So you have children and you are going to work. Maybe by choice, maybe out of necessity? You have a kiddo (or kiddos?) so what do you do with them while you are at work? What on earth do you look for in a quality child care? When my hubby and I were trying to choose a daycare for our little man, we had no clue where to start. We didn’t know which questions to ask, or what to watch out for. We were flying blind. Here’s a list of our experiences with finding childcare, to hopefully make this less stressful for you.
A good portion of choosing childcare is personal preference, so I have included some questions for you to consider. (Note: You may be wondering who the heck I am to tell you how to choose quality care. I’m a Licensed Master Social Worker, and part of my training included surveying environments for children.)
Are you comfortable with the neighborhood? Is it important to you that the daycare be near your place of work? Would you rather the daycare were on a main road, or a side street? Our little man goes to a daycare that is relatively close to where I work, because I felt better about him not being too far away. It’s not incredibly close, even though there are many good daycare centers that are more conveniently located I chose the one that I was most comfortable with.
How clean does it need to be? When my husband and I were searching for a daycare, we visited one that was well known in the community. We walked in and it was FILTHY. I am not a cleanliness snob by any means, but it was much too dirty for me to consider sending my baby there. The one we ultimately chose was beautifully clean. Cleaner than my house will ever be, for sure. (Not that my house is super dirty, the daycare is just SUPER CLEAN). We visited on my lunch break, and even though the kids had just finished eating that place was spotless.
It important to know the daycare’s policies in order to know if you agree. What kind of discipline do they use? Do they require the children to be immunized? Do they allow kids to come while they are sick? Do they have a room where you can breastfeed your baby on your lunch break? Most daycare’s have manuals available that you can peruse to gather this information.
Our two favorite daycare’s during our decision process both came heavily recommended from friends. Talk to people you know (Friends, co-workers, neighbors, members of your church congregation) and see where they take their kids. Talking to friends and other individuals that you trust can get you information that isn’t available in a manual or on a website.
How do the staff look? Do they look clean and kind? How are the staff treating the children when you look around? I had someone tell me that when they were searching for a daycare for their baby, they saw a staff member cramming a baby into a chair. She said the baby was screaming, and the staff just kept attempting to shove them in the chair. I shudder when I think about this, because if this is happening when people are touring, imagine what is happening when no one is watching? Staff ratios are important to ask about as well. Each state has their own laws on ratios, but they are generally very minimal so it is important to know the daycare’s ratios for each age group.
There are always exceptions to this, but be careful with going with the best bargain. Quality care is expensive. Again there are exceptions, but in the world of child care, you generally get what you pay for. A lot of parents (who are the second income of their household) have to consider what amount of their paycheck is going to childcare, and if it is worth it to them to continue to work. Most states have programs that help low income parents pay for childcare, so that is worth looking into if you are in that situation. (Note: If you live in Idaho, here is the link for information on ICCP)
Many daycare’s are broken up into rooms by age. Some are more open. Would you prefer an open layout, or separate rooms for age groups? If you have more than one child attending, you may prefer it to be more open so they can spend time together and are not isolated from one another. It is also important to consider the future, and if you are planning on having more kids it could be good to consider this as well.
8. Size of the childcare facility
What size of center are you looking for? Do you want your child to be at a more personal daycare, maybe an in home or small center? Or would you prefer the streamlined processes of a larger center?
Are kids items separated? How do they remind you of payment due, or if you need to bring more diapers, formula/pumped breast milk, extra outfits? You definitely only want to be bringing supplies for your child, not the entire daycare so organization is very important.
10. How do you feel when you walk in the door?
If everything else on the list is perfect on paper but there is something about the place that you just don’t like, get out of there and keep looking! Whether you call that nagging feeling in your stomach the holy ghost, your gut, your conscience (Jiminy Cricket!) or whatever, LISTEN TO IT!
Did I miss anything? I would love to hear your experiences with choosing a daycare for your kiddos. Let me know! 🙂
*photo credit Katy Cooper Photography*