It’s scary to trust a group of strangers with your child, especially a newborn. Some families prefer babysitters or nannies, while daycare is a better option for other families. It’s a great way for your child to be around others of the same age and learn more social skills. Many daycares have programs to help your child pick up early skills. They’re clean, well staffed, and well organized. Others are housed buildings you wouldn’t want to leave your pet in, never mind your child. As soon as you know you need a daycare, it’s time to start looking. Here are a few tips for finding the right daycare for you.
1. Consider your priorities.
Does your infant have special needs? Does your family prefer a religion-based care facility? You might prefer a daycare that won’t require a thirty-minute drive over one that offers weekend care. Or maybe you need a more flexible schedule, and you’ll drive as far as you need to. Consider what is most important for your child’s care and make a list so you can find out which daycares are able to cater to those needs.
2. Do research through online reviews, other parents, child care organizations, and spying.
A great way to start is checking online reviews. Be wary of reviews that sound overly delighted or standardized; sometimes employees can leave their own misleading reviews. Make sure to go all the way to the one-star reviews. Just because someone had a bad experience doesn’t mean the organization is a bad place, but it can give you insight into potential problems that may arise.
Other parents can be a great source too. Remember they may have different priorities, though, so the best daycare for their little one isn’t necessarily the best daycare for yours. If you’re looking at a daycare your friend's child attends, ask to accompany parent pickup. It’s a great way to see how the staff behaves in front of parents, not in front of potential customers. There are also organizations available to help you find accredited daycares in your area, such as the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency or the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
3. Don’t make any decisions until you’ve been there in person.
You can get an idea about a daycare through websites and phone calls, but you’re not going to get the full picture until you actually set foot in the place. There’s no need to visit fifty daycares before you narrow it down, but once you’ve found a few places that sound like they might work for you, start scheduling visits. Take the opportunity to speak with whoever is in charge, and tour the facility.
4. Make sure the daycare’s policies match up to your ideologies.
If you are raising your child to have a strong Catholic faith, then a Baptist church daycare may send some confusing messages. Talk to any potential daycares about how they would handle the different aspects of your child’s day. How often are the kids fed? When do they offer naps? How do they handle discipline problems?
5. Find a daycare that’s going to give your children the interaction they need.
Find out are what the child-caregiver ratio looks like, as well as how large a group your child will be with. Child Care Aware recommends a 4:1 child to caregiver ratio for infants, while 10:1 is acceptable for four-year-olds. It means your child has a better chance for a little one-on-one time and less chance of getting lost in the crowd.
Another thing to look for in particular is that your infant isn’t going to get too much interaction from older children. Bigger kids, even toddlers, means more toys with smaller parts, more germ spreading, and less attention. During your meeting, ask how long the center has been in business, about the staff’s qualifications, and what the staff turnover rate looks like. A business that can’t keep employees very long may have some serious management issues.