Choosing a day care center can be a harrowing experience for many parents, especially first-time parents. Naturally, you want to choose a day care center where you can be certain your child will be safe and cared for. At the same time you must also factor in other concerns, including whether your child will fit into the center, make new friends easily and be educationally enriched. Budget is also a consideration for most parents as well. Given the numerous elements that must be considered it is little wonder why so many parents experience a difficult time in choosing a day care center.
While it can be a difficult decision, there are some guidelines you can use to assist in evaluating various childcare options and day care centers to ensure you make the right choice for your child. First, it is important to make sure you choose a facility you and your child can visit in advance. This is crucial as it will provide you with a prime opportunity for observing activities in the facility first-hand. When you visit, always bring a checklist with you and have your questions planned in advance.
Begin by evaluating the staff. Observe how they interact with the children. Does it appear that they treat the children in their care with patience, flexibility and respect? What type of training has the staff had? Will they be able to meet the emotional and developmental needs of your child? Is there sufficient staff working at the facility to meet the needs of each of the children? Does the staff at the day care center appear to have good personal hygiene? Do they seem genuinely interested in the children?
You also need to evaluate the facility itself. For instance, does the center have indoor and outdoor equipment that is safe? Does the facility have bathroom and diaper changing areas that are clean and sanitary? Are the work areas clean and orderly? Is it well-lit? Is the overall feeling of the facility airy and bright?
Health and safety should be of utmost importance when choosing a day care facility for your child. Consider the room temperatures. Are they comfortable, or are they too cold or warm? Does the furniture feature founded corners for safety? Does the facility offer play materials that are non-toxic? Did you notice a first-aid kit that is easily accessible and visible? Take the time to find out whether the facility offers healthy meals and snacks. Ask to see a menu for the upcoming week. Along those same lines, ask to take a tour of the kitchen area. Is it clean? Does the staff practice frequent hand washing? Are medicines and cleaning materials kept out of the reach of children?
Today, day care centers are becoming increasingly focused on much more than just minding a child during a parent’s absence. A quality day care center can help to prepare your child to excel when they enter school. When touring prospective day care centers, make a point of noticing whether or not creative play takes place. Does the facility offer ample educational and play materials? Does the facility offer an organized schedule or curriculum? Is rest time supervised? What about television? Is it minimal, or does it seem to dominate the program? Does the facility offer story time?
Finally, spend a few moments finding out whether the facility is fully licensed. They should have their registration certificate either on display or on file. Does the facility clearly explain rules? Many day care centers offer a registration packet for new parents that outline all rules and guidelines. Do some research on your own and find out whether there have been any complaints filed against that facility with the state licensing board. If so, how were they resolved?
Ultimately, choosing the right day care center for you and your child comes down to choosing a facility that meets all safety and health guidelines, but also is one which you and your child feel comfortable out. What is your instinct regarding the facility you are considering? Oftentimes, your first instinct is the one you should follow.
If you still find yourself wavering about whether or not a facility is right for your child, do not hesitate to conduct a subsequent visit. Take the time to notice whether the children attending that center seem genuinely happy. Obviously, all children have their moments when they may be upset, but overall, do the children there seem generally happy? This can be a solid clue as to what you can expect.