Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: somewhere under the rainbow
Choosing a Daycare Provider
Daycare Centers/In-Home Daycare
Starting the search for a child care provider can be daunting – there are many, many choices out there and narrowing those down to a final few can be overwhelming. Some of the decisions you may need to make before you even begin looking at sites are:
- How close to work/home do I want the provider to be? Is it better for my child/children to be dropped off close to home, close to work or somehwere in between?
- What is my budget for childcare? This is probably going to be difficult to determine, but having a ballpark to start with can help.
- How often do I need to place my child in daycare? If you only need child care 2-3 times a week, then maybe an in-home daycare may be less expensive or you will be able to find an center that takes “regular drop-ins.”
Things to keep in mind as you visit potential daycare providers:
- Your “gut instinct” is worth listening to. From the minute you walk in, you’ll get a feeling about the home or center. You’ll be able to tell right off if there is a good atmosphere and if both the care providers and children are happy being there. If that “feeling” is off, there’s probably a reason, even if you can’t put your finger on it right away. That’s not to say that there’s evil lurking in every corner, but some places/people just don’t mesh. Just know that it’s OK not to mesh & move on.
- Regardless of the size of the home or center, the groups of children should be small in relation to the care providers: There should be 1 person for each baby under 12 months, for toddlers (12-24 months) the ratio should be 1 for every 5 children and for kids 24-36 months, there should be 1 adult for every 6 children.
- Make sure to have a list of questions to ask the home provider or daycare center director and pay close attention to not only the answers, but how they answer. Is it a “stock response” or is he/she genuinely interested in you and your child?
- Make sure you visit the daycare center with your child to see if your child feels comfortable in the environment and how your child interacts with the staff and other children.
- Ask what the scheduled activities are. While it is important for a center to allow pick up and drop off at different times according to your schedule, there should also be a clear schedule for activities including physical activity, meals, snacks, individual and group activities and quiet time. Television/video time should really be limited or non-existent. Visit the center unannouced and see if the schedule you were given matches with the actual activities at the time of your visit(s).
- Find out what the policies are on handling illnesses and emergencies, and make sure they are clear and properly enforced; the center should be strict about keeping sick children at home. For an in-home provider, make sure you have a reliable back-up in the event your provider is ill.
- How clean is the place? Take a good look at the floors, walls, kitchen area and bathrooms. Are the rooms well-lit and ventilated? Is there any trash laying around and are the trash cans overflowing?
- Take a good look at the playground equipment and indoor toys - of course, a certain amount of wear is to be expected, but they should be in good condition. Make sure the outside play area is well-secured and that the entire playground is visible.
- Confirm that any upstairs windows are screened. Make sure there is a posted emergecy evacuation plan, too.
- Make sure all medicines and other dangerous substances are well labelled and out of reach.
- Smoke detectors should be in place and working, a first aid kit and fire extinguisher should be close at hand, and all standard childproofing techniques should be used (covered electrical outlets, safety gates, door latches, etc.). The center should have security guard outside at all times so strangers can't just walk in off the street.