Parenting Problems/Tips

Daycare 101 (Part 3): Choosing A Daycare That’s Right For You

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So you’ve narrowed it down to a few select daycare centers and you’re ready to go visit.

(Even if you don’t live in the area, I highly stress the fact that it is absolutely necessary to look at the facility in person.  A place can sound wonderful over the phone and through pictures on the Internet, but in reality it could be a dump.) 

If possible, bring along a spouse, family member, or friend to get a second opinion on the place.  Here are the questions you should ask when you are in the process of choosing a daycare:

What is the student/teacher ratio? Check your state’s daycare licensing guidelines.  Make sure the daycare abides by that. Even if they say they do, scan the room and make sure it looks like there are enough teachers for the amount of children you see.

What is the sick policy? This question has several aspects, including what illnesses will keep a kid at home and how does the center manage the inevitable illness and germs?  Do they use a bleach solution to clean the toys?  If so, how often- once a day, once a week, once a month?

What is the staff turnover rate? If the employees aren’t staying put, that’s a bad sign.  In my experience, the most common reason why teachers quit working at a daycare is if they are overwhelmed with caring for more kids than they should be or being too inexperienced to deal with the stressful days.  Either way, you don’t want to send your child to place that doesn’t value and hold on to its teachers.

What is their policy on parents stopping by? In my opinion, parents should always have the option to stop by at any point in the day.  Even if you’re not allowed to actually go into your child’s classroom, you should still be able to peek in to reassure yourself that your baby is doing fine.

What is their discipline policy? This is a big one. Make sure their policy jives with your own.  If the daycare’s idea of disciplining a 3-year-old is making him face the corner for 5 minutes, that’s something I’d like to know.  Ask a couple of teachers this question and make sure you’re getting the same answer from all of them.

a place to grow

Do the staff members look happy?  Do they appear to genuinely want to be there and are they enjoying their interactions with the children?  I certainly wouldn’t want my daughter in a place where the teachers (or the kids) look bored.  If you are able to talk to the teachers, try asking them why they like working there.  If they are stumped for an answer, you should probably find a new daycare!

Are the staff members trained in first aid and CPR?  This issue is SO important, yet you’d be surprised to find that in some states this isn’t mandatory for all child care workers.  The good centers, however, will make it mandatory for all of their staff to be certified. Ask to see a copy of the employees’ first aid/CPR certification, too…it’s very easy for someone to say “Yes, I’m certified in such and such.” Check out the paperwork and make sure it’s current.

And now…

The top five warning signs of a sub-par daycare:

1. No lock on the door and/or no security measures in place to keep kids from running out or strangers from walking in.

2. Children of various ages lumped together in one area doing the same activity.

3. A tuition that is much cheaper than all the other places you have checked.

4. Lack of obvious childproofing, such as reachable cleaning products or exposed plugs/wires.

5. Children watching TV. I absolutely think that an educational television program or movie is okay for a special treat, but it shouldn’t be used in place of an entire afternoon’s worth of activities.  If the TV is on when you visit, ask how often this is the case.

Even if none of these warning signs are present and the staff answers all your questions satisfactorily, the bottom line is to go with your gut.  If everything seems great but you just have a bad feeling about it, trust your mother’s intuition- it’s there for a reason.

In case you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.

Keep reading Your Daycare Questions Answered….


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  • Elizabeth
    April 10, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    I remember calling you for advice when we were looking before the baby was born. She started at her daycare a month ago tomorrow and we’ve been really happy. Thanks for the great tips!

    • The Naughty Mommy
      April 10, 2013 at 9:41 PM

      You are so welcome & I’m glad she is doing well 🙂