Most parents agree that finding quality caregivers for your child can be a logistical and emotional challenge. But when you get organised, narrow down your choices and learn some savvy scouting skills from child development experts, you will feel instantly more in control. If you are looking for quality care for your child, here’s how you can get started:
Step 1: Decide what's important to you
Safety is vital, but what other attributes do you want in a child care setting? Remember to re-evaluate them as your child gets older. Care that worked when your child was an infant might not be what you’d like for your toddler or as an after-school program. Here are additional questions to guide your decision-making:
- What kind of child care centre or school environment do you want?
- Is the school a good fit for your child and you?
- What is the educational philosophy?
- What is the look and feel of the school?
- What kinds of activities are the kids doing?
- Are the children working together or separately?
- How is the individual child development accommodated for?
Step 2: Talk with other parents
Seek out friends, family, and neighbours with similar parenting styles, and ask about their child care experiences. What programs do they like? Why? Listen for attributes that matter most to you and add those programs to your list.
Step 3: Search out licensed and accredited programs
Education experts recommend seeking licensed and accredited child care programs because childcare experts have examined them. Licensed programs are regulated by the state and adhere to certain standards, such as child/staff ratios, classroom conditions and staff education. Accredited programs meet even higher standards and are reviewed by a national board.
Step 4: Visit care providers
When you visit a centre, note the environment, the condition of toys, the teacher’s enthusiasm and whether the children seem happy. Parents have to trust their guts when they walk in. The very first impression one gets will often tell a lot the institution.
When visiting such institution it is recommended to observe a child for a few minutes. See and find out what they are up to during that time. What do they do? Who interacts with them and how? What do they look at?
Then ask yourself: Are you comfortable with your child spending his or her day like that?
Step 5: Ask questions
You should not leave anything unclear. Talk with the provider of the child care centre about the philosophy of the institution. Ask them what they think children need. Make sure you are comfortable with how the providers present themselves and how they speak and respond.
Here are some more questions that can help parents to guide their visit at an institution:
What is the staff/child ratio?
- Is the staff trained in CPR and first aid?
- Is there a balance of play, reading, activities, and rest?
- What are the discipline practices?Are children supervised at all times?
- Is proper hand washing practiced?Is there a fenced outdoor play area?
- Are children greeted?Are activities age-appropriate?
- Do children appear happy?
- Can parents stop by anytime unannounced?
Make a choice and stay involved
Ensuring quality child care depends on parental participation. Attend events, volunteer time when possible and communicate with the staff. For babysitters, schedule regular check-in sessions.
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