Are you looking for quality child care? Use this easy method to choose the right place for your child: C.H.I.L.D. C.A.R.E.
Choices available: Day care and family day care are the most popular choices. Many of them will fill quickly, so start shopping early. You might need to get your name on a waiting list. Visit many day cares and ask questions. The hours, fees, location of day care and services offered will differ from one to another. You might also have friends and relatives with some recommendations.
Health and safety issues: Does the facility have measures in place to ensure a safe environment indoors and out? What is the policy for sick children? What’s the temperature like? How’s the ventilation? Does the day care smell clean? Can they give medications to your child? What’s the nap situation? What happens to a child who doesn’t want to nap? Are the toys washed on a regular basis? Are the bathrooms clean?
Interaction of educators and other staff members: Adults who work with children still have a little child left inside them. How else could they have the patience, sensitivity and the energy to plan for and stimulate children all day long? Are these adults interacting pleasantly with the children or are the children off by themselves? Are the educators friendly and full of life? Can you hear songs and music? The educator might be busy, but take a few minutes to get to know the person. How long has this person been in this field of work? What are some favorite activities with the children?
Lunches and snacks: Are the lunches and snacks prepared on site? Do they include a well balanced meal with meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products? Do they have fried food or offer junk food? How do they handle food allergies and personal preferences? How many snacks are offered during the day?
Developmental areas of you child: To ensure a global development of your child, day cares plan their activities according to developmental areas:
Physical development: Do they encourage running, jumping, dancing and moving?
Fine development: Do they encourage drawing, cutting, painting and other games/activities to develop hand-eye coordination?
Emotional development: Do they help develop self-esteem and teach children to love themselves?
Intellectual development: Do they encourage talking, singing, puzzle-making, story-telling, questioning? Do children have the opportunity to find out answers to their questions?
Social development: Do they encourage participation in group activities which enhance sharing, respect, tolerance and cooperation?
Creative development: Do they encourage artwork using crayons, paints, glue, scissors, various papers and other materials?
Certification, licensing and training. Is the day care registered with the state? Are the educators certified or have diplomas in early childhood education? Do all educators and others workers have their first-aid cards up to date? The more questions you can answer with “yes” the more steps this particular day care has taken to ensure quality day care. All these licenses are usually posted at the entrance of the day care.
Activities: Activities will also be based on developmental areas. Are they varied with books, games, puppets and different learning centers? Do children go outside everyday (weather permitting)? Do they go on field trips? Are there weekly themes such as seasons, animals and holidays to involve children in discussions? Is the television set for educational use? What if your child doesn’t want to participate in a certain activity? Is his decision respected?
Ratio: “Ratio” refers to the number of children per each adult. Ratios vary from home day care to day care and from infants to preschool age children. Ask (and count) how many would be in your child’s group. On average, a home day care will have one adult for six children; in day cares one adult for four babies is average. For children under age four, the ration is sometimes one adult to ten children. Check your state’s laws on adult-child rations.
Environment: Where will your child spend his time? Does the play area have sufficient space for more than one activity to take place at the same time? Is it clean and well lit? Are there lots of toys, games and books? Are there signs of animation in the play area?
Ask for references and talk to parents when they pick up their children at the center. Do not ignore your gut feeling. If something doesn’t “feel” right, listen to your instincts; never trust your child to a center with which you don’t feel comfortable.