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Finally! The nights of endless crying, feeding, diaper-changing and interrupted sleep are over. You just began to sleep a few hours at night, and your life seems to be somehow normal again. Now, you could use sometime for yourself, maybe get back to your job, but that leaves you facing yet another challenge. Where will you leave your child? For the few lucky moms, a grandparent or sister might delay that search, but nevertheless, there comes a time when every parent has to make a choice. The quest for a childcare provider begins!
“The nights of endless crying, feeding, diaper-changing and interrupted sleep are over. You just began to sleep a few hours at night, and your life seems to be somehow normal again.”
Childcare comes in many forms: daycare, nurseries, and pre-schools. Whichever you choose, there are a few basic guidelines to follow, and some questions to be asked. We’ve summed up what you need to look for in 10 steps:
- Make a List
Actually two lists. One list with all the names, numbers, and addresses of the nurseries you wish to visit. And another list of what you think is important to you in a daycare (e.g. fees within your budget, hours that meet your needs etc.). This second list will be your reference when you go to the place to make it easier for you to rate the facility.
- Call First
Before you hop in your car, call the nurseries you have on your list. Make a quick assessment on the phone; visit only the places you felt are worth it – cross-out the rest. Also it is always better to call to ask if you need to take an appointment first.
- Ask for Credentials
When you visit the facility, don’t hesitate to ask the person in charge for references. Go around the classes and observe closely then talk to the teachers, nannies and even the person in charge of the security. You will be surprised how much information you can gather about the quality and efficiency of a place just by talking to the employees. Another good source of info would be the little ones themselves. Children who are happy being there will show it.
“Childcare comes in many forms: daycare, nurseries, and pre-schools.”
- Look for Proper Hygiene and Medical Care
Walk around the place, and look for signs of proper hygiene. Check the toilets, kitchen and how clean the toys are. Ask for any medical background or assistance the caregivers have (e.g. Child CPR, First Aid), also ask about their sick policy. Be careful, once you child is in a daycare, chances are he will catch more colds than before due to the small space and larger number of kids, so make sure they have a strict sick policy. If they offer doctor visits, ask for the name and credentials of the doctor.
- Talk Money
Always ask about the fees and different methods of payments. If you have twins or another sibling who will join, make sure the fees will still suit your future financial plan.
- Talk Hours
Make sure the nursery opens as early as you would want it to, and that your child can stay in as long as you want him to. Some places have hours till 4 pm then have after-hours care for extra fees, so make sure you do your math properly. Also some places take a month or two off during the summer, others have a summer school during those months that are of different fees and hours, and so make sure you know about that beforehand to make your plan accordingly.
- Don’t Go The Distance
Choose a facility close to your home or your work.You wouldn’t want to be driving a long distance each morning and afternoon. If you can’t find any daycare center that meets your needs nearby, try to find one close to your husband’s work. Also bear in mind that in case of emergency, you need to be able to attend to your child quickly!
- Home vs. Daycare
A daycare is a place your child will spend a long time playing, eating, napping, learning, and going to the bathroom. That is why it is very important that it has a system as close to as yours at home. Both you and the care-provider need to get along and speak the same language. Ask about all the rules they have in the daycare.
A few of your questions should be about:
Number of students: the term “the more, the merrier” doesn’t necessarily apply to daycare centers. A small group of kids mean more attention and more hygiene. Remember too that a toddler’s world revolves around himself; a smaller number of kids would make it easier for him to learn sharing and co-playing as opposed to being alone at home.
Punishment: how do they deal with unacceptable behavior? Discuss with the teacher what is accepted and what methods are used when a child misbehaves. Key to positive reinforcement of good behavior is consistency. Hence, if your child gets the same reaction both at home and daycare, he will learn faster and in a healthier way.
T.V. time: if children are to watch T.V. programs or videos, ask how often do they get to do that and what kind of shows they watch? Again, consistency, and also knowing how many hours your child would watch T.V during the day allows you to make adjustments at the number of hours he watches at home.
Nap time: check the napping area in the facility, and ask how nap time is dealt with especially for babies 3-12 months who need more than one nap during the day.
Meals: depending on the care-provider, some places would ask you to send a meal, snack, water with your child, other places provide everything. Ask your daycare provider to make you a copy of the menu every week, and make sure you let them know if your child is allergic or is not allowed to eat any kind of food. Check the feeding utensils and ask if you can send your child’s own feeding set if you do not want him to use otherwise.
Parent visits: a common conflict between the daycare providers and the parents is that many of the places have a strict policy against the parents going inside the classrooms during working hours to check on the child, or in the morning while dropping them off. If you are one of those moms who like to be able to go in anytime you want, make sure the nursery allows it to avoid future conflicts.
Potty-Training: one of the first questions to ask is whether the daycare requires that the child is already potty-trained. If not, ask them what is the standard routine followed during potty-training time and if they are willing to help you through the process. Potty-training is not an easy task for either the mom or the child, so having their support would make the transition smoother.
” In your search for a pre-school, consider the kind of school you would like to admit your child in.”
Time Outdoors: make sure when deciding that you choose a place with an open-air area for free play. It is important that you child gets out in the fresh air at least once a day, and has an activity outdoors.
- Narrow Your Choices and Ask Around
When you’ve checked all the points on your list against the places you visited, limit your choice to a number of 2-3 places at most. Ask other parents you know who have their kids in those daycare centers, or if they heard from other friends anything about it. Consider what people tell you, but be careful not to overdo it as different parents have different styles.
“Generally, whether you’re looking for a simple daycare, nursery or more sophisticated pre-school, don’t be blinded by all the fancy toys, and number of rooms in a facility.”
- Visit and Re-visit
It is highly recommended that you visit your final candidates twice. Once alone to take your time asking questions and going around, and another with your child and husband. Going with your child is important to observe how he will react to the place, and how the teachers will treat him. If your child is shy, it would be interesting to see how the caregivers there would try to get his attention. If he is active, it will also be helpful to watch how they will react to an active child running around. Since both you and your husband are responsible for your child’s future, you both should take the decision together. Also your husband might have his own concerns and remark that would make it easier for you to reach a final decision, and avoid future arguments concerning the matter.
A Word on Pre-schools:
In your search for a pre-school, consider the kind of school you would like to admit your child in. The language spoken in the pre-school should preferably be the same as that of the school planned for, though not a must. Observing the learning styles and activities that the kids are involved in is very important at this point. Some schools require that the child knows a certain amount of vocabulary to be admitted, so make sure the pre-school is familiar with the different pre-requisites of the schools. It is also helpful to put your kids in a pre-school that have the deadlines and schedule for application, admission, and interviews of the different schools.
Generally, whether you’re looking for a simple daycare, nursery or more sophisticated pre-school, don’t be blinded by all the fancy toys, and number of rooms in a facility. Concentrate more on a reasonable number of attendants and a high quality of service. For all of you moms on the go…good luck!!