Leaving your child at daycare can be the hardest decision in parenthood. You are entrusting your child’s welfare to another person. It can feel overwhelming and emotionally draining, to say the least! We are here to help! Here are 9 things to take into account when you are choosing the right daycare for your child.
The closeness to home or work is usually one of the deciding factors when choosing any type of service environment and it should be the same with care for your child. You want to find a great day care and you want it to be convenient to either your home or work (or, if you are lucky enough, BOTH). There are several reasons for this logic. If you are close to home it will be less of a commute to drop your child at daycare and then travel to work. Plus, it is less of a drive to get home after your pick them up which is always helpful when you haven’t seen them all day and want to spend time with them. On the flip side, if you are closer to work, it is better if there is ever an emergency or an issue with sickness. It also gives you more time in the car with them in the morning to talk and then you can pick them up as soon as you are out of work!
Schedule and Daily Activities
Ask to see a daily schedule for the room that your child would be in. Make sure that they have plenty of outdoor play but also sensory activities for learning. Is your child going to be engaged during the day? Are they going to have the benefit of an outdoor play area and is this play area appropriate for the age group? Many times day cares will have an outdoor play area that spans all age groups. Finding a day care with an age appropriate (fenced in, if possible) area can be more challenging, but not impossible.
First Impressions and Visiting
Parents are highly encouraged to visit the day care for an initial visit where you will have a tour and have a meeting with the directors or owners. This visit is very important for a first impression and to be able to ask the questions that you may have. Once you have an initial opinion of the facility, feel free to stop by again…even unannounced. If the daycare seems to be bothered by the fact that you stopped by without an appointment, maybe this isn’t the place for your child. You have to remember that parents are able to stop at any time to pick up their children. You don’t have to have a tour of the facility again, but take an opportunity to look around and just take in how everything is operating.
Your Child’s Opinion
If you are interested in the day care after the initial visit, take your child there to do a tour and see how they are feeling. If they are old enough, let them explore their room (if they are allowed)! See if your child is interested in the teachers, children and toys. It may make you feel a lot more comfortable if they enjoy being there. We all know that this is an important decision but it is also extremely emotionally draining. It can help if you not only imagine your child there, but if you actually see it.
Your Belief in Healthy Food
Day cares operate in one of two ways when it comes to lunches. They can offer lunch to children and have a schedule planned in advance for the parents. If they do not serve lunches, parents prepare a lunch for their child and the day care has a refrigerator and microwave to store and heat (if needed) them. Many parents look for a day care that does prepare and serve the lunch so that it is more convenient during the week. This also may increase the amount that you pay for the specific day care since they have the cost of food to take into account. It really depends on your preferences and if you are very particular about what your child is served.
First Aid/CPR Certified Staff
Some day cares only require a percentage of their staff to be CPR/First Aid certified. Ask this question at your initial meeting! This is very important since you are trusting these teachers and staff with your child at all times. It makes you feel a lot more at ease knowing that they have this training and any one of them could step in if needed.
Separation of Ages
Another great question to ask is how they separate the children into specific rooms. Some may go by the physical age of the children, but others can separate by developmental age. This would mean your child would be with other children who are exhibiting many of the same behaviors and developmental milestones as your child. For example, a younger toddler room may consist of children that can walk unassisted, can eat solid foods, and are able to sit at a small table (instead of being in a highchair). The age range of this room could potentially be 12-24 months since children develop at different paces.
Always ask for references! Yes, the day care is going to provide you with parents that will praise the care of their children, but this is a great way to ask questions to another parent. You are getting answers from someone who has been through all of the process and still love the facility! You may get a glowing report along with wonderful answers to your questions or you may get that glowing report along with answers that left you uneasy. Hopefully the former happens when you call the references, but this is a wonderful opportunity to get feedback from someone who knows.
Trust Your Instincts
The final piece of advice is to trust your gut! If you are already uneasy about leaving your child at daycare, this may be a little more difficult because emotions do arise. Try to put those aside for a moment and picture your child at the place that you visited. Do you feel like it would be the right “fit” for your child? We know this is an incredibly difficult decision. Trust yourself and your feelings throughout this process.
We wish you the best of luck finding the right fit for your child. It is going to be challenging to leave them with anyone, but having a clear understanding of the care that they will receive will help you feel much better about your decision!
Title image (Child at Daycare) adapted from SkiStar (CC by 2.0)
Daycare Room photo adapted from USAG-Humphreys (CC by 2.0)
Toddler in Daycare photo adapted from Oleg (CC by 2.0)
Hug image adapted from Deni Williams (CC by 2.0)