Choosing the right daycare center is a challenging task both logistically and emotionally. Parents seek daycare centers for many reasons, including personal and professional obligations, social skills development, and others. Parents are looking for a clean, safe, quality daycare center with passionate, experienced staff. Regardless of your motivation, childcare is a big decision for both parents and children, and several factors should be considered during your search.
The following information should help you make the BEST choice for your family, so let's jump right in.
What are your daycare facility options?
Parents typically drop off children for a full day or part of the day with other kids of varying ages. Here are a few descriptions to help you distinguish between your daycare options:
Group daycare: These establishments are state-licensed and typically operate similarly to a school. Kids of varying ages are cared for in groups. Also, employers may operate some daycare centers.
In-home daycare: This type of childcare is operated out of the provider's home. Often this type of provider also cares for their children simultaneously. Not all states require in-home daycare providers to be licensed, so it is crucial to research the regulatory requirements before sending your child to an in-home provider (or while exploring your options).
There are some significant advantages to sending your child to a good daycare program. Let's take a look at a few:
Your child receives continuous care: Most daycare centers offer care from infancy through school-aged. Starting your child young allows your child to grow in a familiar environment and develop long-term relationships with children and staff.
Quality Education: A daycare center with a well-organized program focuses on your child's development and growth. Depending on your child's age, a center also prepares your child to transition into school.
Socialization: A daycare center will give your child plenty of face time with other children and adults.
Reliability: Most daycare centers typically remain open for 12 hours to support parents' schedules.
Group Daycares: You can rest assured that group daycares have trained and licensed staff. In addition, they typically have more than one teacher assigned to a room, so there's always a backup staff.
In-Home daycares: There are fewer children in in-home daycare centers with a home-like environment. Typically, there is no additional staff.
Here's what to look for in a daycare
Make sure you do your research
You wouldn't purchase a car without doing your research. Well, your child is way more important, so doing your due diligence is essential. There are a few ways to gather the information you need to make an informed decision.
Get parent recommendations. If you don't know other parents attending your center of interest, ask moms on the playground or in the pediatrician's waiting room or a mommy-and-me class.
Check online resources for childcare referral services or your state regulatory agency.
The Internet will help you identify the centers or in-home providers that meet your requirements. You can visit their websites to check information like hours of operation, curriculum, types of programs, and more.
Make Sure Their Licensed
State-level licensing is a minimum criterion for childcare regulation. A license gives a center and in-home provider permission to operate their business, and keep in mind that it does not directly indicate their care quality. Accreditation is another bonus for any center. It is a rigorous process to complete, so centers in the process of receiving accreditation or having accreditation are a sign that they are invested in providing high-quality care.
Comprehensive Sign-in/out and Safety Policies
Child security should be the priority of every facility, whether group centers or in-home providers, and they should value each family's privacy. Clear and specific procedures for signing children into and out of the facility should be in place at a quality organization. It would be best to examine their practices and indications that the policies are being followed. For example, check to see if there is an active sign-in/out book or system, access code use, etc.
Make certain Age-Appropriate Activities Are Offered.
Review website information regarding classroom curriculum to ensure lessons and planned activities are age-appropriate if available. Also, ask questions during your tour about their activities. Most centers will provide information about their curriculum and how their programs are tailored to the child's age.
Positive Teacher-Child Interactions
During your tour, make sure you observe the interactions between children and teachers/staff. The behavior of children is typically a genuine indicator of classroom dynamics. See whether the children seem happy in their environment. Observe whether children talk freely and openly with teachers and staff or appear overly timid.
Daily Routines & Full Walls
Ensure you check out the daycare environment and observe if a scheduled routine is in place to help children engage and understand their environment. Also, check to see if routines are visible along with other kid-friendly walls.
Dedicated Reading Area
Every daycare center and in-home provider should strongly focus on language arts and reading. Reading and storytime help expand vocabulary and comprehension while engaging with their peers and adults. Reading also helps build cognitive and reading development skills and promotes trust and bonding. So, make sure your selected daycare or in-home daycare emphasizes daily storytime and reading.
Here Is Our Shortlist of Questions to Help You Start Your Daycare Search.
Does your center have a childcare philosophy?
What are staff qualifications and experience?
Do you have policies in place regarding immunizations?
How do you handle sick kids in your center?
Are staff first aid certified?
Do you sanitize classroom toys?
Does your center have discipline policies?
What are your parent visitation policies?
How do you promote a continuous, open dialogue with parents, i.e., parent conferences, email, or newsletters?
We hope this information was insightful and you have more confidence in choosing the RIGHT daycare for your family. Expanding Minds Academy is a fully licensed and accreditation pending early learning facility in Orlando. We invite you to explore our website to learn more about our programs, curriculum, policies, and more. We also encourage you to schedule a tour to experience our learning environment firsthand.