As an Early Learning specialist, child care trainer, and former Center director, when it came to putting my children in child care I had to find the right place for all of us. My children needed to be happy and I had to be comfortable with letting someone else watch my children.
First off the bat, you don’t find day care. You are not paying someone to watch the days. You are finding someone to care for your child(ren). Finding the right child care can be a challenge. The perfect fit for your child may not be the perfect fit for your best friend’s child.
When looking for a child care, call first. Ask your important questions: cost, routine, activities, menu, etc. The good places will invite you to visit before making your choices. If they don’t want you to visit, consider that a sign. You are a parent; the child care center should have an open door policy for you. But as a parent, understand the best times for coming in. Don’t show up during nap time and expect a full tour, it won’t happen. If you walk in during a huge transition (meal time) expect a bit more noise than normal.
When you visit, and you will visit, look for key things. Is it clean? States have a standard for cleanliness that must be maintained in the child care facility. If you are looking at a family in home, how do they use their space for child care and keep the home feeling? What colors are the spaces? Colors have been shown to affect a child’s behavior. Has the facility taken that into consideration? Red encourages children to be hyper and stimulates an appetite. Blue is calming. Yellow in the eating area helps to suppress an appetite.
Listen to the staff. The volume of their voices will give you an insight into how they talk to the children. If you take your child on the visit, pay attention to how staff interacts with your child. Are they welcoming and engaging? Do they draw your child into the activity? Do the other kids ask her to play? Are the pictures on the wall at a child’s level? If everything is at your height, those are adult pleasers. Children need pictures and projects hung at their level to see and touch them.
During your walk through, check out the learning space. Every child care space must have:
- Block area – there should be plenty of blocks for about three to four children to build together in a safe area so other children won’t knock down their buildings.
- Dramatic play – This can be a lot of things: house, dress-up, kitchen, post office, grocery store, hospital.
- Creative art – This includes markers, pencils, paper, crayons, scissors, glue, magazines, scrap paper. The children need to have the materials accessible to them.
- Sensory exploration – Do you see a water table or play dough?
- Library/ quiet area – Children need a place for books at all times. This area can include a cozy couch or washable pillows. Is there a spot for a child to have some alone time?
- Table toys – Can you see manipulative toys stored neatly and accessible?
- Outdoor/ large muscle areas – Children need a place to run, climb, push, and pull. Does the play ground meet those needs?
If you don’t see these areas set up in the space, ask. You are the parent and need to find the best for your child. If you have a good feeling about it and are comfortable with the facility and staff, then talk with management. You may have found the right fit for you and your child. Don’t be afraid to say you have to think about it. Go visit more places, but, don’t be afraid to make a decision.
(photo courtesy of urbanbaby.com)