Evaluating a Daycare Tips

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What questions should I ask when evaluating a daycare?

Compare Programs

Don't settle on the first day care center you find. Try to check out several different programs in your area to see what is available, and then compare. Make sure the center you choose has enough staff members to serve the needs of all their children, that they have a positive and friendly attitude, and that they understand and enjoy watching children learn and grow!

What questions should I ask when evaluating a daycare?

Records and Certifications

Always check the records of a day care center with local and state authorities including local child care councils. The last thing you want to do is place your child in less-than-adequate care. You should also ask to see all certifications -- day care, first aid and CPR.

How can I help reduce child care costs?

Share a Spot!

To help reduce child care costs, see if a family member (or close friend) could watch your child one or two days each week. You might even check with your preferred center to find out if you could "share" a full-time spot with another part-time child.

(This tip submitted by Lisa Pinter, Newsletter Guru)

Are there any dangerous conditions I should look for?

Dangerous Conditions

Before making a final decision, take a tour of the day care facility and be on guard for dangerous conditions such as swimming pools, construction areas, and signs of animals including dogs and cats. If you are unsure about a certain situation, ask questions!

What should i know about nap times?

Nap Time

Most preschool children require a rest during the day. Children under the age of five may be required to take a nap after lunch, but this should not exceed 2 hours. Older children will have quiet time during naptime, when they will be allowed to read, watch a movie or do similar quiet activities. You may want to consider providing your child's care provider with a portable crib to ensure it's safety. However, most child care centers have their own and only require you provide bedding (pillow, sheet, blanket) for your child. If this is the case inquire how it is stored during non-sleeping time. Is it hygienic? Other children should not share your child's bedding.

(This tip submitted by Shirley Sullivan, Kid Guru)

What questions should I ask when evaluating a daycare?

Observe the Daycare

One of the best ways to determine if a day care is right for your child is by observation. If possible, visit the site and watch the daily routine of the staff. Be sure there is a variety of interesting activities that encourage learning and that the facility is clean, safe and the equipment is up-to-date.

How do I know if a center is right for my family?

General Questions

After deciding on the particular type of care facility for your child, there are many factors to consider to ensure a good "fit." Below is a list of general questions to ask:

Do their hours of operation coincide with your hours of work? Do they have a late pick up policy and penalty fee schedule?

What is their policy on who drops off or picks up your child? What type of identification do they require before allowing your child to be picked up?

Are they closed on holidays and if not, do they have a higher holiday rate?

Do they have alternate caregivers to substitute when the regular teacher is ill or away on vacation?

Do they have a clear discipline policy? Do they notify you of discipline infractions?

What is their policy on illness and what type of authorization do they need to administer prescription medicines? Where do they keep medication?

Take a good look at the center. Do you see fire extinguishers, multiple exits (in case of fire), smoke detectors, and fire alarms? Do you see sharp corners on toys and furniture? Are books readily accessible by children? Is the outdoor play area fenced in and in good repair? Is the play area soft in case of falls? Are cleaning products kept out of reach and properly locked away?

Do they provide transportation, and if so, what type? If a car or van, are there car seats for every infant and toddler, as well as booster seats for each of the preschoolers?

Do they have a posted activity schedule?

Do they go on field trips, and is the cost extra?

Do the children at the center appear happy and the teachers smiling and enthusiastic? Does the caregiver talk with each child at the child's eye level?

Is there child made art on the walls?

How do they handle naptime? Where do they sleep and are infants properly placed on their backs? What happens when a child refuses to sleep?

What about giving treats for rewards?

Food and the Preschool Child

It is imperative your care provider does not use food as a punishment or reward. The promise of a cookie if the child is good encourages poor eating habits. As bribery, it leads the child to expect a reward for good behavior. Do not force children to eat. Young children eat as much as they need to remain healthy. A care provider's job is, to be sure they have an opportunity to eat a variety of healthy foods. Making them available to the children should suffice. You as a parent know children can be picky eaters at times.

(This tip submitted by Shirley Sullivan, Kid Guru)

How can I help reduce child care costs?

Financial Aid/Scholarships

Don't forget to check your state, county, or city government programs for financial aid (scholarships) for childcare. The best place to start is by calling your local social or human services agency. (When I went back to college, my entire childcare costs were covered - there was also a special scholarship program at the school specifically for single parents!)

Would my child do better later if he went to an academic preschool?

Learn Through Play

Research shows that young children learn about the world best through play. What may seem to be "idle" time is instead the way that the young have of expressing and exploring ideas about the world they live in. Pretend play helps them examine the roles people play in society, and finger games and songs often teach counting, colours, and letters. Children who are allowed to explore their creativity in this manner often do better in school later in life as they are more likely to look at their work with fresh eyes, rather than merely rehashing old rules and ideas. Workbooks and worksheets are fine for older children, but for a preschooler, look for a place where learning is primarily through play. You will be glad you did.

How do I find the right daycare for my disabled child?

Daycare and the Disabled Child

When choosing a mainstream daycare situation for your child, you should ensure that all staff are trained in special education and are willing to learn about your child and her particular disability. Look around at all areas of the centre and see if they are all accessible and usable to your child. Questions to ask yourself include: Will your child be able to use the outdoor play area (many centres have sandy play areas which are not wheelchair friendly), are the walkways wide enough for your child to get through? Do they have appropriate toilet facilities?

What should I look for in a teacher´s behaviour?

Teaching by Example

Children learn by imitation, and that means they can learn something harmful, as easily as something useful or fun -- and in the earlier years, they cannot distinguish between the two. That's why it's important to refrain from doing anything in front of your child that you don't want your child to do (i.e., taking medicine, smoking, holding pins in your mouth, etc.). This extends to your care provider as well. Be attentive when in the company of your care provider to be sure they realize this as well. And that your standards are similar.

(This tip submitted by Shirley Sullivan, Kid Guru)

What questions should I ask when evaluating a daycare?

Staff-to-Child Ratio

When interviewing a potential day care provider, you should ask about the staff-to-child ratio. Do they watch their own children in addition to others? And, if so, are those children included in their ratio?

How can I help reduce child care costs?

Volunteer Your Time

In many cases, you can volunteer "time" at a daycare center to help reduce your actual fees. By offering to help out one or two days a week, or by offering to take on outside responsibilities like shopping or doing the laundry for the center, you might be eligible for a discount. (If you work full-time, perhaps a grandparent would be able to assist instead.)

(This tip submitted by Lisa Pinter, Newsletter Guru)

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