Entrusting your little one to a childcare program is a big step. While it’s important to choose a quality one, it’s also helpful to find one that’s a good fit for your family. Here are things to consider to be sure you’re comfortable with your little one’s home away from home:
Philosophy — How does the program approach childcare and teaching? Is it more structured or flexible? How much time do the children spend outdoors? How do they teach children skills? Does the program have a religious affiliation?
Accreditation — At a minimum, the program you choose should be licensed. Some programs have additional accreditation with stricter requirements for curriculum, adult-to-child ratios, teacher turnover, and more.
Discipline — During babyhood and toddlerhood, things like testing, tantrums and difficulty sharing are rites of passage. Some children also want to be held all the time, or become easily over-stimulated. How does the program deal with theseissues when they arise?
Nap Time — Like discipline, there are different ways to put a baby or toddler to sleep. Does the program help children fall asleep? If so, how? Do they allow children to cry?
Nutrition — How does the program approach feeding for infants? Do they feed on-demand or on a schedule? What do they do if a child refuses to eat? If the program offers food, what is it? What is the policy on food allergies?
Baby Equipment — While baby equipment is necessary for infant sleeping and can keep babies safe for short periods of time, the importance of free movement (including tummy time) cannot be understated! What types of baby equipment does the program have? How often are they used and for what reasons?
Potty Training — Does the program introduce potty-training concepts? Which method will they use if your toddler shows interest and readiness?
Communication — Your child’s verbal skills are limited at this stage, so it’s important to feel comfortable with how the program communicates with you. What types of details about your child do they share and how often?* How can you contact the teacher—Phone? Email? How quickly will she respond?
Personality — When you meet the director, teacher(s), and other staff, are they welcoming, engaging, and willing to answer questions? Do they engender respect? Do the facility, classroom(s) and outdoor areas feel like a place you want to bring your child?
Logistics — Do you want a facility that is close to your home? Your work? If you don’t need full-time care, does the program offer a half-day or partial-week option? What are drop-off and pick-up times? What about early or after care?
Cost — What is the cost of the program? Do they offer financial aid? What types of payment plans do they have? Do they charge extra for supplies, or if you’re late picking up your child?
Interactions with Your Child — Bring your child for a visit and observe the way the teacher interacts with him. Is she warm, supportive, and engaging? Does your child seem comfortable?
Child-Specific Concerns — Do you have any specific concerns about your child’s personality or development? If so, how would the program address them?
Although you should always be open to switching childcare programs if your child’s safety or well-being are at risk, experts agree that stable childcare is ideal. Exploring these questions can help you feel as comfortable and confident as possible about your choice!
* Our BabySparks professional program is an excellent way for childcare providers to communicate with parents about specific development tasks, milestones, and potential developmental concerns.