Deciding to send your child to daycare (and then choosing a daycare) is a big decision.
But before you pack up that diaper bag and drop your child off, arm yourself with the tools you need to choose the right one.
First of all, why choose a daycare?
Some people may view daycare as a last resort, behind their preferred choices of a parent caring for the child at home or a hiring a nanny.
However, I think daycare can often be a wonderful choice for a child and a parent, for the following reasons:
● Socialization. The daycare setting offers your child an environment filled with numerous opportunities for social interactions with his peers. Babies who stay at home can certainly socialize during planned playdates, but these interactions are much more sporadic than the constant baby-to-baby encounters in a daycare. Your child will make friends with the babies he spends his days with. He will see his peers crawling and talking, which will provide encouragement for him to do the same.
● Affordability. Daycares are often cheaper than a nanny. Most daycares you pay for the entire day, and have the flexibility to drop your child off during any of the center’s operating hours. If you have to leave little Joey an hour or two longer at the daycare one day, you probably won’t pay any extra- not so with most nannies.
● Accountability. Reputable daycares are licensed by the state. That means that the state sets certain health and safety standards that daycares must follow. For example, in New Jersey, there must be one caregiver for every four infants. These standards vary by state, but the point is, if the daycare isn’t following the mandated rules and regulations, the licensing committee will shut it down. So if you choose a licensed daycare (instead of perhaps an unlicensed in-home daycare that your neighbor down the street is running), you have the knowledge that the center is held accountable by a higher authority. A nanny is only monitored by you.
Stay tuned for the next installment where I’ll tell you the specific criteria to use when choosing the best daycare. Having worked as the director of a daycare for three years, I know just what to look for in a good daycare and more importantly, the warning signs of a bad daycare!