to test your potential new daycare is by making your first visit unannounced. By simply coming down to the center and, without being disruptive, ask to observe the daycare. From this vantage point it’s easy to take note of how you can expect to be treated – were the staff openhearted and inviting? Did they ask you the right questions, did they listen to your observations and opinions of their facility? Look at how the kids are behaving too, are they getting plenty of attention? Are there enough caregivers present? It’s amazing what you can observe in just a few minutes and this is usually what puts parents over the top to stay or leave a new childcare center.
If you are liking what you are seeing and are considering that particular daycare as an option for your kiddos, it’s a good idea to follow up your unannounced visit with a scheduled tour so you can be shown around the whole facility and have any questions you came up with in reflection answered.
ARE YOUR REQUIREMENTS CONFIRMED?
You should always look up the details of what the laws are in your area about licensing, violations, and, if applicable, what financial assistance may be available to you. There may be laws about child-to-caregiver ratios or how and where to complain if you believe a center is in violation of a requirement or has some other problem.
IS IT AN EDUCATIONAL or PLAY APPROACH?
Do you want the center your child attends to have an educational approach or to be a more fun and playful approach? Then you should about the details of their daily, weekly, and monthly activities listening to see if they meet your criteria. You’ll most likely want the activities to also be educational as well as age-appropriate for your children, but this is definitely something to look for.
For example, some centers take a playful approach or are really just there to babysit your kids, which might be just what your child needs. Others are focused more academic and discipline, which may be more likely be your cup of tea. So find out as many details about the daycare center’s activities is highly important. Also, keep in mind that the best centers will integrate numerous learning methods in an attempt to meet the highest variety of learning styles.
WHAT IS THEIR AVAILABILITY?
This is a given as schedules are also at the top of most parent’s needs, but we must stress that you make sure the center’s hours fit your schedule. What is the plan if you get held up and can’t make it to the daycare center at closing time, honestly how likely is it that this will happen? Also, how flexible is the childcare center about hours? Keep in mind to get the right facility, you may have to pay for a whole day even if your child is only there for a few hours, this is very common.
NUTRITION & HEALTH
Finally you’ll want to know what kind of food is being given at the daycare. Look for healthy, easy-to-eat foods that are age-appropriate and provided as part of the tuition. If you breastfeed, be sure to ask about their options and policies.
By asking the right questions, it will help you make the best decision for your family’s childcare needs. Never be too shy to ask the staff any questions you might have. If you know a friend or family who uses the center, you may also want to ask them what they like or dislike too.