Are you a new parent who is taking your child to daycare for the first time? This ultimate guide to daycare and how to find the right one will help you evaluate and find the right one.
The Ultimate Guide to Daycare: Finding The Right One
How to Find the Right Daycare
Where did the time go? You had your baby, brought him or her home, and now you’re down to three weeks before going back to work. Have you decided what you’re going to do? Are you going to have a friend or a family member watch your child or are you going to put them in daycare?
For most parents, this is a nerve wracking decision. Take a deep breath Mama, I’ve got you. I worked in daycare for six years and am familiar with the in’s and out’s and what to watch out for. Today, I’m going to show you how to find the right daycare.
DayCare Tours: Put A System In Place
Before we get started, I suggest having a system when you are traveling from daycare to daycare on tours. I would buy several different colors of folders and mark each one with the name of each daycare you are visiting. You may even want to mark each one with a tab that you can see easily. Put the folders in a file box so you can flip through them easily and grab the right one when you arrive. That way, all your applications, questions, and information packets will be all in one place.
Here are some important observations and questions to ask while touring each building.
Observe the Following:
- Is someone there to greet you-Is someone there to greet you at the front desk or is the office door shut. In my view, client interaction is important.
- Owners, directors, and co-directors should be out and about in their businesses and places of work. They should interact with their employees and clients alike. If you walk in to find the office door shut, chances are it’s shut almost all day long.
- Cameras-Usually there is a camera in the lobby that runs and shows each classroom or it is in the office where office staff can keep an eye on things.As you are touring the building, take note of where the camera is in each classroom. They are usually found in one of the upper corners of the room and should have a “green” or “red” light that shows they are on.
- Staff/Child Ratios-Take not of overly crowded rooms. Each classroom will fluctuate due to part time kids throughout the week and in our case, the “School Age” room had preschool in the mornings so their ratio varied throughout the day due to preschool and after school kids. Things tend to be a little off during the summer too, due to kids being out of school. However, if you tend to notice an extremely excessive amount of kids in a room, this could mean the center has too many kids enrolled.
- Staff/Child Interaction-How do the teachers interact with the kids? Are they on the floor with them playing and interacting or are they only talking amongst themselves? Do they speak in warm and friendly tones or do they raise their voices?
Questions to Ask
- How often is the owner/director there?-This is incredibly important. The owner/director should be there on a regular basis and know what is going on in their business. If you find that the owner/director is never there or tends to stay in the office all day, go elsewhere. If they don’t want to be there, chances are their employees don’t want to be there either.
- Do you offer a sibling discount? Most day cares will offer a discount for two or more children.
- How do you handle food allergies? Some centers want parents to bring their child’s food while others accommodate these needs. In the daycare I worked, we worked around each child’s specific allergy within reason. Also, don’t forget to ask about Epi-pens.
- Where are medications kept? All medications should be kept in a locked box with the exception of refrigerated medications.
- Do you have an open door policy? You should be able to go in and out of the building freely and be able to talk to upper management at any time.
More Questions to Ask
- What is your sick policy? In most cases, children have to be fever/diarrhea/vomit free for 24 hours before coming back to school.
- How do I know when the center is closed? If you live in an area where inclement weather hits, this is important.
- Do you have a storm shelter? If you live in a tornado prone area, it will give you great peace of mind knowing the center has one of these.
- Who do I speak to if I have an issue? Finding out the chain of command if a complaint arises is important.
- Do you have referrals? Ask if you can speak to some other parents whose kids attend the center.
Get all your questions answered so you can go back to work with peace of mind. However, keep in mind that if later on down the line you’re not happy, you can always find another center. If ever you have a bad feeling in any way, look elsewhere. After all, only you can define between acceptable and exceptional care.
Tips for the First Day
- Explain the schedule-When children know what’s going to happen, it makes them feel better. For example, you can let them know that you will drop them off and they will have breakfast. Then they will have circle time with the teacher and then play for awhile.
- Start adjusting to the new routine-Start getting your child used to an earlier bedtime and wake up time.
- Visit the center-Take your child to the center so they can look around and meet their teacher and classmates.
- Make sure you are both comfortable with the teachers-Ask your teachers lots of questions and pay attention to how your child reacts to their teacher. It is normal for them to be shy or quiet at first, but pay attention over the coming weeks to their interaction.
- Purchase something special for your child-Starting a new chapter can be both scary and exciting for children so buy them something special to mark the occasion. Boys can get a new backpack or character shirt while girls can get a new outfit or cute pair of shoes.
The Day Of:
- Take plenty of time-Wake up early and allow you and your child plenty of time to get ready. Compliment them on how they look, take time to eat breakfast with them and address any last concerns about their day.
- Add a memento of home-Add a family photo or a favorite stuffed animal to their backpack or cubby so they can look at it if they become upset.
- Arrive early-Kids like to spend a little time with their parents in the morning so make sure you arrive early. Let your child talk to you about what they see in their classroom or even show you around.
- Come up with a goodbye routine-Since children thrive on routine, come up with a goodbye routine for each morning. I have seen parents use a sequence of hugs n kisses, a positive affirmation (I was never in day care but my Mom always used to tell me “You’re beautiful, you’re smart, and I love you.” everyday before I got on the bus.) or a combo of high fives and fist bumps.
- Treat yourself-This can be a stressful day for everyone so treat yourself on the way to work. Stop by your local coffee house and order that grande iced peppermint patty coffee with whole milk and whipped cream or two of those super indulgent donuts that you love.
End Of Day:
- Establish a going home routine-This can be as simple as greeting your child with a hug, grabbing their stuff out of their cubby, having a brief conversation with their teacher and then leaving.
- Arrive On Time-This is crucial for at least the first two weeks of daycare. It is important that your pick up time stays consistent. Children get very anxious when they are waiting on their parents past normal pickup time.
- Plan something special at home-In honor of the first day at daycare, serve your child’s favorite meal, watch a favorite movie, or go out for ice cream.
- Extra bonding time-Spend some extra time with your child in the evening. Play a favorite game together or read an extra story. Ask your child about their first day-Make sure you ask your child about their first day and really listen to what they tell you. If there is anything you need to talk to his or her teacher about, make a mental note.
Finding the right daycare, asking the right questions, and helping your child on their first day are all important. These questions and things to observe should have you leaving your potential center or centers with peace of mind. Remember, only you can decide between acceptable and exceptional care.