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the mommyhood memos: how to choose a childcare center

Sunday, October 31, 2010

how to choose a childcare center

Sending your little one to a childcare center is a big deal.

For most parents, that decision doesn’t come easily… and many agonize over finding that perfect scenario where their wee one will not only be looked after well, but will grow and thrive.

As a mom, I’ve not had to walk that journey yet. I’m fortunate to be able to stay home with Levi, and for that I count my blessings.

{this photo is not really relevant... just super cute.}

But I have been on the other side of the coin, and I know from experience that there are many opportunities for kids to get excellent care outside of the home when that is needed and/or desired.

I worked for four years at a day care center and preschool/kindergarten where we cared for 70+ kids from age 2.5 years old and up.. and I loved every moment of it.

Although childcare should never (and can never) be a replacement for good parenting, I believe that it can compliment it well if you choose wisely and consider what’s important for your child and your family.

Aside from the obvious things like opening hours, cost, age requirements, child to adult ratio, etc, here's what I'd recommend (from a worker’s perspective) to moms scoping out a day care:

·         Visit between 5:00pm and 6:00pm when other parents are typically picking up their kids after work. Try to chat with a few parents about the center when they're not in a rush to get to work.

·         Take your little one(s) along and ask if you can be with them in the center for 30-45 minutes during one of the "free play" times. Watch not only your child, but see how the other kids in the place enjoy it (or not).

·         Observe how the workers relate to the children. Do they just supervise or do they enter into play? Do they speak politely to them? Do they engage in conversation? When giving instruction are they clear and helpful and respectful?

·         Ask to look at the menus and activity schedules, including things like naptimes, meals, snack times, music, arts and crafts time, sports and games, free play, etc. Look for a good balance between structured activities and creative/free play.

·         Ask about the security measures for signing kids in and out, or having people other than parents pick the child up (i.e. grandparents). If they have a great system in place, no doubt this one will make you feel much better!

·         Check out the other security stuff like playground gates and/or safety surveillance cameras.

·         Ask about discipline policies (and request a written document that you can take home and look over). Make sure to ask questions if anything is unclear.

·         Check to see if staff members are first aid certified and what other qualifications and/or training they receive.

·         Finally, suss out the “feel” of the place. Is it welcoming? Is it friendly? Is it clean and well-maintained? Does it feel creative and stimulating? Is learning valued? Are manners modeled? Do employees look well-groomed (professional) and like they enjoy their work? Will the kids get input on things that are important to you? (That could be religious teaching, cultural exposure, etc.) Does it look like a fun place to be??

Any good childcare center would be happy to provide you with these things, and whatever else you personally need for your considerations.

I know it's a huge deal to think about sending your kiddos off into someone else’s care. If I was in the middle of making this decision for myself I know I would find it extremely difficult. But know that there are lots of good childcare options available! Just take the time you need to get all the information that will help set your mind at ease… And don't rush your decision!

Dear friends, have you put your kids into childcare? Do you have tips that I've not thought of that you’d like to pass on? Or maybe you are at the beginning of considering childcare options. If so, will these tips help you in the process? (I sure hope so!)

hoping to help,

p.s. I know there are lots of home daycare scenarios that are fabulous too... but those are easier to find by word of mouth I think, and I can only comment from my experience.

I decided to jump back on the bandwagon. 
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adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
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At November 1, 2010 at 6:50 AM , Blogger Livy said...


I'm so glad you wrote this! Your tips are so practical. You made me feel so much better about finding care for Laney when I was looking. I have found the perfect solution for us now though! My sister is at home with a baby and she is going to come to my house to watch Laney when I have to work.

At November 3, 2010 at 12:03 PM , Blogger Jessica said...

Wonderful tips! I have still not looked into finding child care for my little girl, mainly as a result of my uneasiness with the idea. Your tips, however, comfort me and give me much to go by when, and if, I do decide to go that route.

At November 3, 2010 at 12:39 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bravo for good daycare! Having worked with a certain young woman..{ahem!}...years ago in my daycare center (The Cottage!).....I can say that having good employees are one of the biggest positives any chid care center can have. So....if you are looking, be sure to ask these questions:
1. How long has each current teacher been working there? The security and consistency that comes with the same teachers year after year is HUGE. Many children these days have enough change going on in their own homes....they need the continuity of the same caregivers. Typical child care workers burn out after 3-6 months. It is hard work, the pay is minimal, and the benefits usually non existent.
2. What has the director done to ensure that she/he has attracted the best employees and that they will stay at the center? How does their pay/benefits/etc. match other centers in the area?
3. What is the highest priority in an employee that the director is looking for? Education? (Sure, that is a good thing.....but is it the most important? I've hired people with Master's degrees and let them go after a few weeks...) Natural affinity for children? Understanding of child development? Sense of humor? Commitment to the children? Ability to work with others in a confined space -- patience, kindness, nurturing?
4. As Adriel suggested -- stay and watch and get a feel for how the adults work together. Is there warmth and affection between people? is there a lot of sarcasm -- are the employees cynical with the children?
Or is there understanding and friendship and support between staff members? These people will be your children's role models.....
that's it for now.......GO ADRIEL!!!! love reading your stuff. xo Sue

At November 3, 2010 at 4:27 PM , Blogger adriel, from the mommyhood memos said...

YEAH! That is great advice Sue!!! I was hoping you'd see my post and add your two cents! (Worth far more than two cents of course!;) LOVED my years working at the Cottage! Best childcare center on the planet, I'm sure!!! :)

At November 17, 2010 at 9:43 AM , Blogger Laura Elliott said...

I have nothing but praise for my daughter's childcare centre. From the moment I walked into the centre I knew it was going to work out great. I am constantly amazed at how relaxed and content all the children are, how much my daughter is learning, the friendships she has made, the food that they provide, the behaviour they model, the info and support they provide to me as a parent. It's been a wonderful experience so far.

Today is my daughter's day at home and she has already asked if she can go to childcare, that's a good sign! She also tells me the food is yummy.

I will say that she has definitely enjoyed it more since she turned 2 as a baby it was a bit more challenging but still very good.

Great tips, it is such an important decision.


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