Dear Professor Mom, I am heading back to work soon after being on parental leave, and my wife and I are worried that we won’t find the right daycare for our 12-month-old son. What should we be looking for in a child care provider? Sincerely, Daddy Daycare
Going back to work after being on maternity or parental leave can be quite stressful. Parents worry about being separated from their child, but more than that, they worry about choosing the right child care. There are things you can do to ensure that you are making the most informed decision.
Many parents will say that their number one concern when it comes to choosing a daycare is the cost. As a general rule, home daycares tend to be less expensive
than child care centres, but not always the case, especially as your child gets older. Think about the family budget and what you are willing to pay for your child to go to a daycare that is best for you and for them.
Do you want to be able
to walk to the daycare? Drive? Take the bus? If you have access to a vehicle or public transportation, this opens up many more options when choosing a child care provider.
Know your child
Think about what setting would work best for your child. If you have a particularly shy child who needs lots of attention and cuddles throughout the day, you may
decide a smaller space with fewer children would be ideal.
Choosing a home setting or smaller child care centre may help a shy child have a smoother transition into daycare.
Or perhaps you have a very outgoing child who is quite comfortable in new situations and enjoys being around many different children. They might thrive in a child care centre that has a lot to do and many resources that facilitate their learning style.
Think about what will work for your child and what will make their transition to daycare more comfortable.
Many child care providers now have websites, including home daycares, which
explain their philosophy and teaching style. Do as much research as you can to see which match your own philosophy and ideals. Your child will be spending much of their day in someone else’s care; it is important that they share your family values.
Now it is time to visit the daycares. Even if you feel like you have narrowed it down to one or two, I recommend that you look for at least four different options. Meeting with child care providers who don’t meet your needs will only help to solidify what is important to you in choosing the right place.
Trust your gut
When you are visiting the daycares, think about how they make you feel. What is your first impression? Do you feel comfortable and at ease? How do they deal with
discipline issues? How are the educators interacting with the children? You need to feel comfortable with the place that you choose for your child.
Health and safety
While you are visiting different daycare options, they will likely take you on a tour – be sure to look around. Is it clean? Does it look safe? For example, are there covers on electrical outlets and baby gates where needed? What do they do in emergency situations? Talk to them about their meal plan. Are the meals healthy and balanced? You should also consider your child’s specific health needs, such as allergies.
If you are choosing a licensed child care centre for your child, the centre should ensure that all employees provide clear criminal background checks in order to work with children. Most of the staff will also have Early Childhood Education experience and training. They should also be trained in CPR and First Aid.
If you are choosing an unlicensed home daycare, it is very important that you ask your provider for a copy of a recent (within 3 months) criminal background check. Ask for one for each adult who will be in the house with your child.
Whether you are choosing a home daycare or child care centre, ask for references from parents who are currently sending their children to that daycare. They should be able to provide references – if they are unable to provide any, there may be an issue with the daycare. It can also be quite helpful to talk to friends and neighbours about where their children go to daycare.
Timing is everything when it comes to picking a daycare. Many parents need to return to work before their child is 18 months old and because of this, they are often limited to sending their child to a home daycare. There just aren’t enough infant spots to choose from in licensed child care centres. You are more likely to find toddler spots (18 months – 2.5 years). If you would rather send your child to a child care centre, think about whether it is feasible to stay home for a few more months to open up more options.
Most child care centres have very high enrolment in September and January and lower numbers of children in the summer months. Therefore the summer is a great time
to have your child start daycare. Your child will have more one-on-one time with educators and help make the transition a bit smoother.
Take your time. Don’t be afraid to voice any questions or concerns before you enrol your child.
It can be a challenging and time consuming process to find the right child care option for you and your child, but peace of mind is priceless. You will find child care that works and be happy that you were well informed in making your decision.
Meghan Wright is a Certified Life Coach and Professor of Early Childhood Education. She has worked with children and families for over 15 years in a variety of child care settings. Reach Meghan at www.theprofessormom.com, her blog www.theprofessormom.blogspot.ca or on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ProfessorMom.
Photo: Julia Unchura, Exclusive Moment Photography