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Finding quality child care is not an easy task for parents. The quality of child care varies greatly and price is not always an indicator of good child care. Choosing quality child care for your child involves being observant and asking plenty of questions. A good child care center should have a welcoming, safe and nurturing environment. The following are important first steps:

Look 

  • Is the provider’s license posted or available?

  • Does the environment appear clean and safe for children?

  • Is the interaction between child and   caregiver one of mutual respect and enjoyable for all?

  • Does the caregiver get down to the children’s eye level when talking?

  • Does the caregiver sit with the children, rather than far away  from them?

  • Is there sufficient equipment for all children to play with?

  • Is there sufficient staff for the number of children being cared for?

  • Are children kept busy with fun and  developmentally appropriate activities?

  • Are there smoke alarms and an emergency disaster plan posted?

Approach With Caution If:

  • Parents are limited to visiting hours and are not encouraged to drop in unannounced.

  • Caregivers are unwilling or unable to tell you about your child’s day.

  • The caregivers do not act as if they enjoy their work. 

  • Health and safety concerns are not attended to, for example, hands are not washed after diapering and before meal times.

  • License is expired.

  • References from current consumers are not available

Listen  

  • Do the children sound happy and involved? 

  • Is the sound level appropriate? Is it either too quiet or too chaotic? 

  • Does the caregiver listen closely to each child and use positive language when speaking with the children?

Ask 

  • If no license is posted, ask if theyhave a license. 

  • What training and experience does the caregiver have? 

  • Does the training include first aid and CPR? 

  • How does the caregiver deal with behavior?

  • Will they provide you with a list of parents that you can contact for references? 

  • Are you welcome to drop in unannounced?

  • On what dates is the site closed, i.e., for holidays? 

  • Does the caregiver offer alternative care for times when the program is closed? 

  • Do children go on field trips? If so, who drives and what vehicles are used? 

  • How much, if any, time do children spend watching television or videos? 

  • What happens in case of a medical emergency with your child?

  • How does the caregiver handle prescribed medicine for children?

What To Look For In A Day Care Center

A Stimulating Curriculum
The best daycare centers have structured schedules that include plenty of time for physical activities, quiet time (including daily reading sessions for groups and individuals), group programs, individual activities, meals, snacks, free time and limited TV. A well-thought-out curriculum stimulates your child’s development and makes their daily life more fun. Look for a center with a wide range of age-appropriate toys that will encourage your child’s development and, as child gets older, stimulate creative, imaginative play.

A Qualified, Caring Staff
A trained and qualified staff is one advantage centers have over nannies and home daycare providers, who often have no specialized education. Daycare center employees should be educated, with at least two years of college, a background in early childhood development and CPR and other emergency training. Good caregivers will ask detailed questions about your child’s health and help determine if their center is right for you.

A Current License
Ask to see the center’s license and credentials, then double-check with a call to your local community care licensing office. Of course, a current license isn’t a guarantee of quality care – that’s why you have to evaluate the caregivers themselves.

Clean, Safe Facilities
A good center is clean and sanitary. Floors, walks, walls, and the kitchen area should be clean, food preparation areas should be far from toilets and diaper changing stations, trash should always be covered, and the building should be adequately heated, lit, and ventilated. Staff should wash their hands regularly, and after every diaper change.

Look for plenty of space. Make sure the center follows the basic safety rules. Toys and play equipment should be in good condition. All medicines and other hazardous substances should be out of reach of children. Bedding should always be freshly changed. Smoke detectors should be in place and heaters should be covered or otherwise protected. A first aid kit and fire extinguisher should be available, and all standard child proofing techniques should be used (covered outlets, safety gates, door latches, etc.) The center should be secure so that strangers can’t walk in off the streets.

Look for a facility with an outdoor play area. Children should have the opportunity to play outdoor activities such as running, jumping, and skipping that are good for them physically, mentally, and socially.

 

Suggested websites for additional information:

REACH provides free confidential counseling and referral assistance to help with Child Care concerns. To speak to a counselor call toll free 1-800-273-5273.