Always pay a visit to every prospective daycare providers as it will give you a better idea of the kind of environment your child will spend his/her days, the care givers' attitude towards children, the health and safety measures in place, the offered activities, etc.
Tip: Go visit during the day, when the other children are there, and make sure to meet the person(s) who will directly be caring for your child!
The environment in which your child will sometimes spend as much as 8 or 10 hours per day is very important as it will have a direct influence on his/her development and behavior. The environment's quality can be evaluated quite easily by checking the following:
- Childcare areas should be well lit, welcoming, safe and organized. When children are playing some level of untidiness should be expected, and even welcomed as it indicates normal children activities (too much order may indicate too much control over the children or a lack of equipments, toys, etc.).
- The rooms should be big enough for the children to play in and for all the activities to take place. Moreover, an area should be dedicated to infants, away from other children.
- There should be stimulating, entertaining and appropriate pictures, illustrations or drawings directly at the children's eye level.
- Games and toys should be safe, age appropriate, in sufficient quantity, and they should be placed where children can reach them.
- The noise levels should be acceptable and reflect the children's activities (silence may mean too much control while, on the contrary, excessive noise may mean a total lack of discipline).
- There should be a safe outdoor area in which the children can play everyday and which can easily absorb their fall (sand, lawn, etc.).
Tip: Also make sure that the childcare provider has adequate insurance, especially if the children will play outside of the facility or will go on field trips.
Health and safety
Childcare providers are responsible for a child's health and safety at all times. Look around and ask questions to confirm that the environment is safe and clean:
- Are there working smoke detectors?
- Is there an easily accessible fire extinguisher (it should usually be located near the kitchen)?
- Is there a comprehensive and accessible first aid kit?
- Are there safety gates to prevent children falling in the stairways?
- Are all the electrical outlets protected?
- Is the room temperature adequate (not too cold but not too warm either, as children will move around a lot when playing)?
- Is the environment, including the kitchen and the food storage facilities, clean and hygienic?
- Check the toilets and sinks, are they clean and easily accessible to children?
- Check the diaper change area, is it safe and located near a sink?
- Are the equipments and furniture in good condition? Does everything seem safe and adapted to children?
- Are all the hazardous products (cleaning products, medications, etc.) kept away from children? Ideally they should be out of reach and/or locked away.
Tip: Ask the childcare providers to describe their emergency plans (in case of a fire, an injured child, etc.)! The providers should be able to tell you precisely and without hesitation what they will do in every scenario you bring up.
Daycare providers will often play a vital role in a child's growth as they will help foster the physical, emotional, intellectual, moral and social development of the child. A good provider should inspire trust and will help the child develop his/her independence as well as his/her ability to think and communicate. You should look for specific traits and skills: patience, sensitivity, curiosity, energy and great communication skills are the trademarks of an excellent childcare provider. During your meeting, pay attention to the children's reactions to the daycare provider; the children should be quite comfortable in his/her presence. Also pay attention to the person's voice and language when interacting with the children. The tone and words should be respectful, natural and friendly, without falling into baby talk.
Tip: Choose a provider that is genuinely likeable, inspires trust and that you feel is easy to talk to. It will be easier to discuss the child's progress or problems and thus enable the provider and you to smooth the constant transitions between home and daycare.
A daycare provider should offer stimulating and appropriate activities for children of every age group. Verify that activities are varied and include:
- group activities (to develop social skills);
- physical activities (dancing, playing outdoors.);
- fine motor activities (drawing, painting, modeling clay, building blocks.);
- activities that stimulate the children imagination (role-playing, story telling, puppet shows);
- activities that develop language skills (singing for example);
- activities that encourage children to think and use logic (puzzles, card and board games.).
It is important for children to play outdoors every day, weather permitting. Television should be used for educational purposes only and not as a childcare provider stand-in.
Tip: You can usually tell how often children go outside by simply looking at the outdoor play area. For example, look for a lot of footprints on the ground (or in the sand) and signs of a frequently used yard / lawn.
You should inquire about the provider's policies on meals and nutrition. Most daycares will provide meals as well as a number of snacks for children; you should confirm that. Also ask about meal times and meal composition. Even if your child is currently an infant, your baby will quickly become older and will be eating real food in a matter of months.
Tip: Ask to see a few sample menus and ask about the origin of the meals (are the meals prepared on site or ready made?). Menus should be varied and well balanced.
Ask about the list of things that you are expected to supply yourself. Depending on the provider and your child's age it could be for example diapers, change of clothes, bedding, breast milk, formula, bottles, baby food, lunches, etc.
Your concerns and preferences
Make sure to bring up your preferences and specific concerns during your visit / meeting. For example, you'll need to talk about your preferred disciplinary techniques, sleep approaches (self-soothing or comforting? nap times?), feeding schedules for infants (fixed or on demand?). and how the provider can accommodate your preferences.
Tip: Ask when you can drop by to check on your child. Parents should be allowed access at any time to ensure that quality care is provided.
2008 © DaycareBear - Last update 06/16/2008
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