Choosing a daycare is tough, especially as a new parent.
I’ve always been a stay-at-home-mom, so I’ve never had the experience of deciding on a place to send my child five full days a week. (We only send my daughter two days a week so that she gets some social interaction and to give me a break.)
But I have helped a few friends with their selection process, because I have experience working in child care.
A fancy, expensive, chain child care center used to impress me. Now I’m more concerned with the feeling I get when I walk in, talk to the staff, and see the other kids.
We have found a gem of a place in A Place to Grow, a child care center with locations in Blackwood, NJ and Turnersville, NJ.
1. They keep you updated. Whether it’s a phone call about a recent behavior change or a daily notice of how your kid did, a great daycare center will keep you informed and updated of your child’s progress. My daughter’s school provides twice yearly progress reports and sends home a daily sheet listing what activities were done, what she ate, how long she napped, etc. They also share pics of the kids on Instagram (in a private profile only for parents at the daycare) throughout the day. I love being able to see pictures of my daughter playing with her friends at school.
2. Your child feels at home there. My daughter occasionally protests going to school, just like she protests everything we do lately. But once she’s inside the door, she is all smiles from drop-off to pick-up. She is comfortable there and has a genuine affectionate relationship with all of the teachers. She even mentions them (and her friends) by name in her prayers at night.
3. Flexibility. My daughter only attends two days a week, so if she’s sick one of the days there goes half of the time we paid for. Luckily, our daycare lets us make up the days. This is NOT common. Yet if you think about it, it’s a great policy. If a parent were concerned about losing out on the money paid for a scheduled day of daycare due to a sick child, he might be more likely to send his under-the-weather kid into school.
4. The Discipline Policy aligns with your own values. You might just gloss over the Discipline Policy that a licensed daycare center will ask you to sign at enrollment, but it’s extremely important. Does the daycare believe in time-outs? Do the teachers focus on redirecting a misbehaving child? What actions are taken to encourage and teach the right behavior?
5. Open-door policy. You should be able to stop by any time you want (within reason) to check up on your child. (Obviously, if you are dropping in every day just to say hi and causing your child to tantrum when you leave…maybe that’s not the best idea!) My husband works in the same business complex where our daughter attends daycare, so he will sometimes peek in to see how she’s doing.
6. The teachers genuinely care for your child. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside every time I see the teachers interact with my daughter. They are so loving and friendly that it makes it easy to leave her in their care.
7. Good communication between staff and parents. Parents worry about their kids– that’s a given. You should be able to address any concerns you have with a staff member and have them promptly addressed and resolved. I’m lucky that I haven’t had any issues that needed addressing yet, but I’m confident that if I did they would be handled satisfactorily. The teachers and directors at A Place to Grow are always available to chat and they maintain great relationships with the parents.
8. The staff goes the extra mile. Posting pictures on Instagram to brighten the days of parents missing their kids? To me, that is going the extra mile. It’s such a little thing (take a pic, upload it to Instagram, and it’s shared with all the parents) but it puts a smile on so many parents’ faces. Our daycare also hosted an Open House for current and prospective families. It was a nice little get-together so that parents could see what their kids do all day, chat with the teachers, and meet other families. Plus, there was Dunkin Donuts coffee and munchkins!
9. Your children are thriving there. What’s that expression– “the proof is in the pudding?” If your child is learning new things, having fun, being creative, and growing more independent, then you have found a good daycare. My daughter comes home singing songs I’ve never taught her, showing me that she can cut in a curved line, and telling me rules for how we are supposed to behave. (She threatens that she is going to move me from green to yellow on the stoplight because I yell too much.)
Trust your instinct and listen to your child. Don’t feel silly for demanding excellent child care for your kids. There are fabulous caregivers and centers out there– you just have to find them!
And for anyone local, I highly recommend A Place to Grow. Here is a link to their website.
Want to read more about the process of choosing a daycare? Check out Part 1 of a three-part series, Daycare 101: Choosing a Daycare.
Images courtesy of A Place to Grow.