Choosing the best child care service for your young child is an important decision to make. While you could spend hours overstressing over thousands of details, there are some foundational things you can consider that will help you make the best choice for your family. Once you have the foundational things noted about a potential child care service, you can then sort out the smaller details in due time.
In this post, we break down the important aspects of child care services by characteristics of the staff and of the centre.
Let’s begin by looking at:
Apart from the safety and security of the child care centre’s premises and interior, knowing that your children will be safe with a loving, caring, friendly, and committed staff is perhaps the most important element to consider.
When you first visit a child care centre, sneak a look at how caregivers are interacting with the children. Are they on the floor playing and speaking with them? Are they sitting with other kids and engaging with them through conversation, activities, or stories? If you are sending your infant child to a care centre, do you see the caregivers holding or being near other infant children (in other words, you do not see infants left alone in a crib in the far corner of the room).
As you get to know the staff of the centre, try to find out if the staff members have been with the centre for more than a year. Knowing that staff members have worked with the particular centre for several years can reveal several positive aspects about it, namely that staff members love working there and that they love doing what they do.
Finding a child care centre staff that is loving and caring for the children is a good indicator that they are professional in dealing with parents as well.
If possible, before committing to a centre in particular, drop by the child care centre at different hours of the day to see how the staff interacts with you and the children. You will see how they operate at different times of the day, thus giving you an idea of how your child could respond while being there.
When doing this, you may see how caregivers solve different problems that arise at different times of the day. Additionally, ask specific questions about how caregivers respond to emergency or tricky situations. Undoubtedly, you and the caregivers will come to disagreements about how certain things should be handled when it comes to the wellbeing of your child. Be open about these things with the child care centre and ask as many questions as possible. By having more of these things sorted at the beginning, you will encounter fewer surprises later on.
This last part relates a bit to the personality of the staff. You should expect caregivers to be extremely detail oriented in their discussions with you about your child when you go to pick up your child at the end of the day. They should provide you with everything that happened that day (if your child napped, and if it was a good nap; how many nappies they went through; how they interacted with other children that day; etc.). This means, too, that you should provide the caregivers as much information as possible about your child during the time leading up to you dropping them off at the centre (how your child slept last night; are there teething or other developmental issues to be aware of; etc.).
Now, let’s consider:
The child care service’s…
No two parents share the same parenting advice or routines, so it cannot be expected for you to find a child care centre that adheres to your parenting philosophy 100 percent. However, you should be in agreement on most major topics. Philosophies on scoldings, television time (is it on all day, sparingly, or never), nap procedures, snacks, and so on.
Get to know the centre’s sick-child policy, such as which symptoms would prevent your child from attending the centre. Also find out what would happen when one or multiple caregivers are sick. What are the backup plans should the child care centre suddenly be understaffed?
While we have left this part for last in this article, it will likely be the first thing you notice about a child care centre, even before you meet any of the caregivers or staff members: that being the overall quality, safety, and security of the centre and its surroundings.
Inside, you should expect to see rooms and areas sectioned off to keep children away from dangerous areas (kitchens, for example) and even to keep children near their appropriate age groups. You especially want all entrances and exits in and out of the building to be locked up or impossible for children of any age to get to.
Many of these considerations apply to any outdoor play areas the centre may have. Are gyms and swings positioned in safe places? Is the fencing sturdy and high enough to prevent any children from getting through? If you are observing the outdoor area while children are playing there, be sure to see if caregivers are out there with them and are ultra attentive to them.
All toys and activities should be age appropriate, too. You do not want to see toys or objects for older children and with choking hazards in reach of smaller children or infants. If you have any concerns about the materials the toys or crafts are made of, check with the centre. They should be able to provide alternatives.