If you are considering putting your child in daycare, there are many things that you should know. There are both pros and cons you should be aware of. The thought of leaving your child with someone else all day, every day, may make you not ever want to leave your child. It is a huge decision, especially if this is your first child. Daycare centers exist because they are meant to provide a secure and safe place to leave your child. Parents should be able to leave their children with peace of mind assuming their child/children are being properly taken care of while they are away. Do research, and ask questions before choosing the best child care center for your child.
Every state has different licensing and regulations, so you must do your own research as well. This may mean reading reviews. Every daycare will have reviews whether positive and/or negative. You need to look for ones that have a solid reputation. Of course, you should look beyond the ones you find online and ask any specific daycare of your choice to provide you with the contact information of a couple of parents you can ask questions for references. While you are looking through reviews, note any patterns that stand out, whether good or bad. Something is not right if you are noticing similar complaints among various reviews.
When you walk in the door for the first time, you will feel right if the environment is right. When you visit a daycare, ask yourself some questions. Does it seem like a clean, fun, and vibrant place to bring your child? Allow yourself to really reflect on how welcoming it feels. Take note of age-appropriate activities for every stage. For example, do infants have a lot of space to crawl or space for babies who need tummy time? Do the bigger kids have tables available for crafts and or coloring? Also, be sure to observe the happiness of the other children. After all, you want your child to feel happy.
Caregivers that work in daycare should really meet the basic certifications. Be sure to assess the adults in the space when you visit. While every caregiver may not possess a degree, most of them will be in the process of getting one. Be sure to confirm that they are all CPR certified and trained in all other necessary emergency procedures. Observing can tell you a lot. Pay attention to how the caregivers interact with the kids. Pay attention to the body language they use. Do you feel comfortable with the teachers or caregivers? Do they possess an eagerness to partner with you in taking care of your child?
This is obviously a big one. Excellent child care centers will go above and beyond when it comes to maintaining a safe environment for children. A safe environment will include constant supervision, an environment that is well maintained with plenty of toys, childproofing, and food safety methods.
Child-proofed spaces will have:
Cribs that are not close to blinds or windows
Blocked stairs (using baby gates)
High chairs and changing tables with safety straps
Toys that are clean and in good condition
No objects around that are small that children can easily choke on
Toxic substances secured
Consistent Rules & Policies
Policies that are well-established alongside proper policies say a lot about any operating business, especially daycare. Well-organized businesses will reflect through the way they operate. Daycare centers that operate under strict policies and guidelines will have certain rules on how they deal with children when they are sick or what they will do in an emergency. You do not want to bring your child to a daycare that feels unsafe.
Licensing & Accreditation
All daycare centers must be legally licensed to operate in any state. However, you may want to take it a bit further and look for child care centers that are accredited. Being accredited is your choice. This may also vary depending upon the availability in your local area. States require licenses to ensure safety and accountability. However, being accredited means that these centers are closely assessed based on very specific criteria. For example, this could mean that all employees are given benefits and toys that are played with outside, and not played with inside. Keep in mind that not being accredited, is not necessarily a deal-breaker. There may be other particular criteria that you are searching for that tend to be much more important to you.
Overall, the top daycares possess all the above, in addition to anything else you have on your own checklist. It is important to choose a daycare that makes you feel comfortable enough to leave your child every day.