Things to Look for in a Daycare Provider
Millions of kids worldwide attend daycare every day, and parents spend billions of dollars on sending their kids to daycare each year. When you entrust someone to watch your child and make a financial commitment for them to do so, it is a big decision.
Choosing the right daycare provider for you, your child, and your family can be hard. There are usually several different options, and they all probably offer something a little (or a lot) different in childcare. How can you decide?
While there is no handbook on exactly what you should value in a daycare above all else, there are a few common things you can look for to help make the decision easier for you. You can rank these factors in importance to your family and then compare the options to see what fits best. Here are nine things to look for in a daycare provider.
Licensing and accreditation
At a bare minimum, you should look for a licensed and accredited daycare by the state. Having a license doesn’t necessarily mean that the daycare is a high-quality daycare, but it does mean that they meet the basic requirements of operating this type of business. It means that the state has approved how they operate from a health, safety, staff, and curriculum standpoint and can offer their services. Not being properly licensed and accredited is a huge red flag, and you should probably stay away.
Before you dig deep into what the daycare offers, you should check out some reviews. If you know someone who has or does send their child to a certain daycare, you can ask them for their review. Luckily, it is easy to find a host of online reviews these days if you don’t. The general rule of thumb is, the more reviews you can find, the better. Also, don’t be scared off by one less than stellar review. If you keep seeing the same issues pop up in reviews, that may signal a problem.
Once you have found daycares that are worth digging deeper into, the first and most important concern you should have is about your child’s safety. You should ask questions about their sign-in and sign-out policies, who is allowed on campus, their emergency procedures, if they have security cameras, and more. Any good daycare will have these things in place and should be able to clearly and concisely explain how their security policy operates. This is a hallmark of quality daycares.
The teachers at the daycare are essential. They are the ones that are responsible for your child’s safety, well-being, and learning and development when they are at daycare. Before you get to know who these teachers are and their qualifications, you need to know how any of them will be in each classroom. The state will have certain minimum requirements about teacher-child ratios, and the ratio will change as the children age up. Ensuring a daycare site at least meets and possibly exceeds these ratios is important to make sure your child is getting the attention they need.
Having enough adults in the room is important, but who are these teachers? What are their backgrounds? What are their qualifications? How are they chosen? Again, teachers should meet or exceed the minimum state requirements for daycare provider qualification. You also want to ask about turnover. The more consistency your child gets in daycare, the better, and a high teacher turnover rate may speak to other issues within the daycare that you may want to look into further.
Daycare shouldn’t be a daily free-for-all. Good daycares provide a curriculum that they offer with age-appropriate developmental objectives for your child. Most daycares have a balance of learning and play throughout the day–and will be aware that children learn through play, not by sitting at a mini desk and filling out worksheets.
The amount of structured versus unstructured time will vary, and you may feel that you want the balance tilted one way or another. It’s up to you to hear how the daycare operates in this regard and pick the program you feel will best serve your child’s needs.
Commitment to nutrition
Most daycares will provide some snacks throughout the day, and many will provide breakfast and/or lunch, either as part of the overall tuition or for an additional fee. Proper nutrition is so important at a young age; you need to make sure that the daycare’s nutritional standards meet the standards you have for your child’s food. You will find all levels of nutritious foods provided by daycares. Most daycares will balance kid-friendly foods with proper nutrition and know that those foods and nutrition are not mutually exclusive.
Things to Look for in a Daycare Provider: Schedule
The average daycare is open five days a week from 7 am to 6 pm (give or take an hour on either end). That doesn’t mean your child has to attend (or you have to pay for) 40+ hours a week of childcare. Most daycares have a menu of set programs you can choose from. This usually includes a choice of two to five days a week and the choice of full-day, half-day, or full-day with before and/or aftercare. The more flexible the daycare is, the better you will craft a schedule that works best for you and your family.
There is no getting around the fact that price is a huge factor in deciding where your kids go to daycare. In addition to ensuring that the base tuition fits your budget, you also want to inquire about any additional fees. There may be fees for food, supplies, or for dropping off or picking up earlier or later than the standard hours. There also may be discounts too. Make sure to ask if they provide a sibling discount if you have more than one young child. Most daycares will give you some break for multiple kids.
Things to Look for in a Daycare Provider: Conclusion
Choosing the right daycare for your family is a big decision. It is also a very personal one. What is right for you may not be right for someone else. When you evaluate daycares based on the nine factors above, you should be able to find the right fit for you and your child.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool.