As a parent, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing high-quality child care that makes you comfortable and where your child can learn and thrive. With so many options available, from size to curriculum style, as well as other considerations (“Will the hours of operation accommodate my work schedule?” or “Are snacks and meals provided, or do I need to pack food?”), it can be challenging for parents as they start the search. No matter what options, enrichments, and add-ons you need to consider, you want high quality in the care and early education your child will receive. Here are a few factors to evaluate when choosing care for your child.
Here are some useful tips in helping you find a child care service that is right for you and your child.
Visit to child care center
Visiting centers, either virtually or in-person is one important step in finding the right child care program for your family. Hearing from current parents about their experiences at the program is another.
Health and Safety
Nothing is more fundamental than knowing your child is spending the day in a safe and healthy environment. Here are some things you can observe when you visit a center:
- Teachers are certified in CPR, first aid, and infection control.
- Classrooms and common areas are clean and sanitized regularly
- Environments are safe for children: hazardous substances are locked up and play areas are free of debris and in good repair.
- Clear, well-communicated emergency procedures are posted.
- Appropriate hygiene practices to minimize the spread of germs.
- Mealtimes are relaxed, with teachers and children seated today.
- Children’s food choices are respected.
Connections with Children
Qualified, content, caring, respectful, supportive teachers are the heartbeat of quality programs. Notice if teachers:
- Are caring and encouraging; embrace cultures and the appreciate uniqueness of each child.
- Warmly interact with the children, and create positive, happy environments.
- Encourage active learning; learn with the children and share in their experiences.
- Facilitate children’s thinking and problem-solving skills; talk with, and listen to, children.
- Clearly explain classroom expectations; acknowledge positive behaviors.
- Plan curriculum to meet the needs and interests of the children.
Children in early education learn by interacting with caring people, engaging materials, and thoughtfully planned classroom activities. If you want to learn more about child care curriculum, some questions you can ask a teacher or center director include:
- What is your educational philosophy?
- How does the curriculum prepare my child for kindergarten and beyond?
- Are the lesson plans or activities accessible to parents?
- How do you decide what to plan for the children?
A high-quality program will have strong leadership and competent, skilled teachers who meet licensing requirements. Learning about teacher qualifications can help you understand the teachers’ professional backgrounds, by asking:
- What are the licensing requirements in your state?
- Do all the teachers meet state standards?
- Are there written teacher policies?
- What opportunities for professional development do you provide for teachers?
- Do teachers have performance appraisals and set goals?
Finding the best child care for your child doesn’t have to be complex and intimidating! Asking lots of questions, and even having a checklist handy as you evaluate options, will help you identify an environment where your child will feel safe, happy, and in the best of care.