Choosing a Daycare

One of my working mama friends is expecting her first child soon (YAY Heather!) and she is faced with having to choose a daycare provider to care for her new addition.  You can read about Molly’s experience in choosing the right care provider for her daughters here.  But Heather wanted to know what she should look for in choosing a daycare besides the basic stuff like safety, cleanliness, etc.

I offered the following “checklist” when interviewing daycare centers/providers because these are things I did and would look for with the current and potential future daycare provider.  The checklist is in no particular order since it all just came pouring out.

  1. Fits your philosophy of raising children (examples: attachment parenting, no tv during the day, punishment, etc).  You definitely don’t want a daycare provider that decides to let children watch TV if you don’t allow that at home.  When you have a daycare provider who watches your child at least 8 hours a day with a different philosophy, that may confuse your child.  Have consistent and loving care!
  2. Supports your choice when it comes to feeding. If you choose to breastfeed, what federal regulations do they follow? The USDA, for example, requires that cows milk be offered after a certain age.  Does your daycare provider follow the USDA guidelines so they can claim reimbursement for meals given to your child?
  3. Do they provide meals? If so, what is on the meal plan?  You want to make sure that unhealthy things are not provided like hot dogs or sugar cookies.  I was really upset when I learned that the daycare my children were being sent to was giving them hot dogs for lunch REGULARLY.  They had claimed they provide a “healthy” meal.  Luckily, they changed their meals and now our children are enjoying fresh vegetables and things like herb crusted tilapia and couscous.
  4. Is the center accredited?  If so, by which organization?  Make sure to do some research on the organization.  You’ll want to see how often the centers are audited, what is audited, and the standards that are provided to the centers.
  5. What type of learning curriculum is followed? Is it creative based or a different program? Do they do water play our allow them to play outside during the day?  You want to ensure that the curriculum that is being followed matches your philosophy and idea of what should be taught in the classroom.
  6. Do the children transition with the same teachers when they get older? What age of children are placed together?  If you have an in-home daycare provider, they may take children of all ages.  You’ll want to see how they handle the older children who have different needs when it comes to education.
  7. Do all children follow a schedule?  At the daycare my children attend, breakfast is at 8 a.m., 11 a.m. is lunch, nap time is at 11:45, 2 p.m. is snack time.  In between they do water play, outside play, creative things, sing songs, read books, etc.  Children like routine and structure.
  8. Nap time: how are children put to sleep? With a bottle? Crying it out?  Studies have shown that crying it out is not the preferred method as it causes some health issues.  It is sometimes believed that bottle feeding a child to sleep will cause orthodontia issues.  What would you do with your child at home?  Make sure the center believes the same thing you do.
  9. What type of involvement is expected of parents?  At the daycare center we attend, parent involvement is required even though there is a Parent Involvement Board.  Does your center have something similar?  Do they have activities for families such as Family Day or Family Lunches?
  10. Do they allow you to visit the child during the day to check in, nurse, etc?  Some moms want to visit the children during the day to nurse or just to have lunch with their children.  You want to make sure that the caregivers support your wishes.

Above all, you want to make sure your child is loved and cared for during the day (they are precious to you so they should be precious to the careprovider).  You could even make a list of must-have versus nice-to-haves.  Doing your research in advance is very important as well as understanding what you and your spouse feel is best for your child(ren).

Good luck!

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