Sending your baby off to daycare can be emotional and nerve-wracking. It’s hard to trust strangers to care for your little one, but at the same time you need to work, get things done and get some alone-time or time with other adults so you don’t go insane.
So, how do you choose a good daycare which will care for your children well? What are the most important things to consider?
First thing you should do is get a first impression by visiting the center. Staff are usually happy to let you know if they have current vacancies and give you a tour and enrollment paperwork. You should look at the cleanliness, the number of children, staff ratios and if the staff seem happy. Unhappy, irritable staff will indicate a low quality of care being delivered. You can use this opportunity to ask questions about activities and how the center is structured. Usually children are divided into rooms by age but they may also have time together with the older children. Check out the toys and playground equipment, if there is a separate yard for the younger babies.
Staff and Class/Room Sizes
Seeing happy, friendly staff is really important. If they are coming off as cranky and irritable to you, you can expect that they’re being the same with the kids. Check that the staff to child ratios aren’t too large. For toddlers (age 1 to 2 years) 1 staff member to 4 children seems to be standard. The overall number of enrollments they take for the age group is still important if the children are together in the same room. Up to 8 toddlers in the room, with 2 staff seems to be normal for most centers near us.
Check the center’s policies on things which are important to you. For example, if they will allow you to opt out of having your child’s photos used for commercial or promotional purposes, things they charge extra for (like supplying hats if one is not packed or late pickups). You may also want to check if meals and nappies are provided or if they need to be packed.
Activities and Education
Probably one of the most important considerations, look at what your child will be learning at the center. Of particular importance here for us was their stance on tech.
Some centers brag of having tablets, ipads and interactive televisions and “teaching” the kids how to use them. This is a fancy way of saying your children will be watching TV or playing games for much of the day. Technology today is so intuitive children don’t need to have specific education in using it. This was perhaps necessary in the early days of computers when primitive desktops were the norm, but not anymore. Give a young child a tablet for even a few hours they’ll have it mostly figured out. Early exposure to tech is damaging, and has no place in daycare or preschools.
We were lucky enough to be close to a Montessori daycare and preschool which has no plastic or electronic push-button toys, no TVs and the only screen to be seen in the whole facility is the i-pad used only by parents for signing in their children. Children spend their day socializing, playing and learning, not sitting in front of screens. Additionally, Montessori teaches practical life skills. Our son started putting toys away by himself and will also wipe his own high-chair tray if handed a cloth.
How will you be informed about your child’s day? Some centers use a scrapbook, some use an app, others might only talk to you. I’ve also seen some centers send daily texts with updates and photos, or using email. Other things to consider here are parent meetings, or where to find records of your child’s nap times and duration, changes etc (this may be written up on a whiteboard).
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There are other obvious considerations you’ll need to make about daycare, including cost, location, hours and days offered (if you need to work weekends or public holidays, check if the center will be open). These should be much simpler however because they’re considerations of time and money. I hope the above will help in choosing a daycare for your toddler which is most beneficial to them. Remember, most daycares fill up quickly at the beginning of the year. Get in early to secure a place at your selected center.
What are the most important things for you when choosing a daycare for your toddler? Let me know in a comment. Don’t forget to share this article.